When it comes to the future of cars, discussion about electric vehicles is everywhere. Tesla especially is a big newsmaker, often noted for its “iPhonesque”approach to automobile making. However, in terms of reduced emissions and increased fuel economy at an affordable cost, micro hybrid technology is actually expected to make the largest impact. Tesla, for all its popularity, only released 22,477 cars in 2013, while total micro-hybrid sales may jump from 300,000 in 2014 to 5 million by 2018 in the US alone. That figure is much higher in Europe, with annual micro-hybrid sales expected to reach 12 million by 2018.
A key feature in micro-hybrids is “stop/start” technology, which turns off the engine whenever a vehicle comes to rest and automatically restarts the vehicle when the driver takes their foot off the brake. This eliminates both the emissions and fuel burn caused from sitting and idling – at stoplights for example. This technology has been shown to improve fuel economy by 3 – 10 percent(some claim reductions of up to 20 percent especially when combined with regenerative braking).
Micro-hybrids are also much less expensive to develop than fully electric vehicles, which may offer greater reduction in emissions but also require design overhauls. According to one Lux Research analyst, “[A] micro-hybrid is the cheapest way for automakers to cut down on the rate of emissions because it doesn’t require the design of a new powertrain. It does require a better battery – that’s a major area of innovation.”
Axion’s PbC battery fills that need. PbC batteries are a fraction of the cost of more exotic chemistries such as lithium-ion, are 100% recyclable and most importantly – they are stable. PbC batteries also retain their full ‘charge acceptance’ over time (for more than seven years) and don’t decline over time the way lead-acid batteries do (more than 50% loss of charge acceptance in less than one year). Because PbC can quickly return to the ‘ideal operating state of charge’ while cycling more than 100,000 times in the micro-hybrid application, “engine off” time is optimized resulting in both greater fuel economy and significantly reduced Co2 emissions. The PbC battery’s superior performance makes it an ideal candidate for the micro-hybrid applications of several large automotive vehicle manufactures.
Automakers are looking to improve their emissions to meet two government-imposed deadlines. There’s the 2016 deadline to reach 35.5 miles per gallon, and the loftier goal of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that these regulations “would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of the more efficient vehicles, equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants.” Micro-hybrids are the fastest, and least expensive, method of helping automakers meet these standards by reducing “engine on” idling time, which results in both a roll back in emissions and an increase in miles per gallon.
Finding an ideal battery solution involves many variables that include cost, reliability, weight and form factor. While options for micro-hybrids continue to be explored, government mandates, price sensitivity and consumer awareness may force automakers to develop options that are already a good fit – like Axion’s PbC advanced lead-acid batteries.
As battery and micro hybrid technology in cars continues to develop, how can we see anything other than a cleaner, greener, more renewable future – just around the corner?