Snapshot of Battery Technology for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars

Plug-in hybrid batteries chart, PHEV, lithium-ion batteries

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UC Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies has prepared a sort of primer for “non-battery experts” on the pros and cons of different battery technology for use in plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs). The report, called Batteries for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): Goals and the State of Technology circa 2008, discusses:

  • the basic design concept of PHEVs and inherent trade-offs in different battery technology.
  • the current state of the most common battery chemistries, including nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-Ion), and their abilities to meet the needs of PHEVs
  • potential trajectories for further improvement in battery technology

While not intended to be a definitive analysis, the report makes four conclusions:

  1. PHEV battery “goals” vary according to differing assumptions of PHEV design, performance, use patterns and consumer demand
  2. Battery development is constrained by inherent tradeoffs among five main battery attributes: power, energy, longevity, safety and cost
  3. Li-Ion battery designs are better suited to meet the demands of more aggressive PHEV goals than the NiMH batteries currently used for HEVs
  4. The flexible nature of Li-Ion technology, as well as concerns over safety, has prompted several alternate paths of continued technological development. Due to the differences among these development paths, the attributes of one type of Li-Ion battery cannot necessarily be generalized to other types

As PHEVs become more popular, it may be useful to understand the basics of battery technology. Most of us hear primarily about Li-Ion batteries for new plug-in model electric cars, but it turns out there are at least 8 types of Li-Ion batteries undergoing testing for automotive applications: lithium nickel, cobalt and aluminum (NCA), lithium iron phosphate (LFP), lithium nickel, cobalt and manganese (NCM), lithium manganese spinel (LMS), lithium titanium (LTO), and manganese titanium (MNS and MS).

While not understanding the technical details of this won’t affect your ability to buy a Chevy Volt, it’s interesting background information, and it gives us an idea of what electric-drive auto manufacturers are seriously evaluating right now.

Posts Related to Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars:

Source: Axsen, Jonn, Andrew F. Burke, Kenneth S. Kurani (2008) Batteries for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): Goals and the State of Technology circa 2008. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-08-14.

Via: Green Car Congress


In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.