Many of us are familiar with accumulators in gas and hydraulic systems as a vessel that stores a volume usually with an internal diaphragm that has a spring force by a compressed gas. The result is a cell that can buffer the system gases or fluids smoothing pressure spikes.

As a practical point though, a lithium accumulator is just a higher performance rechargeable battery, and never a one use battery such an alkaline cell or old carbon or zinc cells. One might go so far as to say the term accumulator is an international term to isolate the performance rechargeable batteries by using the term. What’s missing in the American vernacular is the “pressure” from the other side of a diaphragm. But we’ll look at the breaking news using the accumulator term.

Fraunhofer Lithium Accumulator

Fraunhofer Lithium Accumulator

Four years ago scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Germany popped the idea of an accumulator for electrons based on lithium. At that time they were offering a theoretical specific energy of 1070 Wh/kg, right at the top of the range of all known battery systems with the inorganic electrolyte LiAICI4×1.7 SO2. The bipolar high-energy accumulator would exceed the energy content of the known lithium ion battery technologies. Compared to a conventional cell design, the bipolar accumulator design results in a low cell resistance, a low weight and small dimensions. Not much was heard from them until last week.

Meanwhile Mitsubishi Electric Industrial Co., Ltd has a patent granted for their lithium accumulator. Others are in the game, too.

Fraunhofer is going to more role specific use such as hybrid drive in personal transportation vehicles. With launching partners Volkswagen and the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and seven more unnamed partners the project builds on the technology from fours years ago. The puzzles the Fraunhofer Institute and partners hope to work through are the environmental conditions of harsh conditions that vehicles experience, a long, durable and reliable service life, and better management systems to build on the accumulators attributes. The institute hopes to integrate the whole package into a single module with the temperature controls, performance and high voltage safety all covered in the module.

The tasks in the development are broken out into three task sets. The first being handled by the Fraunhofer-Institut für Siliziumtechnologie is doing the manufacturing of the cells. Second is Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits working on the management and monitoring. The third is Fraunhofer-Institut für Integrierte Systeme und Bauelementetechnologie working out the optimal configuration of the cells and controls into a module. These teaks are expected to be ready for Volkswagen to start field trials and test to ascertain the modules suitability for consumer use in vehicles.

What the past four years likely saw was Fraunhofer working as many others are in the materials for the electrodes of the lithium cells. They and as others seem to be, are where electrode life and efficiency can make lithium a practical hybrid vehicle storage. While one might first suspect that “accumulator” is a term for differentiating a battery in the face of battery, capacitor, super capacitor, and ultra capacitor terms, one could very well be right. The fact is that the capacitor guys are going to get a competitive answer should those like Eestor actually get to market with their great technology.

Tesla Roadster Battery Pack

Tesla Roadster Battery Pack

Lithium is improving fast from the 6,800 or so little (about AA size) batteries wired up in the Tesla Roadster. On road storage is going to get interesting soon.


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