Low carbon legacy: UltraBattery inventor retires

Bringing down the cost of hybrid electric vehicles and making it easier to integrate more renewable energy into the grid are just some of the achievements of CSIRO’s UltraBattery.

  • 21 February 2013

Dr Lan Lam, the primary inventor of the UltraBattery, and his team took the world’s 150 year-old battery technology and revolutionised it in the laboratories of CSIRO. Today Dr Lan retires and leaves a legacy of impact.

“It was always my dream to create a better battery. I knew the success of hybrid electric and electric vehicles were dependent on it,” said Dr Lam.

This year the first UltraBattery will be released in the automotive market, powering hybrid electric (HEV) cars in Japan, United States, South America, Europe and Asia. The use of HEVs decreases our reliance on fossil fuels and thereby reduces our carbon emissions.

Dr Lan Lam, the primary inventor of the UltraBattery, and his team took the world's 150 year-old battery technology and revolutionised it in the laboratories of CSIRO.

The UltraBattery combines the traditional lead acid battery and a supercapacitor into one – normally they are separate components.

“It sounds simple, but we have now created a new technology that is 70 per cent cheaper than current batteries used in hybrid electric cars, and they can also be made in existing manufacturing facilities," Dr Lam said.

Two of the world’s battery giants, Japan’s Furukawa Battery Company and United States’ East Penn Manufacturing, are commercialising the UltraBattery for both automotive and renewable energy storage applications.

UltraBattery technology has been successfully installed in large-scale solar power plants in New Mexico, USA and King Island off the coast of Tasmania – the largest renewable energy storage system in Australia. UltraBattery storage allows intermittent renewable energy to be smoothly supplied to the electricity grid.

Dr Lan Lam joined CSIRO in 1988, and has delivered a sustained record of major contributions to the lead and battery industries. Dr Lam has received numerous awards including two CSIRO Medals. In 2009, the US Government recognised the importance of the UltraBattery and awarded East Penn Manufacturing $US32.5 million towards the development and commercialisation of the technology.

There is a wealth of opportunities for the UltraBattery, including distributed smart grids, short driving range electric vehicles and bikes. CSIRO’s large energy storage team continues to research and develop UltraBattery technology, making it lighter, more efficient and help Australia and the world move towards a low carbon future.

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