Much of the policy, if you can call it policy, of the Department of Energy under Secretary Steven Chu and President Barack Obama has been based on the potential of plug-in vehicles. The underlying assumption that Chu espoused and Obama naively believed was that lithium ion batteries would drop significantly in cost and that with mass production levels of economies of scale, plug-in vehicles would be affordable.
Dr. Chu should have listened to what Thomas Edison said in London in February 1883. Yes–in February 1883 old Tom wrote the following for The Electrician:
The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing….
Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying….
Scientifically, storage is all right, but, commercially, as absolute a failure as one can imagine.
Dr. Chu–you got taken three times on lithium ion batteries! Actually, we, the taxpayers got taken three times, as the wasted money is ours.We have all heard of the demise of Ener1 and A 123, but now we are witnessing the third strike at bat for this battery chemistry. The third strike is occurring in Holland, MI at a company called Compact Power (CP). Compact Power is owned by the large Korean Conglomerate LG Chem. LG Chem supplies lithium ion batteries produced in Korea to Chevrolet for the Volt. The plan was to produce these batteries in Michigan. Approximately $150 million was given by Obama via Chu to Compact Power, and approximately 200 people were hired. Now the workers are on a 75% furlough, and layoffs continue.
It has been reported that no batteries for Volts have ever been supplied from the Holland plant and all the batteries simply come from LG Chem in Korea. I wonder what 200 people working at a 75% rate are really doing in Holland, MI?
What is certain is that LG Chem was promised by Chevrolet and Ford that they would supply many sets of batteries for plug in cars in the USA that Obama and Chu estimated would total 1 million vehicles by 2015.
I was playing around with the letters in Ener1, A 123, and CP and came up with a six letter word: Reaper. Thomas Edison knew in 1883 that storage batteries were a sensation–and a mechanism for swindling that would result in commercial failure.
In 2010, one hundred and twenty seven years later, Dr. Chu and Mr. Obama brought upon us the lithium ion battery-powered grim reaper of economic death.
Photo credit: AP