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It's expected to have lower up-front costs for fuel efficiency, but only has a lifespan of four years on the battery

A Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based global automotive supplier has developed a smaller micro-hybrid battery pack meant to make gains in fuel efficiency more affordable. 

According to The Detroit NewsJohnson Controls has reduced the size of the micro-hybrid battery pack from that of a car trunk to the size of a shoe box. The system consists of a 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack and an advanced low-voltage lead-acid battery. It supports higher power loads and regenerative braking.

Micro-hybrid technology can be implemented in large gas or diesel-powered vehicles like SUVs and trucks. The idea is to make these vehicles more efficient at a lower price. 

For comparison purposes, a micro-hybrid system with an advanced, lead-acid 12-volt battery coupled with the lithium-ion battery and start-stop technology will improve fuel efficiency about 15 percent (compared to a standard internal combustion engine). Start-stop systems alone, where the engine stops running when a vehicle is stopped and restarts when the accelerator is used, has about an 8 percent improvement. 

While neither of these beat the 20 percent improvement from a full hybrid, the micro-hybrid system is pretty close. And with Johnson Controls' smaller system, the price will be even lower, allowing more drivers to pay hundreds of dollars instead of thousands for full hybrids. 

But there is one feature of a micro-hybrid system that may be seen as a downfall: the smaller lithium-ion battery has the lifespan of about four years while larger lithium-ion batteries in full hybrids have a 10-year lifespan. That means the battery will have to be changed every four years, which is reportedly an easy process, but could be costly. 

But micro-hybrid systems are expected to become more popular in the U.S. auto market by the end of the decade. Global sales projections for micro-hybrids are estimated to be about 40 million annual sales by 2020. Currently, there are about 5 million global annual sales (the systems are most popular in Europe and China). 

The systems are likely gaining popularity in the U.S. due to the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, which state that automaker’s fleetwide average fuel economy to equal 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Source: The Detroit News

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Single battery
By Samus on 11/5/2013 1:09:53 PM , Rating: 1
Since this has a lead-acid element to it, can that act as the primary vehicle battery as well? In a small car it'd only need 400CA/500CCA.

That'd make stomaching a 4-year replacement justifiable since most lead-acid batteries only last 5-6 years anyway and decent ones are $100+. If you were to spend $300-$400 to replace it at the same intervals with this hybrid pack and were getting a 15% savings in annual fuel economy (about $200/year with a $2000 fuel budget) this technology is completely justifiable.

RE: Single battery
By FITCamaro on 11/5/2013 2:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Good point. I wouldn't want to have to replace a traditional battery AND a hybrid battery.

RE: Single battery
By inperfectdarkness on 11/6/2013 4:33:52 AM , Rating: 2
I would venture to guess that lead-acid batteries (sealed or conventional) are permissive of the continuous recharge cycle that comes from the alternator. These are a "sunk cost" for operating a conventional motor vehicle. I don't believe that these new batteries are going to change this market much.

As to "microhybrid" options, I would guess that the costs are going to be significantly higher than just battery purchase/replacement. Regenerative braking isn't free to install--for example. There might be some potential though.

Where I see this being of greatest benefit is hot-swapping batteries. In my opinion, the largest drawback to electric vehicles is the availability of charging stations and the time it takes to "refuel". If we can continue to develop technology like this, we may eventually arrive at a solution where an electric vehicle can pull into a service-station, have fully-charged batteries swapped in, and be back on the road in a matter of minutes. Of course, the cost of a "fill up" would be commensurate with wear & tear on the batteries, electricity, and operating costs/profit for the service station--but it would still be a much better solution than what currently exists for electric cars. This is what I'm hoping will come to fruition within my lifetime.

On a related note, switching the US end-user voltage to 220v would greatly boost the potential for charging vehicles--as well as free us to use 220v appliances that the rest of the world is using.

RE: Single battery
By Ringold on 11/6/2013 7:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
switching the US end-user voltage to 220v

That'd be so expensive, for so relatively small an economic gain, as to be impossible. It'll never happen.

Well, eventually we might stop using moving electrons to provide energy transfer. In the 2200s or 2300s.

For the purposes of our lifetimes, accepting our 110v electrical overlords for the US is the smart way to go.

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