A German company has the attention of the electric vehicle industry and those watching it, having recently documented remarkable claims for its KOLIBRI lithium-metal-polymer battery.
DBM Energy GmbH yesterday told GM-Volt.com that its design could wind up costing less than the types of batteries used in the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan LEAF, and other EVs while radically exceeding all meaningful performance criteria.
We’re talking potential for reasonably priced electric cars that could travel 300-400 miles on a charge, and be replenished in minutes. If reports we were given prove true, this would mean the future is practically now – not years from now – with safe and durable batteries threatening to relegate petrol cars to merely optional status.
Bold claims, you say? We agree, but will tell you what we were told:
According to DBM Energy’s Chief Operating Officer, Markus Röser, a 98.8-kWh version of its battery can be fully recharged inside of six minutes, although he would not divulge how this was accomplished.
“Regarding the kind of charger and the power input, we are not able to give any information yet, due to the fact, that this technology is just in internal use right now,” Röser said.
And if trip-to-the-gas-station recharge times are not enough, consider the battery’s range potential. One version with over seven times the energy capacity of the Volt’s battery, and 4.75 times power of the LEAF’s battery, had enough juice to propel a converted Audi A2 test mule for more than 400 miles at highway speeds on a single charge.
Last October, as some forum posters on GM-Volt have since chronicled, the Audi converted by DBM with help from Lekker Energie, and funding from the German economy ministry, traveled 375 miles from Berlin to Munich with a 98-kWh version of the battery.
Upon arrival in Munich, the battery was reportedly only 80-percent depleted, which would mean range potential of well over 400 miles. The battery weighted just 770 pounds. The battery pack in a Tesla Roadster weighs 29-percent more at 990 pounds, and that car is EU-certified for only 211 miles per charge.
Unfortunately, a warehouse fire in December destroyed a DBM-modified A2, causing suspicious allegations. DBM said this was not even the car that had completed the run, but the company’s credibility nevertheless did suffer, prompting DBM to defensively write on its Web site, “We have done nothing wrong!”
Indeed, DBM told us yesterday that in setting new benchmarks, it has done many things right. Disregarding doubters including the New York Times blog which used the phrase in its title, “too good to be true,” and wrote of “the supposed record run,” DBM Energy said it has proven its amazing assertions.
According to The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter, an English-language, subscription-based publication Röser sent PDF copies of, last month Germany’s federal agency for materials research and testing – BAM – independently certified DBM’s KOLIBRI battery after a series of eight tests. These were reportedly done according to the UN Test Handbook protocol for lithium batteries, and the battery came out with flying colors.
The BAM’s chief investigator, Prof. Volkmar Schroeder, reportedly said the battery cells met “all essential safety tests very well” and were characterized “by a high degree of technical safety.”
After those tests, an Audi A2 powered by the 63-kWh version of the battery being tested was put through four days of driving on a chassis dyno in eastern Germany at the DEKRA test center at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz.
The DEKRA test protocol showed the DBM electric Audi A2 went 284.3 miles (454.82 km). This battery had about 45 percent less energy than the initial “supposed” A2 record-setting car last fall, and now the German government has essentially verified its credibility. Actually, DBM estimated the first A2 could have gone 450 miles (721 km) on a single charge.
And as for durability, DBM said the KOLIBRI battery’s lifespan should be 10 years, or 5,000 charge cycles. Recharge time for a version like the one that went 284.3 miles might be only four minutes or so.
But what would it cost? An estimated price for a (larger) 98.8-kWh version was a paltry $1,100-$1,400 (€800-€1,000).
In our correspondence with Röser yesterday, he confirmed these reports, having sent them himself, along with the skeptical Times article, and several photos we have posted here.
Apologizing for his English, Röser told GM-Volt the battery is already being used in warehouse equipment, and has other applications pending.
“The KOLIBRI technology has run in forklifts for two years – very efficient,” Röser said, “We already delivered 15 batteries for forklifts in 2010/ 2011 and further orders are already placed. The companies we are working with are large logistical companies running warehouses like Papstar, a subsidiary company of Swarowski.”
Röser said DBM’s chemistry is indeed superior to that of EV batteries commonly in use today.
“The KOLIBRI technology is based on Lithium Metal Polymer basis, the battery on solid matter basis. Through a special battery packaging we reach more efficiency and higher effectiveness, smaller packaging, lower weight and lower prices,” Röser said, “The Li-Ion battery reach about 60-80 percent effectiveness, the KOLIBRI technology about 97 percent. With a 300 kg battery pack of 98 kWh we reach a distance of 600 kilometers without a stop and without a gas engine or range extender.”
We asked whether DBM had any automotive deals pending, and what the status was.
“We speak more or less with all major auto makers worldwide and also with tier1 suppliers and new players. All kinds of business and partnerships will be discussed at the moment with them and everything is possible – also to start serial production or to prepare more demonstration cars, Röser said, “Furthermore we are speaking with institutional investors to build up our own production site for our technology used as energy storage or in electro cars.”
Next step, he said are more trials with the Audi A2 test mules. But with a clean bill of health, Röser said DBM anticipates making the battery available soon to automakers.
“The battery pack fulfills all international safety regulations as tested from German BAM right now,” Röser said, “Therefore we are able to supply all kinds of available cars with our battery pack within 12 weeks from now.”
If this battery does what DBM Energy says it can, and a car company – or companies – build vehicles with this technology costing, say, anywhere from $30,000-$70,000, more or less, what would it mean for every other EV presently known or in development?
After reading all this, we wrote back: “Are you essentially telling me this KOLIBRI battery all but eliminates range issues and recharge times? What could a car cost that’s made to be the size and specifications of a Chevy Volt or Nissan LEAF with a large KOLIBRI battery installed? Is KOLIBRI cost effective for vehicles now? Are you merely waiting to prove what you already know?”
Röser did not answer additional questions about exact price projections, but said:
“The KOLIBRI technology holds the actual long distance driving world record of electric vehicles with li-based batteries and is, according to the test results of DEKRA and BAM, a benchmark in safety and efficiency in Germany,” he said, “After the first design costs to adapt this technology in different car models, the costs will be the same as conventional drives from our side. In the long run even cheaper through high efficiency. In serial production the KOLIBRI is cost effective for vehicles now. We already proved the technology in forklifts and as energy storage. Regarding electrical cars we are speaking with different OEMs at the moment to find proper cooperation to start serial production.
More proof will follow with the next tests, Röser said.
Incidentally, Audi happens to be working on its e-tron technology for several of its cars. It and other original equipment manufacturers are intent on proving their own designs, but Röser said more independent tests will be conducted to prove DBM’s KOLIBRI design is ready for production.
“The cars going to test regions will be run by energy companies, producing [their] own electrical vehicles,” Röser said.
As soon as possible, we will be eager to learn more, particularly about the for-now-undisclosed cost and equipment required for the KOLIBRI battery’s fast recharging capabilities.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.