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Old 07-01-2010, 15:54   #1
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Chevy Volt Battery

Have you considered what might be coming with GM's aggressive approach to the Volt? They fired up the Volt's battery factory today full force. I can't imagine other companies will be too far behind. The battery is a lithium ion. I've seen marine lithium ions like this:
The latest marine technology: lithium ion batteries

The Volt has a 375lb battery that is supposed to produce 16 kWh of energy. I imagine only 50% of it is usable to keep the battery from degrading. Another source speculated it is a 360v battery. Not sure, but everyone agrees that economies of scale will push down the cost/size/efficiency of these type of batteries.

I know they last longer and charge better than conventional batteries. Do you think maybe in the next few years we'll start to see boats with big "car" style battery packs instead of the current arrangements with lots of batteries rigged up together in series or parallel? Will they be reliable enough depend on a single battery?

I was reading the Volt article and suddenly in my minds eye saw a boat with some scavenged Volt battery pack stowed aboard. Set me to wondering about the advantages or disadvantages of such a battery in a marine application.
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Old 07-01-2010, 16:30   #2
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These days, it is so easy to be pessimistic, but going over to Chevy Volt site, looking at the car, reading the fact sheets, and watching the videos, really gave me a good optimistic feeling.

While the bail-out of GM has been loudly criticized -- and I understand the arguments -- advents like this result in me believing that it really may have been worth it. This is revolutionary stuff for the car industry. I believe it will be successful and this also means that everybody's competitive juices will be stoked.

Very exciting and, most assuredly, we'll also benefit in the boating world.

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Old 07-01-2010, 16:55   #3
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I'm not sure we will see car batteries in boat as a rule, I am sure sooner or later someone will get a hold of a wrecked car and use the battery in their boat. I think what is of more interest is how this technology will make it to replacement batteries for our current lead acid batteries. I have already seen some of the high end sportfish guys moving to lithium ion batteries. It is surprising how much smaller they are for the same output. Wish I could remember the brand of battery I have seen. Seeing as the wet cell battery is not much different than it was 200 years ago it does seem time for a change. bet this will be an interesting discussion.

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Old 07-01-2010, 17:29   #4
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I've worked with similar (but smaller and more sophisticated) batteries to those used in the Volt; we used them for solar cars.

The battery management system has, historically, been one of the big stumbling blocks. A fairly complex control system is necessary to keep big lithium batteries stable under aggressive charge/discharge cycles. These technical hurdles have now been mostly overcome.

The other hurdle, probably the more serious one, has been cost. There are few applications where $20,000 for a 5 kWh pack can be justified. When the carmakers figure out how to get costs down to reasonable levels- and they're getting close- we will certainly see more advanced batteries filtering down to us boaters.

However, I doubt that the batteries we will see in cars 15 years from now (and, therefore, in boats 20 years from now) will be based on lithium technology as we know it. While lithium is currently available in sufficient quantities to meet our present demands for it, there just aren't enough lithium mines and known reserves to handle a rapid surge of interest from the automotive community. Several carmakers are working on other battery technologies (such as lithium-manganese, already available for boats, or barium titanate ultracapacitors) that are cheaper and would be less vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations if lithium comes into high demand.

Using the battery pack from a hybrid car as the heart of a boat's electrical system is certainly feasible, but would require somewhat more engineering expertise than most boatowners, mechanics or electricians can bring to the issue at present. The possibility of burning out the pack (not hard to do with NiMH as found in most hybrids) or blowing up the pack (current lithium packs burn HOT and release extremely toxic fumes if they blow) is very real if you start tampering with these devices.

On the reliability note: Lithium-polymer cells, as we used them in the solar cars, do not last long (cycling right down to flat, then throw several hundred amps at it for ten seconds, then flat again, then a slow charge at 50 Celsius....). But the BMS can be programmed for whatever balance of performance and longevity you want. As for NiMH, well, last I checked Toyota still hasn't replaced enough packs from the first-generation Prius (1997-2001) to know just how long they'll go before they burn out. The Prius doesn't deep-discharge its pack; it cycles between ~40% and ~60% of peak capacity. I haven't seen anything yet regarding the charge/discharge profile the Volt will use.
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Old 07-01-2010, 18:07   #5
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On another front, it's interesting that Honda delivered fuel cell vehicles for real world testing to CA a couple of years ago. there is only one place to fuel up and reportedly only a "chosen few" got them.... but there has been no info since...... wonder why it is so quiet...
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