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The Battery Show 2011 Message: Many forms of intelligent energy management

There is a time when technology transitions have to communicate a collective summary message; and this year’s The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan showed many forms of intelligent energy management, but the overall systems message still left as many questions as answers.

Every auto and tech show needs a summary, simply because there are those who could not attend. Furthermore, any information about The Battery Show 2011 in Novi, Michigan is surely newsworthy because a new industry has literally arisen within the transportation industry that affects Detroit, America, and now with globalization, the world economy. It’s called electrification, and it is permeating every element of automotive and trucks.

Yet, much to my surprise, The Battery Show 2011 was a collage of engine, test equipment as well as battery technology. Point is, every tech show has a theme and this one appeared a bit mixed, but after you viewed it, not in bad way at all. Nonetheless, in the promoters' drive was to save money by sharing convention expenses, there were key elements that this writer felt were missing.

Fact is, as a technology writer with 39 years of design experience in the auto industry, I have lived the transitions. I lived through every stage of pollution controls, experimental ideas and prototypes that often weren’t ready for prime time. Then came the Japanese competition which forced Detroit into thinking outside its own box that held it hostage. And in my latter days in automotive, I took part in some of the first elements of automotive electrification, but, now as a research writer, still believe there is one more major technology push coming from the IC engine.

That is why I attend a lot of tech shows, from SAE World Congress to The Business of Plugging In, The DEER Conference, etc. So, I was a bit surprised there was another show in the metro-Detroit area that perhaps could have been handled by any of the others.

This implies the auto industry has surely changed or there is simply a new host of show promoters out there trying to make a buck. In this case, The Battery Show 2011 rubbed elbows with an Engine Expo and a Test Equipment expose for a reason beyond just economics. Regardless of how you view that initially, the new young gun called electrification is in town to stay; and it has crossed all the segments of the industry that were once viewed like walled barriers.

However, there was one message that became obvious to me. The automotive-related theme has morphed beyond free-market, automotive component competition into many forms of intelligent energy management ideas that will one day make sense, but for now has no clear winner or no single message except change is coming, elements can work together in harmony; and it’s a given.

Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised The Battery Show at Novi’s Suburban Collection Showplace also held forums and booths for engines and test equipment. At first I wondered why, until I visited or viewed each booth.

Fact is, most if not all displays were related in some shape, form or fashion. Advances in battery technology has shown to require specialized test equipment. Furthermore, the mutual acceptance of IC engines with some form of electrification is ubiquitous; and that’s a good thing for the industry as well as consumers.

One point is, The Battery Show this year was much, much more than just about batteries; and much more than materials and test equipment. You got the impression that free-market competition is actually creating a healthy, iron-sharpens-iron environment.

I surely have my opinions and favorites lie anyone else, but no clear idea which technology will ultimately dominate the future of automotive propulsion. Fact is, the industry could choose to pick the wrong one, and all of us will have to live with it anyway. For example, few companies are going full bore on nat-gas for autos, only heavy trucks; and we pay the price for lack of vision.

For sure, the IC engine is not going away anytime soon; and neither is electrification of the automobile giving way. Like the Q that Captain Pickard bravely fought against, the call to the automotive industry seems to be that all will be assimilated; and resistance is futile; at least for now.

So, that leaves us with a league of technology companies creating, inventing, collaborating and promoting their ideas so as to create a new energy economy for America and the world. Key to success in understanding it all is this: all the technologies have to be looked at in the form of total systems; in other words, looking at a technology apart from its system use is now deemed useless.

For example: I already covered Controlled Power Technologies' entry into bringing electrification in modular forms to the IC engine. It makes sense; it’s practical; and it’s cost effective. Read: Controlled Power Technologies reveals modular hybridization solutions at Engine Expo 2011

So, you can see that even the Engine Expo side had its electrification elements that contributed to The Battery Show across the convention hall.

Engine Expo Comments

I have a major complaint: It’s disconcerting when so-called experts in the industry speak at these forums as though they have done all of the necessary research, yet do not know or admit much about the next major evolutionary step of the IC engine; in some cases, understanding that electrification even on a light scale is necessary, but on the other end denying and totally oblivious to advancement in IC engine design such as the split cycle by Scuderi Engine and Tour Engine. Strange that neither company was present.

I found similar lack of knowledge and willingness to make a stand at other shows and forums, including Plugging In 2011, DEER Conference 2011, and MBS 2011.

On the other end of the spectrum, at least some companies like Controlled Power Technologies are finally realizing and willing to say that downsizing of engines has its limits; and many of the latest attempts to make small engines perform like big ones has a high cost, too. That is why Controlled Power Technologies, which I interviewed (report later), developed major segments of that tech paradigm, such as an electric supercharger for the low end, and a 48V stop-start motor generator.

And here’s a - did you know - that I received from Controlled Power Tech today: Stop-start technology creates merely lessens CO2 by 4%; and with a CPT system, that number grows to 5%. So, how are we ever going to meet 2016 mandates let alone 2025 mandates?

The Battery Show 2011 at least admits many of the hurdles that the EV industry has to jump over, like driving down battery costs, improving energy density at the material level, even chasing the holy grail of battery chemistry.

Unfortunately, I did not see any new battery chemistries at this show that caught my eye; just the usual lithium-ion types with a few carbon anode materials; but no new nano-scale cathode materials that defines energy density. What, no lithium-iron, no zinc-air? I can find more info on the internet. Frankly, I fully expected to see those at a battery show, but they were missing in action.

From the perspective of an auto technology writer with at least some degree of engineering expertise, I find the auto and EV industry in a giant flux; and not everyone is participating at these major events. So, this show seems to communicate the industry is still pulsating, growing, tripping and wondering what to do next; albeit making progress somehow through it all.

Point is, each solution surely attempts to solve a key part of the automotive energy-management equation. Unfortunately, much to the stupidity of government leaders, we live without a national energy policy in America; so the auto industry has little choice but to try every conceivable design option to find a solution to the mandates being put upon it, because the industry and the country appear leaderless.

Another problem: Nobody in the industry seems willing to take on the IC engine to its next natural level of evolution - splitting the cycle. Instead, the industry tries and tries to make bigger and better band aids on the existing four stroke engine, never once saying, “Hey, let’s reorganize the cycles into a hot and cold side for maximum thermal efficiency.” So the end result is what we have today: A plethora of technology ideas flying in close and not-so-close formation to get incremental gains, when they should be placing those gains onto a split cycle that starts at a much higher level of efficiency.

Battery Show Final Comments

Aside from the lack of battery chemistries, there was very little about ionic fluids, and even less about nano-particle cathodes with high energy density. That is why I asked about zinc-air. Who cares if it’s not ready for prime time; this is a battery show. Show us the energy density beef!

Although The Battery Show 2011 had the same aura as an SAE show, I came away with more questions than I had answers; and that should not be the case. Don’t take the wrong. With all respect to the show, I appreciated all the pieces of tech information. I guess I just expected greater togetherness on systems, not to mention more research revelations at the booth level.

I could say that we need to think now in terms of intelligent energy management, and that would be correct in part. However, it is clear there is with no clear winner.

So, in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to live with it and depend on my own research for what’s coming next, and what has the best potential. Maybe next year in the new Battery Show 2012 the eclectic list will communicate a more decisive systems trend. After all, HCCI engines and split-cycle with air hybrids on the horizon. And yet, even those might benefit from light forms of electrification.

And that’s what I see clearly right now as the trend for automotive: technology mixing together to form a coherent energy management system that we can live with until fuel cells come of age and down in cost.

Quick Note: Enjoy the photo slideshow of elements from The Battery Show. Look for the small image below the main image that will apear later today.

About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via He may be contacted here by email: [email protected] and followed in Twitter under @Authorfranks

Additional Reading:
ALTe shows extended-range electric Ford F-150 conversion at The Battery Show 2011
Controlled Power Technologies reveals modular hybridization solutions at Engine Expo 2011
Lotus Engineering wows Battery Show 2011 with synthetic-sound technology
The Business of Plugging In 2011: Media drives EVs at Ride and Drive
Tech synergies permeating IC engine development per 2011 DEER Conference
Navistar reports Super Truck accomplishments at 2011 DEER Conference
Evening 10/03 Update: 2011 DEER Conference at Detroit
Tour Split-Cycle Engine technology display
Altair unveils world's first hydraulic-hybrid transit bus
Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine achieves 65 MPG under simulation study
Achates Power addresses commercial truck mileage and emission standards
Raytheon: Cyclone Power's combustion engine game changer