Monthly Archives: February 2012

Groundbreaking Battery Announcement? 400Wh/kg

I woke up this morning to read of the Envia energy company talking about how they had breached the 400Wh/kg battery barrier. While the average person has no idea what it means, lets just say thats 3-4x better than batteries available today in early 2012. These batteries wont be available until 2014 with smaller improvements between now and then (200-250 Wh/kg batteries available in late 2012-2013).

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. 

Luckily, Envia seems to understand this. They’ve had the cells tested at private labs, and as well by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center. From the report’s conclusion.

The test results from the prototype cells tested at [NSWC] Crane were in line with the results obtained from the manufacturer. The claims of 400 Wh/Kg were substantiated through the cycling tests performed at Crane. This is a 160% energy density increase over the industry standard indicated in paragraph 5.1 [Panasonic's 2011 year 18650-cell battery, 3.6Ah 245Wh/kg]

The cells are built around a cathode licensed from Arggone National Labs. The cathode was first licensed in 2007. The anode is developed using the new silicon nano-technologies used in other batteries (the new late 2012 Panasonic and Sony cells are supposed to use Si anodes and a significant boost to capacity).

The second big announcement is price – they tout a $180/kWh price tag for these cells. That is approximately 1/4 the price of batteries in 2010, and 1/2 the price of batteries today, and roughly the price expected for batteries in 2015 (around when the cells are set to hit the market). The recent stories about Tesla replacement batteries costing $40,000 for 53kWh (full pack price), this would be only cost about $10,000 (batteries only). If you look at the Tesla Model S incremental battery prices ($10,000 for 20kWh more), this dramatically undercuts those prices by roughly half – instead of $10,000 more for 20kWh, it could eventually be $5,000 more.

Battery Math

These batteries are very well suited for full EVs. A 300-mile pack for a Nissan Leaf style vehicle would be the same size and weight as the current pack and cost about the same as the initial cost of the pack in 2011. The five characteristics – capacity, power, weight, volume and cycle life – are sufficient for EVs — 85kWh, 250kW, 210Kg, similar to the current pack size, and 275,000 miles on the pack to 80% original capacity. This battery would yield about 275-300 miles per charge. A cut down pack that offers 150 miles would offer 150,000 miles, along with half the weight and power (but still enough for an EV).

For plug-ins, these batteries would probably need to be in up-sized packs based on power needs (the pack needs to be able to produce enough power to push the vehicle up steep mountain grades and pass on the highway). So a Volt pack might go from 16 to 20kWh. The bouns would be more extended range (from 35 miles to 40-45), and longer life on the battery, the battery would still be smaller, lighter and cheaper (welcome back 5th seat!) at 1/2 the size, 50kg, and only around $3,500 instead of $8,000 or so.

It isn’t really suitable for hybrids or small plug-ins (Prius Plug-in), not without an adjustment to the manufacturing to change the battery characteristics from high density to high power (you’d want to sacrifice energy storage for power/kg).

HARP 2.0 – Part 1: Getting your ducks in a row

I’m in a severely underwater mortgage (175LTV), and when Obama announced HARP 2.0 in late 2011, it was a way to shave some money of my mortgage payment (and the administration hopes I put that money back into the economy in the form of consumer spending). This and future blog posts under the HARP title will chronicle my progress of going through the process and hopefully help others who want to do the same thing. Its a departure from the tech stuff I normally talk about, but there is a dearth of information out there about going through HARP 2.0.

The HARP program is long and complex, and every bank and loan servicer I’ve talked to (Wells, Chase, Quicken Loans) seems to follow their own set of rules even though there are the rules the government sets out (the only thing they all seem to agree on is anything limited by the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac software they must use to underwrite the loan).

So the first step is to find out if your home loan is underwritten by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Each one has tools on their website (FannieFreddie) to help you figure this out. If your loan is backed by either one and you haven’t missed any payments in the last 12 months, then you are eligible for HARP 2.0 (with a few other conditions). If its not backed by either one, then you might be eligible for HARP 3.0 or the upcoming settlement with the banks.

From this point, you can start the refinance process.

Your Steps

Start with your current mortgage servicer. Contact them about the HARP program, and go from there. Most institutions aren’t accepting HARP-based refinances from other banks as of the date this was posted. In my case, my mortgage servicer is not a lending institution but they referred me to a lending institution that picked me up and started the refi process straight away. If your loan is less than 125LTV you should be able to proceed now, if its at or above that amount (like mine), then you might be able to start getting your ducks in a row now, but nothing can officially start until March 15.

After March 15, it will be possible to “shop around” for HARP refinances, but it is still at the discretion of the lending institution as to whether they will accept loans serviced by other companies (HARP is itself voluntary, but refinancing to a lower monthly payment increases the likelihood people will stay in their home, so its in the bank’s interest to do it).

March 15, 2012

This date pops up a lot in the HARP program. Its the day Fannie and Freddie roll out the new version of their Desktop Underwriter (DU) software. This software update will allow institutions to evaluate loans from other institutions, and also for homes with greater than 125LTV to refinance. This is the day that refi applications like mine can be officially put into the system and the process started, and interest rates locked.

HARP 2.0 Flexibility

HARP 2.0 allows for a bit more flexibility than HARP 1.0 did. The two big features are the expansion of LTV ratios (to 300%) and the ability to shorten the term of the loan (you can go from 30 years to 20 or 15 years). An additional feature is not needing an appraisal of the house, they’re going to use a software algorithm to determine your home value based on comparable sales and foreclosures.

Paperwork

Things I needed to start the refi process (this is not a comprehensive list of what you might need, especially if you’re self employed, it may also vary from lender to lender).

  • W2/1099 forms
  • Recent bank statements (within the last 3 months)
  • Recent mortgage statement (within the last 3 months)
  • Pay stub (current)
  • Home insurance statement (current)

At this point I have all my paperwork ready except for the pay stub (it has to be the most recent one, so I wait). If I get it ready now, the loan will close quicker.