“Successful demonstration of the [Ovonic NiMH] battery’s capabilities have resulted in numerous commercial developments: … General Motors has entered into a joint venture with Ovonic…. Honda and Toyota have announced that their new electric vehicles will be introduced with NiMH batteries….”
– Business Council for Sustainable Energy (1996)
The new US/global reality of supply-over-demand oil economics spells big trouble for electric vehicles, which were not economic at formerly high gasoline and diesel prices at the pump. The latest setback will, once again, reveal government subsides and related crony business as an economic fail.
Batteries are a big problem, just as they were in a few years ago when competing petro prices were higher — and back in Thomas Edison’s day despite the best efforts of Henry Ford.
I recently ran across this study from November 1996 from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, “Changing Tide: Tomorrow’s Clean Energy–Today.” It is no longer in print, but I have a copy from my old files, 20 years old this year.
Background: BCSE was founded in 1992 and run back then by Michael Marvin; more recently, the organization was headed by Enron-ex and my former colleague, Lisa Jacobson. [In a 2005 update of the 1996 original on her watch, electric vehicles did not even make the cut (natural gas vehicles did).] The organization, “a coalition of companies and trade associations from the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors,” remains active today.
Here is the review of EVs from p. 35, which excitedly talks about a new battery breakthrough (but read my update at the end of the post!):
Until recently, the greatest limitation on the performance of EVs has been the battery. Lead acid batteries have low energy density and limited cycle life. Ovonic Battery Company, a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, developed an advanced nickel metal hybrids (NiMH) battery technology which, with financial assistance from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium, it has further developed for EV applications.
Ovonic MiMH batteries have two to three times the energy density of lead acid batteries, will last the lifetime of the vehicle, have excellent power, are maintenance free and fully recyclable, and operate at ambient temperatures. They have already powered numerous vehicles over 230 miles between charges, and further technology advances will increase the range to match that of conventional vehicles.
Successful demonstration of the battery’s capabilities have resulted in numerous commercial developments: Several companies have taken licenses to manufacture the Ovonic battery for vehicles of all sizes. General Motors has entered into a joint venture with Ovonic (GM Ovonic) to manufacture the batteries for larger vehicles for sale worldwide. Honda and Toyota have announced that their new electric vehicles will be introduced with NiMH batteries, and other companies have indicated that they will offer them as an option in early models and use them more in later models.
Twenty years later, where is the Ovonic MiMH technology? Wiki reports in the past tense:
Energy Conversion Devices was at one time the world’s largest producer of flexible solar panels with a light, durable product that provided high total energy production…. On February 14, 2012, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. and its subsidiaries, United Solar Ovonic LLC and Solar Integrated Technologies, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Electric vehicles … new generation batteries … Not an infant industry, not a good investment. The lesson continues with yet another energy example: crony capitalism is inferior to consumer-driven free-market capitalism.