Earlier this month we learned that Boston-Power, Inc. signed a multi-year agreement to provide battery systems to Beijing Electric Vehicle Company (BJEV), the electric vehicle delivery arm of Beijing Automotive Industry Company (BAIC).
Today a blog post by Scientific American posited – as others have – that this is part of a greater trend.
China is looking more like the path of least resistance, as the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) movement is meanwhile slowed down by policymakers’ indecision and in cases mistaken impressions as to its viability by consumers and leaders.
We’ve seen also such things as Fisker Automotive spanked by the politically pressured U.S. Department of Energy which froze loans after Fisker missed early production deadlines. We’ve repeatedly heard pundits and politicians invoke the dreaded name of “Solyndra” as a lost gamble by the government meddling incompetently in private industry when it can nary afford it.
Whether right or wrong, it has had a chilling effect on what could be more clearly seen as a viable and sustainable means to improved energy security and reduced emissions when things need to warm up. And we’ve seen U.S. companies going directly to China for funding, bypassing domestic red tape and resistance, saying they are doing so in the process.
Seeming to fit a broader trend , lithium-ion battery maker Boston-Power is taking significant intellectual capital to where the action is, and where it is being said they know what they want, and have the political will to get there – China.
The company also sees the U.S. as the second-largest potential EV market, but noted the greater potential it sees in China.
Boston-Power was started in 2005 by Dr. Christina Lampe-Önnerud, and she was quoted today as one more – not insignificant – voice contrasting a unified Chinese energy policy with a disunited one in the United States.
“China has committed to achieving sustainable energy innovations in all aspects of society, including transportation,” said International Chairman Lampe-Önnerud. However, the U.S. government “is torn on its national priorities,” and, “… it needs a clearer energy policy.”
As such, Boston-Power has signed its multi-year contract. Based on a long-standing working relationship between the two companies, Boston-Power projects that its battery systems will be used in hundreds of EVs beginning this year and by 2014 the business will grow to thousands of EVs.
“China is committed to leading the world in electric vehicle innovation, manufacturing, public policy, consumer adoption and export,” reiterated Boston-Power Chairman Sonny Wu. “Boston-Power’s award-winning battery systems can play a significant role in helping to accomplish those goals. We’re pleased to team with Beijing Electric Vehicle Company and Beijing Automotive Industry Company to bring world-class EVs to the market.”
As an initial step, BAIC intends to begin production of its C70 electric sedan this fall. The car is based on the 9-5 SAAB chassis it acquired in 2009.
China’s central planners are working toward a goal of five million EVs by 2020 from next to nothing today. The push is expected to make the world’s largest auto market into the largest electrified vehicle market as well.
“China’s stated policy is to lead the world in the development of clean transportation and we intend to produce thousands of hybrid and electric vehicles,” said Fang Qing, general manager of Beijing Electric Vehicle Company. “We are impressed with Boston-Power’s green and high performing technology. We welcome the opportunity to work with the company and our other key suppliers to bring EVs to consumers in China and around the world.”
To be part of the effort toward supplying China with a new type of transportation, Boston-Power is establishing a research, development and engineering facility in China, as well as a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant there.
Scientific American observes in the U.S. there is a perception problem with the viability of lithium-ion batteries as being – in so many words – not ready for prime time.
But Lampe-Önnerud – who tells her story in the video – begs to differ. She has 80 patents at various stages and as a chemist, entrepreneur and innovator, says the ceiling has not been hit on technology now available.
Obviously her Chinese partners believe this to be the case, and so Boston-Power will work with BAIC to build their transportation sector while those in the U.S. make some progress while also doing a whole lot of arguing about it.
She said Boston-Power’s battery product line, which is called “Swing,” has a long evolutionary life ahead of it, and is only at stage two now.
These batteries, she says, have 50-percent greater energy density by weight and 45-percent more by volume and are robust – able to handle Beijing’s -40 degree Celsius temperatures.
At the same time, the chemistry boasts a strong safety record and “are better in all aspects—higher energy density, long life, quick recharge—which to some people is a bit of a surprise.”
Noting perceived resistance to EVs in America is as much to blame on the culture in the auto industry as it is on perceived inadequacies of technology, Scientific American quoted Lampe-Önnerud who benignly said, “It takes a long time to gain market acceptance.”
The U.S. and China are otherwise seen to be the two biggest EV leaders, according to a Boston-Power press release, but it is clear China is doing many things to lead toward greater growth.
Boston-Power is just the latest company to find China offering a clearer path, more upside potential, and readily accessible funding.
Chinese industry leaders such as BAIC’s General Manager, Qing, have said they intend to not only help build out China’s home market, but will also turn around and export EVs in years to come.