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OEM Newsmaker Q&A: Prabhakar Patil

Compact Power's Patil speaks out
Friday, September 25, 2009 - 00:00
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Compact Power's Patil speaks out

Dr. Prabhakar Patil, CEO of Compact Power, Inc. (CPI), the North American subsidiary of South Korean lithium-ion battery maker LG Chem.

What are the advantages of lithium-ion batteries over Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries provide a number of advantages over NiMH and other batteries, including:
• Higher voltage (need fewer cells)
• Lower weight
• Smaller volume (size of pack)
• Greater power and performance – NiMH has limitations in meeting the power and energy density demands of Hybrid Electric Vehicles
• Longer life
• Able to withstand a wider range of temperatures
• Less environmental impact.

How soon is it expected that lithium-ion batteries will replace Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries in the automotive industry?

Lithium-ion batteries are expected to replace NiMH in HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) within the next three or four years.

Are the costs of lithium-ion batteries comparable to NiMH products?

Lithium-ion batteries can be more cost effective than NiMH and other battery alternatives when consideration is given to the increased power and energy density, extended life and reduced servicing required with lithium-ion battery packs.

Do lithium-ion batteries have applications other than automotive?

Indeed they do. Lithium-ion batteries of smaller sizes are currently and predominantly used in cell phones, laptops, iPods, power tools and more. Other larger lithium-ion batteries are used in electric scooters, electric bicycles and electric wheelchairs as well as military and commercial vehicles.

Why are you targeting hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)?

Because HEVs need light, small, high power batteries, and NiMH batteries are inadequate to meet all their power needs. Lithium-ion batteries are ideal in terms of life, size and weight for HEVs.

What is the environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries versus NiMH?

Lithium-ion cells use chemistries that are environmentally more benign than chemistries typically used in NiMH batteries.

How are your lithium-ion batteries superior in design and performance?

For the hybrid electric vehicles market, LG Chem/CPI has developed a customized cathode and anode chemistry that optimizes performance at extreme conditions without sacrificing battery life. (It has) unique features to ensure safe, affordable and optimal performance at extreme conditions. (The company’s) unique safety-reinforced separator (SRS) has been developed to minimize potential thermal runaway due to an internal short. At higher temperatures the separator remains functional; (our) unique package design ensures a low cost, high quality and reliable cell that is designed for fail-safe performance. LG Chem/CPI is experienced in the design and production of numerous lithium-ion chemistries.

What is the long-term outlook for the supply of lithium?

As hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are gaining momentum in the automotive marketplace, questions have recently been raised about the long-term supply availability of lithium to support the mass production of lithium-ion batteries. Following is a relatively straightforward and deliberately simplified analysis:
A 25 kW battery pack will typically be adequate to meet the needs of a full/strong hybrid as indicated in the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) requirements. The USABC states usable energy requirement to be 0.3 kWh typically over a 20 percent SOC (state of charge) window that would make the total energy content of such a pack approximately 1.5 kWh. A plug-in type HEV (PHEV) could require an 8 to 10 kWh battery pack, whereas a mild hybrid would require significantly less compared to the full/strong HEV. A reasonable conversion factor for lithium-ion batteries is 0.14 kg of lithium per 1 kWh of electrical energy.
Based on current assessments of global Lithium supply of approximately 7 billion kg, this analysis implies that available lithium can support a production of approximately 33 billion strong/full HEVs. It should be noted that the global annual production of all vehicles is currently at approximately 70 million and the total population of vehicles on the road today is approximately 800 million.

Where are your plants located?

LG Chem has three manufacturing locations dedicated to the production of lithium-ion batteries. There are two facilities in Korea and one in China. LG Chem/CPI plans to set up manufacturing/assembly operations in North America within the next two years.

Dr. Prabhakar Patil is CEO of Compact Power, Inc. (CPI), the North American subsidiary of South Korean lithium-ion battery maker LG Chem. He has overall responsibility for the strategic direction, engineering and business development activities. Prior to joining CPI in 2005, Patil spent his entire professional career of 27 years at the Ford Motor Co. in various engineering and management positions. He served as chief engineer for Ford’s Hybrid Technologies during 2003 and was also chief engineer for the Ford Escape Hybrid from 1998 to 2003. Patil received his undergraduate degree from IIT, Bombay, and his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has 12 patents, 25 published articles and received the Henry Ford Technology Award in 1991 for his work in electric vehicle powertrain development.

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