Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
12/11/2008
09:45 AM
Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci
Commentary
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Boston Power: Green Laptops Today, Electric Cars Tomorrow?

Now that Boston Power will be putting its Sonata line of lithium-ion batteries into Hewlett-Packard's Enviro Series of notebooks, how long until it announces a partnership with a car company?

Now that Boston Power will be putting its Sonata line of lithium-ion batteries into Hewlett-Packard's Enviro Series of notebooks, how long until it announces a partnership with a car company?After weeks of bleak technology industry news, the Boston Power announcement is a welcome headline for clean tech:

  • The batteries are made without heavy metals and will come with a three-year warranty -- the longest on the market.
  • This is the first time that a U.S. battery company has successfully sold a laptop computer battery to a top provider of laptops.
  • Beginning in January, HP customers will be able to upgrade to the Sonata battery on certain HP laptops in the HP Enviro Series, including the Pavilion and Presario lines.

Running laptops more cleanly and efficiently may be just the beginning for this new kind of lithium-ion battery. Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO of Boston Power, said in an October interview that researchers have "only scratched the surface of lithium ion technology." She told Xconomy:

"...our company has the opportunity to leverage our experience with the [lithium ion] chemistry and apply it to the emerging market of transportation. That is a market that is still coming, no question. But it will probably be the biggest market in my lifetime."

Boston Power already is experimenting with scooters and bikes. The 3-1/2-year-old company expanded its R&D space outside Boston this year and is setting its sights on powering trucks and cars.

The ham-handed (and ham-headed) management style of Detroit's Big 3 automakers has pushed the public's cries for cleaner vehicles above the pain threshold. But it's a tough task that's been made more difficult by the credit crises.

Tesla, Phoenix Motors, Miles Electric vehicles, and others are in the early stages of highway speed-electric vehicle production or preproduction. But it's slow going -- Tesla made job cuts recently -- and vehicle costs are not competitive with gas-fueled cars.

They may never be, says Tim Richter, a GE engineer who works on battery systems for hybrid buses and mining equipment at GE's Global Research Center. Richter addressed a media panel at the center in October:

"Battery costs will never compete with what we're driving today. Hybrid bus sales are booming because purchases are government-subsidized. The fact is, it's going to cost more to get around."

What do you think? Can Boston Power come up with a game-changing car battery?

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