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‘POMEROL’ makes steady progress on new fuel cell technologies

The EU-funded POMEROL project on clean battery technologies held its mid-term meeting in Bordeaux, France on 1 June 2007. The event featured several milestone decisions, including the choice of chemical components for new lithium batteries for fuel cell hybrids.

Road traffic © Peter Gutierrez
POMEROL for cleaner road
© Peter Gutierrez

Lithium ion batteries are now increasingly recognised as a generic clean technology for the future, with potential applications in all fields of energy storage. POMEROL coordinator Philippe Biensan, of hi-tech battery maker Saft S.A., says the project’s refined lithium batteries are based on state-of-the-art iron phosphate chemistry, increasing their performance and durability and making them cheaper and safer.

“The objective is to develop new materials that will greatly reduce the cost of high-power lithium ion batteries to €25/kW,” explains Biensan. “This is one of the very critical issues for widespread development of this technology.” Biensan says the batteries will utilise non-flammable ionic liquids, like those being developed by another EU-funded project, ILHYPOS, giving them an intrinsically safe electrochemistry.

Maurizio Maggiore
Maurizio Maggiore

The POMEROL consortium includes two car manufacturers, one battery manufacturer, three chemical companies working on the basic materials and one research centre. According to European Commission Scientific Officer Maurizio Maggiore, project partners seem to be working well together. Clear aims have been set for each partner and an extensive range of materials for testing have already been exchanged.

More to come

At the meeting in Bordeaux, participants discussed the choice of main chemical components for final development, excluding some that had not shown a sufficient level of performance or that posed other problems, such as high cost. At the same time, a first batch of batteries based on the new chemistry was being manufactured, thus attaining a critical milestone set previously by the partners. Ionic liquids were not yet being employed, as these still need to be optimised for conductivity.

Partners working in this area explained that the conductivity of ionic liquids at high concentrations is still low and therefore a mixture with flammable electrolytes may be necessary. Hopefully a 20-30% mixture will be sufficient to deliver the safety benefits aimed for at the beginning of the project.

Market success

One additional benefit has been the development of advanced carbon materials, which, according to partner TIMCAL, are already being marketed with good success. SAFT also announced the launch of production of automotive batteries at a new plant, as well as the production of special iron phosphate-based batteries for space and military applications, on display during the course of the meeting.

“We could be looking at a next generation of batteries coming out of this project,” says Maggiore. “There seem to be no technical obstacles for the moment, and POMEROL, along with other EU projects, is definitely moving forward on reducing component costs, getting us nearer to a production launch for new European hybrid vehicle technologies.”