GE is making a move into the sodium-based battery business with a $100 million battery manufacturing plant in upstate New York. The company has previously invested heavily in lithium ion batteries—the batteries of choice for hybrid and electric cars—but the new sodium-nickel-chloride batteries will power GE's hybrid locomotives, scheduled to be released in 2010. The batteries could also be used in data centers, trucking equipment for mining, and alternative energy storage.
GE has held patents on the sodium-based batteries, which store energy produced when vehicles brake, for five years. The company believes sodium-based batteries are superior to lithium batteries for locomotive purposes because the former provides large amounts of power spread over a long period. In comparison, lithium ion batteries provide short bursts of power that can jolt a vehicle into moving.
The battery factory, scheduled to open in mid-2011, will provide a much-needed economic boost to Niskayuna, New York, with 350 factory jobs and $100 million in investment—some of which GE hopes will be provided for with government economic stimulus funding. At full capacity, GE's sodium-based battery factory will produce 10 million battery cells (900 MW hours of energy storage) each year. The factory should prove to be lucrative for GE, which expects to reap $500 million in profits by 2015 and $1 billion soon after.
[Via NY Times]