| WASHINGTON, April 11
WASHINGTON, April 11 Lithium-ion battery sales
and performance have fallen far short of forecasts, and better
technology is needed to improve their safety, battery experts
told U.S. regulators on Thursday.
The failure of the technology to live up to expectations has
put pressure on battery makers and helps explain the slow
development of electric cars as well as the problems of
lithium-ion in other applications, such as Boeing Co's
787 Dreamliner aircraft, the experts said at a forum organized
by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB is investigating a battery fire on board a
Dreamliner in January.
Analysts projections of the market made in 2008 "were off by
more than a factor of 10" when compared with actual market size
in 2011, said Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science
and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"This created a great deal of stress among those who
manufacture batteries," he added. Some went out of business,
mainly because the market for lithium-ion did not materialize.
"Even today there's a large (manufacturing) capacity
worldwide that's not utilized and I attribute it mainly to the
cost factor," he told the forum.
About 25 percent of a typical lithium-ion battery cell is
flammable, Chiang said, which increases the risk of fire.
But making a cell safer through additives reduces
performance, said Glen Bowing, vice president of sales at Saft
Specialty Battery Group, a producer of lithium ion batteries.
The industry needs to make the batteries safer without losing
performance, he said.
Despite their shortcomings, lithium-ion batteries are widely
used in laptops, cell phones and other portable electronics, as
well as in cars such as the Chevrolet Volt, made by General
Motors Co, and the Model S made by Tesla Motors Inc
But the difficulties of lithium chemistry has prompted some
experts to rework older battery technologies in hopes of finding
a safer, less costly solution for modern uses.
Boeing's high-tech Dreamliner has a large electrical system
and is the first commercial airplane to make extensive use of
lithium-ion batteries, but they are not applied to
Regulators grounded the worldwide fleet of Dreamliners in
January after batteries overheated on two of the jets.
Rival jetmaker Airbus subsequently dropped
lithium-ion batteries from its forthcoming A350 jet, saying it
wants to avoid the risk of delaying the jet's development.