Lithium and Hybrid Batteries
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The Future of Batteries at Johnson Controls, Inc.
December 4, 2004
The Future of Batteries at Johnson Controls, Inc.
Although there have been many improvements to the materials and processes of lead-acid batteries, the way the battery works and the electrochemistry that takes place has not changed since Gaston Platte, a French Scientist, immersed lead plates in diluted sulfuric acid in 1859 and proved current would flow between the plates repeatedly (Lead-acid, 2004). As automotive technology and needs change, the battery must change with it. The issues that are driving this change are “consumer pull, government push, and manufacturer competitive advantage” (Dhingra, 2004, p. 6). Most consumers want a change due to the increased concern about the environment. The government is pushing this change with increased emission controls and safety requirements (Dhingra, 2004). Finally, manufacturers who can develop and deliver hybrid or electric vehicles will have a huge advantage in the market (Dhingra, 2004).
This change to totally electric vehicles (EVs) will not take place overnight and could be many years down the road. The changes will more than likely transition from our current automobile concept of internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles to some type of hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) before going totally to EVs.
There are some vehicles on the market today that are using an ICE stop-start technology. In this type of automobile, the vehicles use the ICE for “propulsion but shut down the engine when stopped” (Dhingra, 2004, p. 6). This type of system is being developed due to the increased pressures automobile manufacturers are being placed under to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy. One of the vehicles that use this type of technology is the Toyota Vitz with a lithium battery. This market is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years especially in the four-cylinder ICE segment (Dhingra, 2004).
The next step in the transition to an EV is a mild hybrid vehicle. This system uses a 42 volt lead-acid, absorbent, glass-matte (AGM) battery system. This type of vehicle uses the same start-stop concept that the smaller four-cylinder engines use but the vehicles and ICEs are much larger. One vehicle that uses this technology currently in production is the Toyota Crown (Dhingra, 2004). Later this year, General Motors will launch their Silverado and Sierra models with this available option (Dhingra, 2004). This larger system is also expected to see growth over the next 10 years.
The final transition before a totally EV is the full hybrid vehicle. This vehicle uses a very small ICE in combination with an electric motor for propulsion. The electric motor gets its power from either nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) or lithium ion (LiO) battery packs. The vehicles on the market today that use NiMH technology are the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Honda Insight, and the Toyota Prius (Dhingra, 2004). The Nissan Tino, which uses LiO, is in limited production. Through the end of the year and in to next year, Toyota and Ford plan to introduce their full HEVs as well. When 2007 comes to a close, “consumers will also be able to choose from full-hybrid vehicles such as GMs GMT900 and the Saturn Vue, both with NiMH; the Daimler Chrysler MB R400 with NiMH; the 2006 Nissan Altima; and Toyotas Camry, Highlander, Sienna and Land Cruiser, all with NiMH (Dhingra, 2004, p. 8).
Lead-acid batteries will “continue in to the future as the foundation for energy-storage devices in the automotive market since ICEs with stop-start or mild-hybrid vehicles will have dominant volume base” (Dhingra, 2004, p. 8). Given the overwhelming trend, however, of the industry toward HEVs, Johnson Controls must devise a plan for breaking in to the NiMH or LiO market in order to continue their strong presence with automakers. Will JCI buy the technology or develop it themselves. This is the dilemma, the 120-year old company faces.
Founded in 1885 in Milwaukee Wisconsin, by an electrochemistry professor named Warren Seymour Johnson, as the Johnson Electric Service (2004). Originally, Johnson Electric Service began as a building temperature control manufacturer and installer. (www.johnsoncontrols.com).
The main business objective for Johnson Electric Service for over 50 years was to produce comfortable automatic temperature controlled buildings and rooms. However, interests changed in 1978 when Globe-Unions rich history in innovation matched that of Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls acquired Globe-Union, Inc. in 1978, it making the company the largest producer of batteries. (2004 Vol. 59 International Directory of Company Histories).
Prior to the acquisition in 1978, Globe-Union was created by Chester O. Wanvig in the early 1920s (www.johnsoncontrols.com). Globe-Union created a battery designed to deliver unwavering performance for an automobile. Due to the necessary vehicle power needs such as headlights and starting the engine Globe-Union, Inc. began to sell batteries to Sears Roebuck & Co. Selling automobile batteries to a larger audience proved early to be profitable market for the company. By the 1930s battery power began to increase due to the interior technology such as cigarette lighters, radios, and heaters. Globe-Union increased production of batteries and had opened 10 manufacturing plants around the US (2004 Vol. 59 International Directory of Company Histories).
In the 1940s, the war effort produced for batteries for military vehicles and submarines (www.johnsoncontrols.com). A milestone for the Johnson Service Company was to be named on the NASDAQ exchange in 1940 (www.johnsoncontrols.com). Continuing to be the leader of innovation, Globe-Union developed major accomplishments for the battery industry in the 1950s. Globe-Union expanded battery customers to include Gulf Ford, Caterpillar, Harley-Davidson and NAPA. According the Johnson Controls website (www.johnsoncontrols.com) Globe-Union developed, “the patented cast-on-strap automated process and the thin-wall polypropylene container.” Both advancements made batteries sturdier, stronger, and lighter than ever before. According to International Directory of Company Histories, Sears used the thin-wall polypropylene technology in order to make the Die-Hard battery (2004 vol. 59).
Johnson Controls recognized that all aspects of a building could be controlled by electronics. The