Claiming Battery Breakthrough, Electric Audi Drives 375 Miles at 55 MPH Without Recharging
Just a few days ago I was excited to be able to take the Nissan LEAF on a 116.1 mile round trip without any special adjustment to my driving habits—I basically just drove a bit slower. But what if that 116 miles could turn into 375 miles while driving at 55 miles per hour on rolling and sometimes hilly terrain with the heat on in a vehicle that has full trunk space and room for 5 adults? My 116.1 mile accomplishment would start to look rather paltry, wouldn't it?
A start-up German battery company, DBM Energy, claims that they have done just that in a converted Audi A2 during an overnight drive from Munich to Berlin (website is translated with Google translate) using their "KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer Technology" battery. DBM is says it's a world record, even though a Japanese team drove an electric car 623 miles without recharging earlier this year. The difference, however, is that the Japanese team drove a tiny Daihatsu Mira loaded to the gills with 74 kWh of batteries at a constant 25 mph around an oval track. DBM Energy claims that their converted Audi A2 has indistinguishable functionality from a conventional vehicle, including seating for 5 adults and a full trunk. DBM also claims that their KOLIBRI battery can be fully recharged in as little as 6 minutes using a "high-voltage direct-current source" (no information on how high a current, but some things are just technically unfeasible).
As impressive as the achievement sounds, there is scant little information on what kind of battery it is exactly. How big was it? How much does it weigh? What's its capacity? I was able to find a picture showing the placement of the battery and the motor within the vehicle, and based on the schematic below, it does seem that it's not a gargantuan battery pack by any means. There's also another schematic below that shows the KOLIBRI battery weight as related to energy capacity when compared to existing lithium-ion and lead-acid battery chemistries—making it appear that DBM's KOLIBRI achieves about a 3 fold improvement over lithium-ion. If this is actually true, then it would represent an amazing breakthrough.
When asked about the cost of the battery, Mirko Hanneman, the "chief brain" behind DBM and driver on the record run, said that when they get to volume production they will be cheaper than lithium-ion batteries and that a logistics company is already using the packs in its forklifts, providing 28 hour run times without recharging.
Although there is plenty to be skeptical about in this story, the record run did bring out some rather credible support. For instance, the vehicle was funded with support from the German Economy Ministry and German Utility, lekker Energie. At the finish line, Andreas Goerdeler of the German Economy Ministry. reportedly said, "This is a great success, we are in a fierce global competition and this proves that we (Germany) are technological leaders."
I've sent an email to the listed press contacts for DBM asking for lots more clarification and I'll update the post if I hear anything back.
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