Kenneth Burridge test-drives electric Nissan LEAF in Melbourne Australia[/caption] Green-Eco-EV News Reporting by Ken Green Burridge CNN & Mother Earth News contributor, Green journalist, photographer, author and activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge's travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last six years. Connect to Ken Burridge on:Twitter, facebook, Google+, Linked in or website
A nickel-metal hydride cell, abbreviated NiMH, is a type of rechargeable battery similar to the nickel-cadmium cell. A NiMH battery can have two to three times the capacity of an equivalent size nickel-cadmium battery. A nickel-metal hydride battery has about the same volumetric energy density as the newer lithium-ion cell, but cost significantly less.
So why aren’t they being used in hybrid and electric cars today? The small AA cells are currently all over the place and NiMH technology is being used in many consumer cameras, cordless phones, and laptops.
Turns out General Motors purchased the patent from Ovonics in 1994. Stanford R. Ovshinsky was the one who invented and patented the NiMH battery and founded Ovonic Battery Company in 1982. By the late 1990s, NiMH batteries were being used successfully in many fully electric vehicles, such as the General Motors EV1, Dodge Caravan EPIC minivan, Solectria and Toyota RAV4-EV. Field tests indicated the Ovonics battery extended the EV1′s range to over 150 miles and Solectria Sunrise achieved 375 miles on a single charge back in 1996.
In October 2000, GM sold the patent to Texaco and a week later Texaco was acquired by Chevron. Chevron’s Cobasys subsidiary that now has the rights to sell the NiMH batteries will in theory only provide these batteries to large OEM orders of 10,000+. Afterwards General Motors shut down production of their electric car production (the EV1) citing lack of battery availability as one of their chief obstacles. Cobasys/Chevron has effectively blocked the use of NiMH batteries by start-up EV manufacturers and has the ability to keep doing so until 2014 when the patents expire.
It’s interesting to note that in 1997-2003 Toyota sold/leased 1485 RAV4 EVs in California that used batteries produced by Panasonic, which had licensed the Ovanics technology. “The original batteries found in the remaining 750 RAV4 EVs that weren’t crushed like GM’s EV1s are still on the road today have proven the longevity and usefulness of large format NiMH batteries.” says Ken Burridge (editor-in-chief of EV.com). Toyota discontinued producing the RAV4-EV partly because Chevron won a $30,000,000 USD settlement from Toyota-Panasonic from the International Court of Arbitration which forced them to shut down their production line for large NiMH batteries. In addition California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) caved to the pressure of the US federal government and eliminated most of their Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) requirements, which was the main reason Toyota had produced the RAV4 EV in the first place.
Noteworthy is that in July 2009, Cobasys NiMH division (Chevron-Texaco), was sold to a Bosch and Sanyo consortium, but they still retained the patent rights and collect royalties on the batteries.
There are grass-root campaigns springing up calling for: The US President, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives to exercise Eminent Domain and/or Compulsory Licensing of NiMH large format technology by Cobasys NiMH division (Chevron-Texaco) to all interested manufacturers. We here at EV.com are fully supportive of all their efforts and encourage others to request this type of green government mandate.
You can sign such a Petition Now.