Thursday, September 30, 2010

For EEStorians Old News is New News

Rep. Bob Inglis
Three years ago, the US House Committee on Science an Technology's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment (deep breath) held a hearing to learn more about Energy Storage for the purpose of drafting new legislation in hopes of spurring development.   Among the witnesses called before the subcommittee was Ms. Patricia Hoffman of the Department of Energy.  At the time, she lead R&D efforts in Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability office. Today, she is the Assistant Secretary of that office meaning her boss is Kristina Johnson, Under Secretary of Energy who reports to Steven Chu.  (another deep breath--still with me?)

During testimony, Congressman Bob Inglis (recently defeated by the Tea Party) from South Carolina (home of BMW manufacturing facilities) asked Ms. Hoffman if she had heard about EEStor.  She had not but said she would research and submit information for the record.

Mr. Brad Roberts also gave a tidbit of testimony that day on EEStor. At the time, he was the Chairman of the Electricity Storage Association and worked for S&C Electric Company.  Last week, Roberts was re-appointed to a new two year term on the DOE Electricity Advisory Committee by Secretary Chu.

Also chiming in on the EEStor question that day was Mr. Thomas Key of EPRI.  Key spent a good amount of time running research projects at Sandia National Labs.

Here is the exchange from the Congressional record:

NOTE:  Text in italics was inserted into the record after the hearing and based on Hoffman's research.

Mr. INGLIS. I just wonder if it might appropriately be in there. It is—of course, I have talked a lot about hydrogen and I am very excited about its potential applications to transportation. It is also true that batteries could be the competitor that wins the race to the car of the future. You know, if you have a really good battery, then perhaps you don’t need hydrogen, either burning in an inter- nal combustion engine like BMW wants to do it, or in a fuel cell, like General Motors wants to do it. And I was very interested in this story recently about Lynn Motor Company using an ultra-ca- pacitor. I think they are based in Austin, Texas, and maybe manu- facture in Canada—I saw the story, but they say that they have an ultracapacitors kind of concept that will enable a battery to be recharged in five minutes and to take a car 500 miles on a charge. Are you familiar with that or—I read the article and I thought, wow, this could be fabulous, and then I saw some questions about whether it would really work. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Ms. HOFFMAN. I don’t have any comments on your specific exam- ple. I shall have to get back to you for the record on that specific example, but with respect to your comments on the types of vehi- cles and what horse is going to win the race, I think that versatility is an important aspect of having for our vehicle fleet as well as our stationary sources, and I believe that in that diversity, there are options for fuel cell cars as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in providing the diversity that the country needs.
[The information follows:]
Zenn Motor Company, a Toronto-based producer of battery powered cars, has a technology agreement with EEstore, Inc. of Austin, TX and holds an exclusive li- cense for EEstore batteries. The device, which is a type of supercapacitor, is not yet in production. EEstore claims that their batteries, when inserted in the Zenn motor Company’s 25mph vehicle, would allow a range of 500 miles and would recharge in five minutes. Sandia National Laboratories, acting for DOE’s Energy Storage Pro- gram, has requested a sample product and offered to test their device in order to verify these claims. The company has declined to provide a sample. The Department is not aware that any authoritative experts have verified the claims of the device.
Mr. INGLIS. And certainly, it really doesn’t much matter who wins the race, does it? I mean as long as we can get away from what we have got now which is a terrible way to get around, in terms of the environmental benefits and national security risk that we are running, and the job creation opportunity by creating these new technologies. So do you think that—I don’t know if anybody else wants to comment on whether they have seen that—or looked at the ultracapacitor technology involving that car. Mr. Roberts, have you seen that?
Mr. ROBERTS. Congressman, I have done some research, my company has done some research on that particular thing you read about in that article, and a lot of money has been invested in wait- ing to see when a prototype is finally delivered to see if these claims can be met, because they are pretty broad.
Mr. INGLIS. Yes.
Mr. ROBERTS. And so it is kind of stretching the boundaries right now, but until some demonstration is done to see, we won’t really know.
I have a comment on the fuel-cell usage in stationary application. Fuel cells are—work very well, but they have no energy behind them. They have no punch. To make a stationary fuel cell really work effectively, you need to add some from of storage to it to give it the immediate energy it needs if there is a sudden load change or something, if you are applying it in an office building or some- thing and the air conditioning turns on, a fuel cell can’t deliver that surge of energy, and so storage actually enables fuel cells to work better.
Mr. KEYS. We have tested ultracapacitors and applied them, and I would just say that to drive a vehicle 500 miles, there must be some other fuel involved. There is just not energy, I think, today, although the research is very interesting in this area—and in fact, we have done a lot of it. Regarding fuel cells, I don’t think they are really treated as a battery or as a storage system. The storage, of course is the hydrogen—or the natural gas or the fuel that goes into the hydrogen. So I think one problem with treating a fuel cell, because it uses hydrogen as energy storage, it is like we have used hydrogen in internal-combustion engines from a tank of hydrogen, so there is a bit of a problem, I think, if you go down that route.
Mr. DICKERMAN. I might offer a couple of comments as well. AEP has been involved with supercapacitors, and we have not seen re- sults anything close to that, but what we have seen is that they have a real advantage in the fact that they can go through a lot of charge-discharge cycles, and we don’t even know the limits yet. We have not been able to wear one out, so it is very positive in that regard.


As you can see from the research following the hearing, DOE was able to mispell EEStor three times.  Must not have been very important.

By the way, Ms. Hoffman hails from Penn State University where she studied ceramics....

1 comment:

windbourne said...

Of course, RPI is now heading down the barium titanate path.

Hopefully, we will bypass the batteries and move on to ultra-caps. Heck a car that gets 100 miles / charge, but can be charged in 5 minutes and is cheap, is WELL worth it. Heck, 50 miles per charge is doable from a car POV, assuming the 5 minutes or less recharge.