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Published on July 1st, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

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Who Might Win McCain’s Battery Competition? Part I: Firefly

Firefly microcell foam next to classis lead plates[social_buttons]

Editor’s note: This post is a lead-in story to the Gas 2.0 interview with Mil Ovan, Senior Vice President and Co-founder of Firefly Energy.

Last week John McCain, the presumptive presidential nominee for the 2008 Republican ticket, suggested that a $300 million government-sponsored competition would be a good way to spur development of next generation battery technologies.

His comments generated debate in the blogosphere and around the United States. Meanwhile, Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic ticket, called McCain’s proposal a gimmick suggesting that $300 million was not enough.

Regardless of my feelings about the proposed competition or the candidates themselves, it got me thinking about just who might win it if it were to become a reality. All that thinking led to this post, and, hopefully, to several others that will look at the most promising next generation battery technologies on the horizon.

This week I’ll start with Firefly Energy.

Founded in 2003, Firefly has been working on reinvigorating old-hat lead-acid battery technology in such a way that it would become brand new and cutting edge once again. On the surface, the concept may seem pretty dull, but digging into it we find that it presents a lot of promise.

Firefly’s innovation is that they’ve taken the heavy lead plates you’d find in a classic lead-acid battery and replaced them with a light carbon-graphite microcell foam that’s been impregnated with lead.

Key benefits of their first and second generation technology when compared to traditional lead-acid batteries include:

  • up to 70% less lead
  • up to 50% reduction in weight and size
  • Much faster recharge and discharge capabilities
  • Much better cold weather performance
  • Increased lifetime and durability

Two of the main problems associated with traditional lead-acid batteries are corrosion and sulfation. Together these are the lead-acid battery’s Achilles’ heel and the typical reasons they fail. Firefly mitigates these problems by creating a balance between the amount of lead in the battery and the acid electrolyte that flows through the microcell foam.

Firefly’s technology could make the lead-acid battery truly competitive with other advanced battery chemistries, such as lithium-ion, but at a much more affordable price and in a safer package. At the same time, the technology would increase the durability and reliability of the lead-acid battery and address many of the environmental concerns associated with the industry.

Another key benefit of reinvigorating the production of lead-acid batteries in the United States is that it would be a domestic endeavor — meaning that the US has lots of lead available (it’s the third largest producer behind China and Australia; PDF), a robust system in place for recycling lead from batteries, and a healthy and capable domestic manufacturing base.

In terms of energy security and recyclability, this beats the pants off of lithium-ion batteries, which depend on resources from the Far East and South America (PDF) and are proving very difficult/costly to recycle.

Firefly's Oasis batteryFirefly is set to release its first commercial product by Q4 of this year with the introduction of the Oasis battery — only available to the trucking industry initially.

While Firefly has no immediate plans to enter the electric vehicle market, they are fully aware of the keen interest their technology has generated among EV enthusiasts and the benefits that their battery technology could provide to the EV market.

I recently had a chance chat with Mil Ovan, Senior Vice President and Co-founder of Firefly, about the company, their take on McCain’s competition, Firefly’s battery technology, environmental worries about lead, the Oasis battery, electric vehicles and the company’s plans for the future.

Rather than try and distill that conversation down to its elements, I thought it was interesting enough to present it in its entirety in a separate post. Click the link below to proceed to that interview.

Interview with Mil Ovan, Senior Vice President and Co-founder of Firefly, June 26th, 2008.

Posts Related to Batteries, Electric Vehicles, and the Politics of Green:

Image Credits: Firefly Energy



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Not your traditional car guy.



  • Pingback: Interview With Mil Ovan, SVP and Co-founder of Firefly Energy : Gas 2.0()

  • http://www.cocomment.com Jonathon Nierengarten

    $300 million might change their plans for not entering the electric/hybrid auto market…

  • http://www.cocomment.com Jonathon Nierengarten

    $300 million might change their plans for not entering the electric/hybrid auto market…

  • Uncle B

    Depleted uranium batteries anyone? These new lead acid types look good to me, but somewhere out on the vast web there is a dissertation on the U.S. Military developing Depleted Uranium into a new super battery that sounds much like the lead acid one here, but even better. Could this be what the good Senator is hoping for?

  • Uncle B

    Depleted uranium batteries anyone? These new lead acid types look good to me, but somewhere out on the vast web there is a dissertation on the U.S. Military developing Depleted Uranium into a new super battery that sounds much like the lead acid one here, but even better. Could this be what the good Senator is hoping for?

  • http://www.benkoshkin.info Ben Koshkin

    It was bound to happen. now that the alternative energy market has all the attention. It’s progressing quite nicely. Benjamin Koshkin

  • http://www.benkoshkin.info Ben Koshkin

    It was bound to happen. now that the alternative energy market has all the attention. It’s progressing quite nicely. Benjamin Koshkin

  • Ebattery

    What about that scientist from the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car”? I think he stands a chance..

  • Ebattery

    What about that scientist from the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car”? I think he stands a chance..

  • JImmy Jones

    LOL, I get the feeling McBush will “forget” about the contest like he forgets about everything else he says.

    JT

    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • JImmy Jones

    LOL, I get the feeling McBush will “forget” about the contest like he forgets about everything else he says.

    JT

    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • catbeller

    I wonder what would have happened if instead of VC private capital, a university science department had developed this idea with public funds, and released the tech free and clear for all the world to manufacture and improve on. the VC’s are delaying introduction to maximize profit, and since the tech is a trade secret, no outside scientists or engineers can seize and expand on the tech. We are being hampered by the kill-off of our university research system. this is a national emergency now; such batteries should be fast tracked by the govt by permitting the company to hold onto the patents, but force innovation by releasing the tech, and in exchange give Firefly whatever money it needs to bring the batteries to mass production ASAP. the price to consumers should also be massively subsidized. The free market isn’t all that free, and it is far too slow to bring these batteries out in the time frame we need them. We have run out of time. This is not a drill; we need to get off the gasoline pipe for our national security, and to do a little thing besides called “saving the world”.

  • catbeller

    I wonder what would have happened if instead of VC private capital, a university science department had developed this idea with public funds, and released the tech free and clear for all the world to manufacture and improve on. the VC’s are delaying introduction to maximize profit, and since the tech is a trade secret, no outside scientists or engineers can seize and expand on the tech. We are being hampered by the kill-off of our university research system. this is a national emergency now; such batteries should be fast tracked by the govt by permitting the company to hold onto the patents, but force innovation by releasing the tech, and in exchange give Firefly whatever money it needs to bring the batteries to mass production ASAP. the price to consumers should also be massively subsidized. The free market isn’t all that free, and it is far too slow to bring these batteries out in the time frame we need them. We have run out of time. This is not a drill; we need to get off the gasoline pipe for our national security, and to do a little thing besides called “saving the world”.

  • http://www.craftacraft.com Bruce Dillahunty

    I hope we can see all these technologies progress. So often they seem to stall out before they can be commercialized and really become accessible to the public. I’m interested in the marine applications, but electric vehicle and who knows what else could use better batteries.

    http://www.craftacraft.com/firefly_energy_new_battery_technology

  • http://www.craftacraft.com Bruce Dillahunty

    I hope we can see all these technologies progress. So often they seem to stall out before they can be commercialized and really become accessible to the public. I’m interested in the marine applications, but electric vehicle and who knows what else could use better batteries.

    http://www.craftacraft.com/firefly_energy_new_battery_technology

  • Pingback: Firefly Energy - new battery technology | Craft A Craft()

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    It seems like the market is clipping along on its own fairly well without the “encouragement” from McCain. Firefly looks promising, check out also EEstor, a company from Texas.

  • http://www.brightfuture.us Tim

    It seems like the market is clipping along on its own fairly well without the “encouragement” from McCain. Firefly looks promising, check out also EEstor, a company from Texas.

  • http://www.BGelectricCars.com Barry Brnsten

    We can all learn something from what Al Gore had to say the past few weeks. Unless we become self reliant for our energy requirements, we will never again be an independent democratic nation.

    We can start with a fundamental change in our driving habits that is now required.

    The Automobile Industry is going to be in the same position as the Airline Industry in the next few months. Unless we get away from gas combustion vehicles, including Hybrids, the automobile industry (as we know it) will die.We need to make drastic moves. America needs to move to ELECTRIC. The vehicles are not as fast, not always as fun to drive, but the move will save Americans money (Billions) and help bring change to our automotive companies. Let’s “Be Green”!!!!!!!!!!!! BG Automotive Group Ltd. has a car that will travel 80-100 miles per charge for $15,995. Finally a car that most Americans can afford. Did you know that 80% of all drivers, drive less than 50 miles per day? This new car will cost an equivalent of $0.20-0.25 cents/gallon (depending on electricity rates in your area). Why send $700 Billion per year to OPEC (now buying up U.S. companies) when we can use this money for our schools, health care, social security for all Americans, etc, etc, etc. We can make the difference if WE change.

  • http://www.BGelectricCars.com Barry Brnsten

    We can all learn something from what Al Gore had to say the past few weeks. Unless we become self reliant for our energy requirements, we will never again be an independent democratic nation.

    We can start with a fundamental change in our driving habits that is now required.

    The Automobile Industry is going to be in the same position as the Airline Industry in the next few months. Unless we get away from gas combustion vehicles, including Hybrids, the automobile industry (as we know it) will die.We need to make drastic moves. America needs to move to ELECTRIC. The vehicles are not as fast, not always as fun to drive, but the move will save Americans money (Billions) and help bring change to our automotive companies. Let’s “Be Green”!!!!!!!!!!!! BG Automotive Group Ltd. has a car that will travel 80-100 miles per charge for $15,995. Finally a car that most Americans can afford. Did you know that 80% of all drivers, drive less than 50 miles per day? This new car will cost an equivalent of $0.20-0.25 cents/gallon (depending on electricity rates in your area). Why send $700 Billion per year to OPEC (now buying up U.S. companies) when we can use this money for our schools, health care, social security for all Americans, etc, etc, etc. We can make the difference if WE change.

  • Mark

    Why do battery.. firms need so many years to sell a publicly testable product. It makes the whole battery/EV effort seen like vaporware(who said 6 employee EEstor?).

  • Mark

    Why do battery.. firms need so many years to sell a publicly testable product. It makes the whole battery/EV effort seen like vaporware(who said 6 employee EEstor?).

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