San Diego’s PowerGenix Engineers a New Strategy for Nickel-Zinc Battery

6/1/11Follow @bvbigelow

Dan Squiller concedes that the rechargeable lithium-ion battery has become the dominant power source for electricity-hungry technologies that include everything from laptop computers to electric vehicles. But he contends lithium-ion batteries have some drawbacks too—they’re expensive, potentially flammable, and difficult to recycle.

As the CEO at San Diego’s PowerGenix, Squiller also maintains that there is a place for the company’s competing rechargeable nickel-zinc battery technology.

So Squiller has been on a sort of technology walkabout since 2004, when PowerGenix moved from the Bay Area to San Diego in a bid to restart development of its proprietary technology. What he has been searching for is an application where nickel-zinc technology makes sense—and after some false starts, he has focused on what he calls “a huge opportunity” in the emerging market for “micro-hybrid” electric vehicles.

Dan Squiller

Micro-hybrid technology already has been integrated in some BMW and Mercedes-Benz models sold in Europe today, says Squiller, who describes it as “a starter system on steroids.” When the vehicle stops for a stoplight, for example, the micro-hybrid system simply turns off the car’s conventional internal combustion engine. When the driver touches the accelerator, the micro-hybrid system instantly restarts the engine.

“Just that can improve gas mileage by 5 to 8 percent, with the added cost [to the car's sticker price] being less than $1,000,” says Squiller. He contends that nickel-zinc batteries are ideal for micro-hybrid systems because they are better suited to handle the heavy stop-and-go duty cycle than conventional lead-acid batteries, and they are far less expensive than lithium-ion batteries. (Nickel-zinc has a better charge acceptance rate than lead-acid, provides a quick power surge, and is made of … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • d. begley

    I wish this technology would be conducive to American citizen employment,we have way too much technology that is favoring non domestic manufacture and employment worldwide.Sooner,than later,we as a country will not be able to purchase these goods,then what?We support all these countrys,to what avail,they all seem to despise us,I can only relate to my military service to this country when serving in certain foreign countrys!