Gas2 Week in Review, October 8: Oh, Those EV Batteries!

EV batteries are the bane of electric car manufacturers. Can we make enough batteries to meet consumer demand? they ask. What needs to be done to make EV batteries more reliable and run cooler? What is the cost per kilowatt hour? How can we devise the fastest charging with the longest possible range?  Is EV battery leasing a viable option?

The most popular stories this week on Gas2 surrounded the appeal and power of EV batteries. Fast charging always comes into conversations about EV batteries. The newly-announced Toshiba SCiB battery, with high energy density and ultra-rapid recharging characteristics, may be able to add up to 200 miles of range to an electric car after just six minutes, using a high power charger. Differing reports out of the Hyundai camp say that its electric Kona may offer two battery options: a rather small 40 kWh battery as well as a larger 64 kWh battery that will produce an EPA range of about 210 miles. Nissan has calculated that replacement for a 2011 to 2015 Nissan LEAF will cost $5,499, plus installation and special adapter kit charges. Renault says that more than 100,000 customers have taken advantage of its battery leasing program; in fact, 93% of their customers have opted for battery leasing since the program began. The Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid has a 16kWh battery and offers fully electric power for the first 30 miles of every drive. With two robust electric motors, it can obtain up to 33 miles on the battery alone.

Here are those stories and more on this week’s edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”

EV batteries

New Toshiba SCiB Electric Car Battery Needs Just 6 Minutes To Add 320 Kilometers Of Range

Never really part of any previous popular conversations about battery power and production, Toshiba says it has developed a new version of its SCiB battery that can be recharged in less time and at higher power than batteries from its competitors. The SCiB rechargeable battery cells differ from most other lithium ion batteries, as they use lithium titanium oxide (LTO) for the anode.

Toshiba argues that LTO improves battery performance at low temperatures, offers excellent power density, gives long battery life, and is resistant to the damage that can occur in other batteries from external impacts. In tests, the new battery maintains 90% of its capacity after 5,000 charging cycles. Toshiba uses titanium niobium oxide for its anode material, which Toshiba claims has double the storage capacity of the graphite based anodes generally used in conventional lithium ion batteries. With high energy density and ultra-rapid recharging characteristics, the new battery is supposed to add up to 200 miles of range to an electric car after just 6 minutes using a high power charger.

Hyundai Kona Electric SUV Will Offer Two Batteries, Up To 210 Mile Range

The new Hyundai Kona has been added to the Hyundai catalog in an attempt to compete with the automobile market’s hottest selling compact crossovers — the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Toyota CH-R, and Jeep Renegade. The Kona is the first electric SUV from the Korean manufacturer and adds to the three other SUVs in the Hyundai model lineup — the Tucson, Santa Fe, and Santa Fe Sport.

Interestingly, while initial reports indicated that the electric Kona would have a rather small 40 kWh battery, more recent updates suggest that Hyundai also will offer a larger 64 kWh battery in the Kona that will produce an EPA range of about 210 miles. Its powertrain comes from LG Chem, who provides the motor and battery for the Chevy Bolt. Naturally, this will lead to comparisons with the Bolt, since the motor for the Kona is the same 204 horsepower unit found in the Bolt, and the battery size of the Kona is just slightly larger than that supplied to General Motors for use in the Bolt. Time will tell.

Nissan Sets Replacement Cost Of 24 kWh LEAF Battery At $5,499

Instead of having its customers worry how much it costs to replace the battery in their 2011-2015 Nissan LEAF,  Nissan will finance the purchase of the new battery at a monthly payment of about $100. The warranty on the new battery is the same as it is in a brand new LEAF — 8 years/100,000 miles against defects and 5 years/60,000 miles against capacity loss.

Yes, you must own the car to have the battery replaced, and, if you have an outstanding car loan, you will need to get the lender’s approval for the swap. Sure, you have to return the original battery to Nissan so the company can either recycle it or use it in a grid storage system. Nissan assigns the old battery a value of $1,000. But the opportunity to swap up will allow Nissan LEAF owners to see many more dividends on their original and reliable EV purchase.

Renault Battery Leasing Plan Appeals To 93% Of Drivers

The European market just loves the Renault ZOE. Why? Well, one of the primary reasons is that ZOE is part of Renault’s battery leasing program, which gives consumers peace of mind about EV batteries and their replacement costs. So worries about newer, more efficient EV batteries are a thing of the past, as customers who lease their Renault EV batteries can easily upgrade their battery pack when their current lease is up.

Renault says that more than 100,000 customers have taken advantage of its battery leasing program, which is administered by its financial services division, RCI Bank and Leasing Services. In total, 93% of customers have opted for battery leasing since the program began. Renault customers can also elect to lease the vehicle and the battery together in one transaction. The Renault ZOE is available in France for a total monthly payment of what translates to about $197 U.S. a month.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid May Be The Perfect Minivan

The Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid starts out from your garage on its 16kWh battery. That means that the first 30 miles of every drive are fully electric. With two robust electric motors, the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid can obtain up to 33 miles on the battery alone before cutting over to the more conventional hybrid-electric mode. The Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid improves so much in efficiency that it translates to an environmental footprint that is 31% lower than its “gas-only evil” twin. The Chrysler Pacifica PHEV is eligible for the $7,500 US federal tax credit for ZEVs in addition to any state, city, air management district, and utility rebates available. (Plug In America has compiled a helpful list of rebates and other incentives for plug in vehicles according to location.)

And there are features other than the battery that make this vehicle quite appealing to a family that needs room, wants the possibility of zero emissions travel, and craves the newest and best entertainment technology. Dual sliding doors and rear liftgate. 110 volt AC outlet behind the 2nd row passenger seats combined with the USB port in the third row. A three pane panoramic glass roof. Apple Airplay and Android Auto. Not exactly your mother’s Chrysler.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+