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GE Ecomagination gets put into action

GE Transportation, a business unit of the mighty General Electric Company, has announced plans to build a state of the art manufacturing plant for advanced storage batteries using sodium-metal halide technology. The batteries will be used in hybrid-electric applications such as mining trucks, tugboats, and the company's Evolution series of hybrid locomotives. Other applications include backup storage and load leveling for GE's smart grid concept.

The new production facility is expected to cost $100 million to build and outfit. It will be located in upstate New York in the Capital Region surrounding Albany, and is estimated to create 350 new manufacturing jobs directly. New York State has partnered up with GE in this project by pledging more than $15 million in incentives. GE is also in the process of filing an application with the U.S. Department of Energy for stimulus funding for this project.

The unnamed facility is scheduled to be fully operational by mid-2011. GE expects synergy from GE's nearby Global Research campus in Niskayuna, Schenectady County, also part of New York's Capital Region. The new batteries will rely heavily on new materials, new manufacturing technologies, intelligent controls, and advances in battery chemistry developed at GE Global Research. GE says that it has invested more than $150 million to develop advanced battery technologies, including a high energy-density sodium-based chemistry battery.

“We are very excited about the breakthrough in battery technology and the new production facility,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, President and CEO of GE Transportation. “This leading commercial-grade battery technology is essential in advancing our hybrid development programs and a vital step in the evolution of high-tech and green transportation solutions.”

The new battery business will become a part of GE Transportation, and will be led by Tina Donikowski, General Manager of Propulsion and Specialty Services at GE Transportation. The company thinks that the new battery division has the potential to become a $1 billion business over the next decade. Donikowski currently leads all GE transportation businesses associated with non-renewable and renewable energy including mining, marine, drilling, and wind energy.

“Leading GE’s new battery business is an inspiring opportunity to contribute green technology that can have a significant impact on reducing our dependence on oil and lowering emissions worldwide,” said Donikowski.

GE Transportation first showed off a demonstrator unit of the Evolution Hybrid locomotive in May 2007. It captures the massive amount of energy dissipated during locomotive braking and stores it in a series of sophisticated on-board batteries. The stored energy can then be used to provide locomotive power, cutting fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 10 percent over today’s state-of-the art locomotives. GE’s expects its hybrid locomotives to be commercialized in 2010, with production likely at its Erie, Pennsylvania plant.

The company teamed up with Komatsu and the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate the world’s first hybrid drive system for heavy-haul mining trucks in January 2008. GE and Komatsu America Corporation tested the hybrid propulsion system on a 240-ton mining truck at Komatsu's proving grounds. The hybrid mining truck also captures braking energy and stores it in the batteries providing a fuel savings of up to 10 percent and reduced emissions. Due to the high torque output of electric motors, an instant power boost of up to 20 percent can be called upon to increase speed on grades.

GE Transportation is also researching and developing emissions-reducing hybrid technology for workboats and tugboats. The program is focused on helping to reduce diesel emissions in harbors and ports in densely populated areas such as New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles. According to GE, tugboats are at idle approximately 80 percent of their operating time.

Established more than a hundred years ago, GE Transportation employs over 10,000 people worldwide. It recently announced $1.1 billion in revenues for its first quarter.

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RE: Lithium shortage...
By Yawgm0th on 5/13/2009 2:32:52 AM , Rating: 1
Lithium batteries lose the ability to hold a charge over time. Lithium consumption is just as important an issue as petroleum consumption.

RE: Lithium shortage...
By pnyffeler on 5/13/2009 11:08:49 AM , Rating: 4
The batteries lose their capacity to hold a charge, but the lithium is not consumed in any way. As I recall, the loss in charge has to do with the anode and cathode in the battery and/or the battery's ability to readily change from atomic (0 charge) lithium to ionic (+1 charge) lithium. In the worst case, the lithium can be completely recycled.

RE: Lithium shortage...
By roostitup on 5/13/2009 12:25:40 PM , Rating: 1
Ya accept the fact that lithium is VERY scarce, and in parts of the world that are hard to get to. There is no way we can power the automotive industry with the scarcity of lithium. Even if you can recycle it, which in all actuality won't happy as effeciently as people think, there simply isn't enough to go around. People won't recycle them like they should, especially if it costs them money and it will only add to toxic pollution. Comon buddy, get real.

RE: Lithium shortage...
By Starcub on 5/13/2009 2:24:48 PM , Rating: 3

Actually there is plenty enough easy to get to Lithium that we already know exists. Probably enough to support several decades of global automotive development (not counting recycling). Considering the fact that battery tech is rapidly advancing, I'd say the problems are primarily political.

The Lithium is in countries that we do not have good relations with, and who don't have the will to mine it at present.

RE: Lithium shortage...
By 91TTZ on 5/13/2009 1:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
Lithium batteries lose the ability to hold a charge over time. Lithium consumption is just as important an issue as petroleum consumption.

When you trade in your old battery it gets recycled. There is no lithium "consumption".

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