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October 16, 2008 04:00am
Article from: AAP
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AUSTRALIAN researchers have found a way to produce cheaper and more powerful batteries to run hybrid-electric cars.
CSIRO researchers based in Melbourne have developed a new type of lead-acid battery to replace the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries environmentally-friendly hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius use.
Lead-acid batteries are cheap and can store large amounts of energy.
But if they are repeatedly and rapidly charged and discharged - as happens when used in a hybrid car - the battery plate becomes coated with chemical deposits.
The problem means the batteries wear out faster than NiMH batteries.
But the UltraBattery, developed by Dr Lan Trieu Lam and his CSIRO team, combines a lead-acid battery with a supercapacitor.
The combination stores as much energy as a standard lead-acid battery, but without the messy deposits on the plate.
"By acting as a buffer during charging and discharging, the capacitor boosts the battery's life to match that of NiMH batteries," Dr Lam said.
During lab tests the UltraBattery lasted four times as long as the best lead-acid batteries, while producing 50 per cent more power.
A test vehicle running until the UltraBattery fails has so far covered 185,000km, while being recharged as needed.
The cost of the battery is also expected to be a third to a quarter of NiMH batteries and a sixth of the lithium-ion batteries used in some high-performance electric cars.
Independent testing is yet to be carried out.
Japanese firm Furukawa Battery Company has started modifying a plant to to make the UltraBattery by the middle of next year.
In the US, battery manufacturer East Penn in Pennsylvania will manufacture the device.