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Business

March 10, 2013

Breakthrough needed to cut cost of batteries for plug-in cars

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“They’re taking liquid out of the batteries,” said Beringea’s Bocan. “When you do that, a whole lot of interesting things happen. You can make them extremely cheaply.”

But Sakti3’s technology is at least a few years away from being production-ready.

President Barack Obama proposed in his State of the Union address that the government devote a portion of its oil and gas revenues to fund “new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Without a technology breakthrough that brings down the cost of electric vehicles, the U.S. may have to settle for reducing, rather than ending, oil consumption.

LG Chem’s stumbles in Holland tell a cautionary tale. The Korean company won a $150 million economic stimulus grant from the federal government in 2009 and more than $175 million in state and local tax relief to build the facility.

But the factory has not sold any battery cells to automakers, and an Energy Department audit found that workers had been paid more than $1.6 million for activities unrelated to battery production. The facility is capable of producing batteries on a large scale, but the business simply isn’t there because the cost is too high.

“LG Chem is the leader in this market,” said See, the Lux Research analyst. “So if the leader in this market has an idle plant, that’s pretty indicative of the state of the market.”

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