In Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

on September 9, 2019

If any particular technology takes all the oxygen from everyone else because it dominates an industry, then we’re going to have a dearth of investment in these other technologies, and we’ll just never know what we could have had. Let’s think about crystalline silicon solar modules controlling an industry which had a wealth of thin film innovation, and many other ideas. However, if a technology comes in and takes over, leading to broader industry expansion so that the investment crumbs are large enough to still support investment in these secondary ideas – and we get the great technology from the new leader – I’m going to argue we’ll benefit greatly.

In a research paper by a team at Tesla, A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies, up to three years of battery testing have found performance that suggests the potential for electric vehicle battery packs that can drive more than 1 million miles and last more than twenty years when used in stationary energy storage situations.

In the paper, testing results on LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2 / artificial graphite (NMC532/AG) cells are presented. The authors note that of all the cells tested, the ones with the longest lifetime are the single crystal NMC532/AG cells.

The very technical document goes into many manners of testing multiple cell types under a broad sets of conditions. A specific cell (below image) had 97% capacity retention after 5,300 cycles. The authors noted that there were almost no microcracks in the electrode particles – which they suggested was the reason “why these cells show no loss of positive electrode active mass during cycling.”

What is interesting is that these twenty years batteries are already being seen by those who develop energy storage projects, and probably by the world’s largest manufacturers who are putting out products with twenty years lifetimes. Cody Hill, an engineer and developer with 10 years in the grid energy storage industry, noted on Twitter this morning:

And what we should expect to see next in the marketplace are investment groups demanding 20-year energy storage contracts coupled with even lower energy storage pricing. SUSI Partners launched what it called the “world’s first dedicated energy storage infrastructure fund”. The fund seeks returns from 8-10% in ten years when accounting for degradation. That degradation could be managed in two ways – the first is by oversizing the battery on day one, so that it meets the needs by year ten. And the second of course is to make a better battery.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsIn Lab Secrets, Tesla is Talking About 20-Year Lithium Ion Batteries

The Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

on September 6, 2019

A few years ago, lithium producers started boosting production to anticipate the growing demand for the key battery metal for electric vehicles (EVs). For a few years, producers and investors enjoyed high lithium prices and miners expanded operations and opened new mines.

Then, production started to outpace demand as capacity and inventories grew, while demand growth for EVs has slowed as China cut subsidies for electric cars and its economic growth also slowed down amid an unpredictable trade war with the United States.

For several quarters, lithium prices have been falling and they are now more than half of what they were at their peak price back in 2017.

Analysts expect lithium prices to continue to fall in the near term, with recovery likely only in a few years’ time.

Yet, the price rout in lithium prices doesn’t necessarily mean that battery pack prices for EVs will become significantly cheaper.

“Overhead costs for producing an EV battery are still large and economies of scale have not yet been established meaning that the price of the raw materials used in a battery has a limited impact on the overall price of the battery,” Marcel Goldenberg, manager for metals and derivatives at S&P Global Platts, told Andy Critchlow, head of news in EMEA for S&P Global Platts, in a blog post.

According to Goldenberg, the EV growth rate will start catching up with lithium supply growth early next decade.

Until then, lithium prices are seen further falling and challenging the fortunes of the world’s biggest lithium mining companies.

Over the past 15 months, spot lithium prices have halved, and analysts and industry reports point toward a much lower floor for lithium.

Morgan Stanley sees lithium carbonate prices from South America dropping by 30 percent from now to US$7,500 per ton by 2025.

According to the investment bank, global economic slowdown and lower Chinese EV subsidies could delay investments in infrastructure necessary for EVs to pick up growth rate and expand market share.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Lithium Glut Is Far From Over

Cycle Of Life: A Circular Economy Approach To Lithium Batteries

on August 27, 2019

Did you know that batteries often have over 80% of their life left when they’re thrown away? This misunderstanding of the potential battery technology is unsustainable and wasteful. Imagine if your car broke down, you wouldn’t scrap it, you’d try and get the broken parts repaired.

What’s more, batteries can help support the growth of developing regions. Of course, they are an essential part of any green revolution, providing energy security when using intermittent sources of power such as wind or solar. But the opportunity for positive impact is even greater in developing regions, where energy security is directly linked to local development.

In 2016 Aceleron Co-founder Carlton Cummins and I set about finding a solution to reduce battery waste and making energy storage solutions more accessible to people in developing regions.

Reducing battery waste

Traditional lithium-ion batteries are welded or glued together, making individual components difficult to replace. If one part fails, the whole battery stops working and is usually thrown away – often with the majority of their potential left unused.

In response, we developed and patented a battery technology design that enables the batteries to be repaired, upgraded and reused when no longer suitable for their first life, thus reducing battery waste.

Manufactured in Birmingham in the UK, the simple assembly technology facilitates the easy replacement of components, which is coupled with advanced machine learning technology that can tell which components are faulty. This means a battery can function for up to 25 years, just like you could keep a car running for 25 years with appropriate maintenance and servicing.

We are early on in our journey, but we are selling battery packs in the Caribbean, UK and Kenya and we are definitely seeing an increase in global demand.

Supporting developing regions
Early on, we decided that our battery business should not only be a world leader in sustainable battery technology, but also have a positive societal impact, improving the lives of as many people as possible.

One exciting project currently taking place is in Kenya, where we are repurposing ‘dead’ solar lamp batteries into battery packs for a price similar to lead acid batteries. The work involves taking apart old battery packs, comprehensively testing all the components and building repurposed batteries.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsCycle Of Life: A Circular Economy Approach To Lithium Batteries

‘Lithium’s Not The Only Game In Town’: Energy Storage Hopefuls Eye Breakthrough

on August 15, 2019

After numerous false starts, bankruptcies and billions of dollars invested, developers of alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for electricity storage believe that a new window of opportunity is opening. This renewed optimism is fueled by maturing battery and nonbattery technologies, some limited commercial successes, demand for longer-duration storage, and growing concerns around the safety and supply chain risks of the incumbent chemistry.

Pointing to a recent major fire at a 2-MW lithium-ion battery system in Arizona, the state’s second such incident, Arizona Corporation Commission member Sandra Kennedy said in an Aug. 2 regulatory filing that the technology carried “unacceptable hazards and risks.” Kennedy urged the state to explore available alternatives “that are far more sustainable and do not have these risks.”

Project owner Arizona Public Service Co., utility subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., disclosed Aug. 8 that it would delay its ambitious battery expansion plans to incorporate lessons from the accident. But the utility remains committed to adding energy storage resources, Pinnacle West’s CEO said, perhaps creating an opening for competitors.

“Lithium’s not the only game in town,” said Philippe Bouchard, senior vice president of startup Eos Energy Storage LLC. The New Jersey-headquartered developer of zinc-based batteries has raised nearly $100 million to commercialize its technology, culminating in recent installations in California and North Carolina.

The next step for the company is raising capital for a flagship manufacturing facility. “We have been preparing this scale-up for quite some time,” Bouchard said.

Eos is among dozens of aspiring companies, from upstarts to industrial powerhouses, that are courting investors, utilities, project developers and others to catapult them into competition with lithium-ion leaders LG Chem Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., Panasonic Corp. and Tesla Inc. While a few of these efforts have separated from the pack, experts remain skeptical of their near-term chances.

“There are a number of contenders to lithium-ion technology for power storage applications,” said Felix Maire, a senior analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics. “However, lithium-ion benefits from the massive scale of the electric vehicle market.”

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants‘Lithium’s Not The Only Game In Town’: Energy Storage Hopefuls Eye Breakthrough

Unlocking Lithium Metal’s Stored Potential

on July 5, 2019

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have developed an electrolyte they say is compatible with lithium metal anodes, allowing for much greater energy density than current Li-ion battery designs. The new battery has also been shown to function well at temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius.

The key innovation is a liquefied gas electrolyte (LGE). Current commercial lithium-ion batteries all use liquid electrolytes, and most researchers are looking into solid materials as the next generation of battery technology. UC San Diego, however, is taking the opposite approach in working with a gas, liquified under pressure, as its electrolyte. The goal is a battery that can take advantage of lithium metal anodes, which could offer high specific capacity, low electrochemical potential and light weight, but can’t work safely or efficiently with conventional liquid electrolytes.

Details of UC San Diego’s LGE work were first published in Science in 2017. At the time, the researchers posited the idea batteries incorporating their electrolyte could power satellites and interplanetary rovers, among other outlandish suggestions.

A new paper, High-Efficiency Lithium-Metal Anode Enabled by Liquefied Gas Electrolytes, published this week in Joule, however, brings the technology down to earth. The paper reports that by optimizing their LGE the researchers were able to create a lithium battery cell which maintained 99.6% efficiency after 500 cycles at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius), and 98.4% at -60.

The team pointed out using a conventional liquid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode has ensured efficiency has not gone beyond 85%, and most liquid electrolytes cease to work entirely at temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius.

Safety first

Another concern about working with lithium metal anodes is the formation of dendrites, which can reduce performance, and in the worst cases lead to short circuits, fires and explosions. UC San Diego reported that with its LGE, lithium particle deposition was “smooth and compact” and porosity of deposition was measured at 0.9%, compared with 16.8% for the same anode in combination with a conventional liquid electrolyte.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsUnlocking Lithium Metal’s Stored Potential

This Tweak Could Be A Gamechanger For Lithium-Ion Batteries

on April 18, 2019

Lithium ion batteries may soon be able to charge much faster thanks to what seems like a simple substitution of one mineral for another in the battery’s cathode.

Researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this month announced they had achieved much faster charging rates in lithium ion batteries by replacing the usual cobalt oxide used together with lithium in the cathode with vanadium disulfide.

“It gives you higher energy density, because it’s light. And it gives you faster charging capability, because it’s highly conductive. From those points of view, we were attracted to this material,” said Nikhil Koratkar, the lead author of the study.

The researcher added that improving the electrodes was the way to making lithium ion batteries perform even better.

It seems lithium ion batteries’ dominance will be hard to break with so much work being put into improving these batteries. Koratkar’s team’s work is only the latest example of this work, but there are scores of labs around the world looking for the same ultimate reward: maximizing the performance of the world’s dominant battery technology before a viable alternative really makes it out of another lab.

Recently, the race to reduce charging times for EV batteries specifically heated up as new superchargers came on the scene with few batteries capable of actually using them without getting fried in the process.

Tesla last month opened its first V3 Supercharger station that has a capacity of 250 kW and can add 30 km of range per minute. The company has made its new cars compatible with the new, faster chargers, but Tesla is more of an exception in that it makes its own batteries and chargers.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThis Tweak Could Be A Gamechanger For Lithium-Ion Batteries

‘Leapfrogging’ The Grid: Hybrid Lithium-Flow in Action at A Remote Thai Village Microgrid

on April 16, 2019

While energy storage, like the electrification of transport, is often discussed as the ‘Next Big Thing’ for first world economies, this emerging technology is starting to play an important role in developing nations too. Just as mobile telephony revolutionised telecommunications in developing economies during the past two decades by leapfrogging the need for fixed line services, energy storage systems are eliminating the requirement to connect remote communities to a national power grid.

Coupled with renewable energy produced by photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, energy storage systems in remote communities can store that energy until it is required overnight or on a cloudy day. An excellent demonstration of the benefits of energy storage systems in developing nations is Ban Pha Dan, a village in a mountainous region of northern Thailand that has long lacked electricity.

Up until now, people in Ban Pha Dan had to rely on candles and oil lamps for light at night or resort to four-wheel-drives carting in diesel for generators to generate electricity. The lack of electricity also resulted in a lack of road lighting, which made it difficult to travel at night. In a project backed by the Thai Government, Ban Pha Dan is using solar cells to generate power and a high-performance hybrid battery system, including Redflow ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow batteries and lithium batteries, to store and deliver energy for a village that is separated from the national electricity distribution network.

Combination of technologies to find the ‘best economic case’
Under its national Power Development Plan, announced in January this year by the Thailand National Energy Policy Council, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Thailand aims to prioritise the development of renewable energy sources for the period 2018-2037. The plan expects that non-fossil energy sources will account for 35% of the country’s total capacity by 2037.

TSUS Group General Manager Tossapon Jirattipong explains that Ban Pha Dan is a pilot project to enable Thai Government agencies to gain insight into lithium and zinc-bromine flow batteries for future deployments. “For this project, they needed to see the two things, first how to manage both flow batteries and lithium batteries,” he says.

“They expect that flow batteries should be the best for baseload management and, when demand gets higher, then lithium batteries can meet those peak demands. This configuration prolongs the life expectancy for both types of batteries.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants‘Leapfrogging’ The Grid: Hybrid Lithium-Flow in Action at A Remote Thai Village Microgrid

‘World First’ Grid-Scale Lithium-Vanadium Hybrid Project Will Be in The UK

on April 4, 2019

Pivot Power will collaborate with manufacture and system integrator redT on what is claimed to be the world’s first grid-scale hybrid battery energy storage project to use a combination of lithium-ion and vanadium technologies.

Pivot Power is a relatively new company that has quickly risen to prominence in the UK over the past few months with a plan to deploy 2GW of energy storage and a network of EV chargers.

Pivot will lead a consortium of companies which will develop a £41 million (US$53.89 million) ‘SuperHub’ in Oxford, England, incorporating grid-scale batteries, high speed EV chargers and hundred of ground source heat pumps for local homes.

The project is one of four unveiled by the UK government today (3 April 2019) and will be supported by a £10 million grant from UK Research and Innovation.

The consortium comprises Oxford City Council, Habitat Energy, Kensa Contracting, redT and the University of Oxford.

The entire project has been tagged at £41 million and will establish what the consortium also claims to be the world’s largest commercial hybrid energy storage system at 50MW, incorporating technologies outside of the standard lithium-ion.

RedT, which recently announced a landmark C&I solar-plus-storage programme with Statkraft, will supply 5MWh of flow machines, which will be ‘hybridised’ with a 48MW/50MWh lithium-ion battery system connected at the transmission level.

RedT also confirmed the storage system is to support a local EV charging network consisting of around 100 ultra-rapid and fast chargers.

The hub will meanwhile become one of Pivot Power’s 45 so-called SuperHubs, which combine large-scale battery storage and rapid electric vehicle charging points at convenient destinations for consumers.

Pivot Power unveiled its plans for a multi-billion-pound UK-wide network of battery storage and EV charger installations to much fanfare last year.

Matthew Boulton, COO at Pivot Power, said the project was the start of his company providing the mass charging network needed to “kick-start an electric vehicle revolution” in Oxford, while simultaneously helping the city’s decarbonisation objectives.

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Fractal Energy Storage Consultants‘World First’ Grid-Scale Lithium-Vanadium Hybrid Project Will Be in The UK

LCOE For Li-Ion Batteries Has Fallen To $187/MWh — BNEF

on March 27, 2019

Since the first six months of 2018, the benchmark levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for lithium-ion batteries has plunged 35% to $187/MWh, BNEF says. For projects that have gone into construction in the opening months of this year, the LCOE for solar PV stands at $57/MWh, down 18% from a year earlier. However, recent declines in the LCOE for solar largely occurred in the third quarter of 2018, rather than earlier in the year, as mid-year changes to PV policy in China left the global market awash with surplus modules, BNEF says.

Recent analysis also shows that the benchmark LCOE for offshore wind has tumbled by 24% over the past year, while the onshore wind LCOE has dropped 10%. These “spectacular” declines in cost, BNEF says, suggest that lithium-ion batteries and offshore wind in particular “are now at the center” of the global energy transition.

“There have been staggering improvements in the cost-competitiveness of these low-carbon options, thanks to technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience,” says Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF. “The LCOE per megawatt-hour for onshore wind, solar PV and offshore wind have fallen by 49%, 84% and 56% respectively since 2010. That for lithium-ion battery storage has dropped by 76% since 2012, based on recent project costs and historical battery pack prices.”

BNEF says the declining cost of lithium-ion batteries is particularly exciting because it creates a wealth of “new opportunities for them to balance a renewables-heavy generation mix.” Technologies such as open-cycle gas turbines, long relied upon by grid operators to handle fluctuations in electricity demand, increasingly must compete with batteries that can offer up to four hours of energy storage, it says.

“Solar PV and onshore wind have won the race to be the cheapest sources of new ‘bulk generation’ in most countries, but the encroachment of clean technologies is now going well beyond that, threatening the balancing role that gas-fired plant operators, in particular, have been hoping to play,” says Tifenn Brandily, energy economics analyst at BNEF.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsLCOE For Li-Ion Batteries Has Fallen To $187/MWh — BNEF

After Lithium… More Lithium? Inside 24M’s Semi-Solid Battery Play

on March 26, 2019

24M, a US company developing novel lithium battery technology based on semi-solid materials, argues that the remaining runway for lithium batteries – the time during which the technology will continue its rollout as the mainstream choice for both EVs and stationary storage – is plentiful. In other words, the dominant technology of today will likely still be the dominant technology of tomorrow – only better.

Last week reported that by separating the compositional materials used for the catholytes and anolytes of a lithium cell, the team at 24M had achieved an energy density exceeding 350Wh per kg, with a view to establishing a 100MW production line for pilot projects “by the end of this year”.

While admitting that commercialisation remains an estimated two to three years away, 24M, spun out of an MIT laboratory by founder Yet Ming Chiang to investigate solid state and now semi-solid lithium battery materials, claims its latest ‘breakthrough’, Dual Electrolyte Technology, heralds a new era to come for advanced lithium batteries. Andy Colthorpe spoke to some of the company’s leadership team to find out more.

According to Rick Feldt, 24M president and CEO, Rich Chelbowski, CFO, and to senior director of products Joe Adiletta, the Dual Electrolyte tech is one of the “layers of improvements” that the company’s battery manufacturing platforms could add to both LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries for stationary storage applications and NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) for mobility applications.

Advanced energy storage projects, mainly using lithium batteries, began to take off after a fairly extended period of demonstrations and pilot projects. Will it be a similar run-in towards commercialisation for semi-solid batteries?

Rich Chlebowski, CFO: For the grid storage space, we’re working on this through one of our partners… they have been in discussion with a number of customers to leverage this output [from our forthcoming 100MW production line]. We have a number of customers that have expressed a lot of interest because of the approach and the potential for very low-cost, high-performance lithium batteries with the semi-solid approach. They have a strong interest in procuring and buying, but more on the demonstration level.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsAfter Lithium… More Lithium? Inside 24M’s Semi-Solid Battery Play