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Suppose I want a rechargeable battery for a hybrid electric vehicle like Toyota Prius - one that can power the vehicle traction motor at low speeds. The vehicle would have to operate in a region where −25 Celsius is not uncommon and −10 Celsius is typical for several months per year.

What battery chemistry is suitable for such requirements?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure you would like a battery powered car in a polar region? You will probably drain the batteries just to keep the car warm inside. \$\endgroup\$ – Johan Nov 10 '11 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Johan: Well, the weather conditions I described are typical in say... Moscow, Russian Federation, and that's very far from pole. Also hybrid is not fully battery powered, it's just battery-assisted so at worst it will run as plain internal combustion engine vehicle. \$\endgroup\$ – sharptooth Nov 10 '11 at 9:21
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From what I've seen, the lithium ferro-phosphate types (check out A123) have better low temperature performance than most. I won't say "good" performance because really no battery is good in the cold compared to room temperature, but some not as bad as others.

The first generation of popular hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic for example, used NiMH batteries. The newer lithium were known at the time but not deemed ready for volume end use. The next generation is being designed with these batteries. If I remember right, the Tesla and Chevy Volt use them already.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think only one of the new prius models goes to lithium, they are still more costly then the prius wants to pay for. They are dense, but I think the prius has room and the cost is an issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 10 '11 at 4:52
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I'll second Olin's recommendation - LiFePO4 is about the best performing secondary battery temperature wise.

However

  • Choosing a high energy battery on the basis of it's temperature performance is undesirable if other options are available.

  • Prius battery charge and discharge control and longevity algorithms are very very very much tied to not only the battery chemistry used but the actual batteries used. Change them at your great peril of bad performance and poor lifetime.

  • You may get lucky or be immensely skilled in electrochemical design, but otherwise using whatever Toyota deems is best is liable to BE best.

    • I'd suggest that a customised insulation and heating system would be far better cost and performance wise or even be viable when even LiFePO4 failed to perform well enough. It seems likely that something like an LPG (or even petrol !) heater with a jacket that delivers warmed air (or water or a low freezing point liquid) would allow vastly improved performance. eg at -20C even a good behaving battery is rated at about 30% of its nominal capacity whereas an air or liquid heated system could achieve most of rated load.
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