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Lithium-polymer leads the charge

World leader: The Elantra-based Hyundai Avante LPI will use the new lithium-polymer battery.

Next-gen battery technology set for market debut in Hyundai gas-hybrid

30 Jun 2009

THE lithium-polymer battery – the latest, safer and more practical battery technology for electric and hybrid vehicles – will go on sale in a production hybrid model for the first time next week when the Hyundai Avante LPI hybrid is launched in South Korea.

The new battery from LG Chem will also appear in the Kia Forte (Cerato) LPI hybrid – the Avante LPI’s twin – due for release in Korea in August, and then in the much-hyped General Motors electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, in 2010.

The lithium-polymer battery differs from a lithium-ion battery in a key area - the medium used for the battery’s chemical reaction.

Typical lithium-ion battery cells use liquid or gel electrolyte as the conduit by which electrons pass between the anodes and cathodes. One of the by-products of the reaction is heat, and if the cells overheat, the liquid electrolyte can leak and cause a fire.

Lithium-polymer batteries – which Korean company LG Chem has been making for various applications since 2005 – use a dry polymer that is considered more stable and fire-resistant than liquid.

Aside from the safer composition, the changes improve battery life under high-temperature conditions.

The lithium-polymer batteries also hold a more dense charge, meaning that they can be more compact for an equivalent charge, and their self-discharge rate is said to be one-third of nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are used in the Lexus RX450h and the just-superseded Toyota Prius.

Despite GM’s recent financial woes, LG Chem is confident it will ship the first lithium-polymer batteries to GM for the Volt by October 2010.

LG Chem has committed a billion dollars to the new battery technology on a new facility it has just started building at Cheongwon, Korea. The new factory will make lithium-polymer batteries to cater for an EV/hybrid market expected rise from the existing 900,0000 units to 4.6 million units by 2015, when LG Chem hopes to hold 20 per cent of the EV/hybrid battery market.

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