Not all Lithium ion batteries are fire hazards

Recently both hover boards and Samsung Galaxy 7 phones have been in the news for lithium-iion battery fires.  Are lithium-ion batteries safe?


Lithium-ion batteries have many different characteristics. There are two main chemistries, LFP or NCA.  The battery cell size can vary from less than 3Ah to over 50Ah.  The total battery capacity is 8000 times different between a cell phone and an electric car. The cooling technology and intelligent charging technology have great impact on the safety of the battery.


When buying a product that contains a lithium-ion battery, get the manufacturers warranty spelled out, and get copies of all quality and reliability information. Check product reviews for any problems. And, stick with companies that have proven expertise in building products with these batteries, to avoid any nasty surprises.

Tesla’s digital car risks

Telsa Motors is on a roll. The company will produce about 21,000 vehicles this year, with over 12,000 Model S luxury sedans delivered already in 2013. Tesla’s Model S receives excellent car performance reviews and seems to have solved the range and time-to-charge issues of electric vehicles with their advanced lithium ion batteries and growing network of supercharging stations.

TeslaModelSIn National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, Model S received a five-star rating in each of three categories and overall. Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model is working, even in states like Massachusetts, where it’s been attacked by car dealers. And Tesla has focused on technology, with over 500 applied for patents, many for battery-related engineering. Tesla already licenses technology and sells components to other car companies, such as Toyota.

With new models on the way and with the recent good news,Tesla Motors stock (TSLA)—reached $20 Billion in market value this week, on par with many established car companies.

Tesla’s Model S may be the most digitally advanced car ever produced. Model S can be controlled by a smart phone for example, to turn on air conditioning or unlock the car or schedule charging of batteries. These features sound wonderful….if the software is bug free, if there is no interference from other phones (the reason cell phones are turned off for airplane takeoff and landing), and if the system is secure. George Reese, the director of cloud management for Dell (NASDAQ: DELL  ) recently wrote in an article that the Model S has a security flaw that leaves it exposed to hackers.

Privacy could also be an issue. Tesla employs comprehensive data gathering on its cars to aid diagnosis of problems, to deliver car system software improvements, and to proactively recommend service, all potentially great features. But if insurance companies and governments have access to the same data, you might be in for an insurance premium surprise, or worse.

Tesla’s business model also puts them at risk for breakdowns and security breaches of today’s electrical grid. Any power outage of more than a few hours would strand travelers and commuters who depend on their Tesla.

Tesla has opened an exciting chapter in the automotive industry. We’ll see how the digital technology challenges unique to Tesla play out.

Energy letter to Santa

Dear Santa, It’s that time of year when kids young and old dream big dreams. Here is our big dream list for energy.

image courtesy Any Tots

1. “The Lady in Red, is dancing with me…” Take all the red tape in Washington for liquefied natural gas and use it to wrap more presents instead. You’ll need thousands of yards of the stuff to wrap a several state-of-the-art LNG facilities, for U.S. exports. Save a few yards to wrap Chris de Burgh’s beautiful song in.

2. “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind….” Please send a copy of Dylan’s song and a multiyear, stable production tax credit program to our wind energy friends.

3. “Baby you can drive my car.” Our electric car industry needs a 300 mile, one hour rechargeable battery system. Can that be so hard to fit under the tree, along with the Beatles tune?

4. “Let the Sunshine In…”, how about 25% efficiency and a copy of the 5th Dimension song for every silicon photovoltaic module maker?

5. “Jive Talking”, the Clean Coal marketing hype has far outweighed the actual results. Since we need coal for decades, how about some real sequestering breakthroughs scaled up to meaningful projects, while we dance to the Bee Gees?

6. Oh, can you throw in an iPad mini for Tiny Tim, with a few tunes? Thanks Santa. When you finish this list, we’ll have a new one waiting.

Happy Holidays and best wishes everyone.

Electric Vehicles drag, while Hybrids charge ahead.

Despite impressive technology, consumers and automakers proceed with caution for Electric Vehicles. Expect hybrids to expand their market reach, as plug-ins, performance and diesel versions add to the Prius/Insight beachhead.

At least nine electric vehicles will be pushed into the auto market in 2013, despite distrust of the technology. Only two per cent of the public is considering purchase of an EV, according to one survey. Very high prices, fears about fires during an accident, and limited range, and long charging times will continue to hold back EVs for several years.

Next generation hybrids will outsell all-electrics

In contrast, hybrids have large momentum and are going to get even more, as climate change and rising gasoline prices motivate consumers for more fuel efficiency. Today’s generation of hybrids, like the Prius, offer 60 to 80% better fuel mileage than an equivalent size vehicle, at a 10 to 20% price premium. Local and national tax credits and incentives often close most of that price gap. And a six to eight year old Prius, in reasonable condition, may still command high trade-in value. The economics for hybrids is already favorable. In the next three to five years, a new generation of hybrids will shift public perception even further. More efficient plug-in hybrids by Toyota, GM, and others will increase the fuel mileage advantage to over 100%. Diesel-hybrids from Volvo and Peugeot will extend that fuel mileage to the 150 mpg range.

Hybrids optimized for acceleration and performance will remake the mindset of auto enthusiasts. Companies like Audi and Porsche, already leaders in the sports car and premium segments of the auto market, are racing performance hybrids at famous tracks and events like the Nurburgring and Le Mans. New technology, such as regenerative braking, flywheel energy storage, and high torque electric motors are creating an advantage on the race track, through better acceleration and fewer pit stops. The adage, ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday’ will change the perception of hybrids from weak performing gas sippers to the experienced driver’s best choice. Expect hybrids to continue to steadily gain market share over this decade. Expect the hype for electric vehicles to be replaced by more sober market forecasts and by tough going for startups that focus exclusively on electric vehicles. For a detailed report, look for the July issue of MegaTrends.

Electric Vehicle Makers should be dancing

Enterprise this week announced it is moving into hourly car rentals this year, joining Hertz in persuing the business created by Zipcar Inc.. Enterprise last month acquired Mint Cars On-Demand, an hourly car-rental firm with locations in New York and Boston, will join the new Enterprise Car Share brand. Zipcar, the segment leader, has about 500,000 US members and about 9,000 vehicles.

Makers and developers of electric vehicles should be dancing in the streets. For most people, an electric vehicle is desireable, but its not a complete solution to a person or family’s transportation needs. Car renting and sharing tie ins are a key tie in to overcome the problems of charging time, distance limits, and size restrictions of electric vehicles.

Take your EV on a ski trip? Why not rent an SUV for a few days. Headed to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but its 400 miles? Enterprise is usually just down the street with vehicles that get you there on one tank of gas.  Need to take a client to lunch, but the EV is charging? Zip Car is waiting and ready.

EV makers will need lots more creative solutions for their customers, if they hope to make a dent in the car market. More flexible car renting options makes a whole lot of sense.