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Hydrogen storing alloys were shown to offer a chance of further improvements. This is valid mainly for the high load performance. It was demonstrated that the use of new materials could improve the discharge rate capability by more than 50% compared to the standard materials currently being used. Though there still is a gap to the well established Ni/Cd-system the materials developed showed that NiMH-cells with improved materials can meet most of the power demands set by industrial applications today. The power capability of the new electrode materials was demonstrated with a new high power battery with high efficiency. Due to the high gravimetric and volumetric power values the hydride vehicle is the preferred application if this new battery.

Although it was demonstrated that a 60% reduction of the Co-content in the alloy can be realised by application of a new alloy formulation and the employment of an advanced production technology it is believed that a certain small amount of Co will be used also in the future. A first Co-free alloy seems to be on the horizon. However, it is envisaged that it will take some more time to improve capacity and rate capability of this material to a level appropriate for the new demand. Therefore the establishment of a recycling process if of vital interest if NiMH as a new battery system shall have a chance for becoming a wide spread product. The necessity to use a La enriched Mischmetal for producing the hydrogen storing alloy is also an argument for the high priority for establishing a recycling facility.
Energy storage by Hydrogen absorption in metals and alloys is becoming increasingly important technology today. Electrochemical Hydrogen storage has been realized in the rechargeable Nickel/metal hydride (Ni/H) cells which are beginning to penetrate the market for portable and consumer appliances. Ni/H-batteries have 50% more energy density than comparable Nickel/Cadmium (Ni/Cd) batteries. But their use is as yet limited to low drain applications.

The high drain requirements of batteries for motive power or portable power tools cannot be satisfied by existing Ni/H technology. These markets are available to Ni/Cd batteries, but the use of these cells will become increasingly constrained by environmental factors. Automotive manufacturers have hesitated to use Ni/Cd batteries in traction applications because of lack of efficient and envrironmentally compatible recycling for this system.

The proposed research therefore is directed towards the development of new environmentally compatible materials to enable new, competitivly priced and high performance Ni/H cells to be developed to meet the growing needs of the market.

The major objectives of the R&D project will be :

1. Development of suitable, cost effective, and environmental compatible materials optimised for electrochemical Hydrogen-storage meeting the high performance requirements of power tools and electric vehicles.

2. Establishment of the technology for the production of the Hydrogen storage materials and big Ni/H-batteries on a commercial basis.

3. To assess the potential for an effective commercial recycling operation and to develop the basis for a closed loop recycling process.

A successful outcome of this project will facilitate the production of high performance, cost effective, and environmentally acceptable batteries which can be recycled in a closed loop environmentally safe process.

At the end of the project the full commercial development of the battery technology will require a further two years.

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Varta Batterie AG
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Gundelhardtstraße 72
65779 Kelkheim

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