The German Bosch Co. is no longer planning to “re-invent” batteries for the propulsion of cars, according to an article published in the Munich, Germany, daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The article states, inter alia (translated from German):
It sounded so promising in recent years: Bosch was going to invest a three-digit million sum to turn around the car-battery world market. Newly developed solid-state batteries were to replace the traditional lithium-ion technology at some point, according to the ambitious announcement [of the time]. Double energy density at half the cost was the goal. Such batteries would lead both to the final breakthrough of electro-mobility and end the supremacy of the Asian cell-producers. Now, that dream is gone. Bosch-CEO Rolf Bulander announced the end of the project.
It must be a sad day for Bosch, erstwhile the largest European provider of all-things-electric for the car industry there, especially the ones wanting to produce all the new electrifying vehicles (better don’t touch their multi-hundred-Volt circuitry—it could be hazardous to your health!)
You may wonder, what has changed from just a few years ago?
Even now, as the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports, expectations are that the (car)-battery market alone will reach a volume of EURO250 billion (US$~300 billion) by the year 2025. Isn’t that a tidy sum that any leading manufacturing powerhouse would want to strive to get a slice of?
Could it be that:
- The touted “electro-mobility” is not the promised land of everything on wheels?
- The bureaucrats in Brussels (folks who once prescribed the curvature of bananas and cucumbers) had not given clear instructions on how to make the electro-future arrive?
- The German Court of Administrative Justice [Bundesverwaltungsgericht] did not decide that communities can enact prohibitions of diesel-engine powered cars?
- Many of the NGOs did not advocate a ban of any fossil fuel driven cars in favor of things electric?
So, what’s the problem, then?
(Hint): Energy Storage Capacity
Perhaps the real answers might be:
- Useful energy cannot be created out of nothing and, moreover,
- the best battery technology is a distant runner-up to good old hydrocarbon (gasoline or diesel) fuel in terms of energy density and storage capacity of different systems. Just look at the following table, copied from my 2010 book Convenient Myths (p. 228).
While some of the numbers may have changed slightly over the last eight years, probably not by much. In any event, the table is to provide information as to the major differences between batteries and other energy storage systems. Clearly, so-called “fossil” fuels, such as gasoline, regardless of their origin (natural or man-made via the Fischer-Tropsch-Synthesis from coal, or from limestone and water) are way ahead of all other storage systems in energy capacity per mass.
|Energy capacity per kg of medium [MJ/kg]|
|Lithium-ion type batteries||
0.5 or less
|Super-capacitor (not yet available)||
|Sodium polysulfide (NaS) battery||
As you can imagine, even if some “smart Alec” were going to invent a new type of battery to store electric energy at double the previous capacity per unit of weight, it still would be way below that of the hydrocarbon type fuels like gasoline and diesel.
One can only surmise that Bosch recognized this and is now acting accordingly by getting out of that game.
Perhaps some of the North American electro-mobility thinkers might learn to understand it too.