The rise of the lead acid battery may not be far off as several companies are working on ways to reinvent the old standby battery.  The downside to this battery type being weight and discharge and recharge cycle, the upside being low costs.

What if a company could find a way to cut down on the weight of the lead acid battery while increasing the amount of times it can be recharged?  The answer would be a battery that could significantly decrease the cost of the vehicle it is installed in.

Several companies are working hard at this.  Previously, we had reported about a battery maker working on a low weight lead carbon battery for large hybrid vehicles.  You can read about it here.  Axion Develops PbC Battery For Large Hybrids .  Now another company has stepped forward claiming to be able to cut weight and increase battery cycles to rival that of lithium-ion batteries.

The company, Firefly Energy Inc., is a 6 year old company out of Illinois.  They see there new battery design as initially being used in microhybrids where cost is the biggest concern.  But eventually, they hope to see widespread application.

The technological breakthrough in lead acid batteries consists of a 3 dimensional lead impregnated foam rather than 2 dimensional lead grids.  The foam reduces weight and reduces corrosion and sulfating that can end the life of a conventional battery.  When a battery becomes discharged, it can fail due to a number of reasons, but most involve the grids inside.  Changing the grids to a foam can eliminate many problems associated with this type of battery.

The microcell construction used by Firefly eliminates corrosion and the lead oxide applied to the foam adheres better because it has the ability to penetrate into the porous foam surface rather than coating the exterior of the grid. 

The end result, according to the company, is a battery that lasts longer, can go through repated on off cycling, costs 30% more than a conventional lead acid battery but significantly less than a lithium-ion battery, and delivers the same amount of power as the NiMH cells used in the previous Toyota Prius hybrid.

The battery is undergoing testing at this point.  It has seen more than 200,000 cycles and needs to meet 300,000 to surpass the best cycling NiMH battery available.  The battery is expected to last 4 to 5 years in a standard hybrid application, numbers that the company says is comparable to other advanced batteries.

Initially, Firefly expects to sell 45,000 of these units starting next year with hopes of hitting 60,000 or more units soon. 

They have a second generation version in the works that looks even more promising at this point.  The company states the 2nd Gen could last 12 years or more and cuts weight even further.  We will update you on the 2nd Gen version as the company releases more information.

Source:  Wards Auto