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Issue 99

Spring 2016

The kings of invention The pride and power of innovation in lead Testing, testing The struggle for greater precision in cycle life

The Great Divide The battle for next generation separators

Californian dreamin’ Untangling fears from hopes for the future

Renewable resource Energy storage moves into Europe’s homes

Bringing the industry together










More improvements to Bitrode’s new high-powered solution to your pack testing needs: FTF-HP • Drive simulations for standard electric vehicle tests: FUDS, SFUDS, GSFUDS, DST, & ECE-15L

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© 2015 Sovema Power Electronics

• Transition time for current to ramp from 10% to 90% of full scale now decreased from approximately 15ms to less than 4ms!


are operating units of

Power Electronics.



TO THE VICTORS, THE SPOILS The recent BCI meetings highlighted a new wave of inventions — some potentially even being disruptive technologies! — that provide a welcome break to an industry seeking to stay ahead of the game. • Hammond’s K2 — LAB2: a powerful combination 


• Black Diamond: Big battery improvements found in small packages 


• Northstar: The trouble-shooter 


• Advanced Battery Concepts: The challenges of bipolar lead 


• Abertax: Better gel filling for VRLA batteries 


• Daramic: Taking the lead out of lead acid batteries 


• Digatron: Battery testing’s next leap forward: rethinking switch mode technology 


• Gridtential: Advanced batteries open possibility of new gigafactories of silicon-lead 37 • HighWater Innovations: Optimizing spiral-wound VRLA cells to deliver higher power in smaller packages 




Fighting circumstance with leadership



Ahmed: cutting edge lead


Testing time for testers


Californian perspectives 



Johnson Controls appoints Trent Nevill vice president, president Asia Pacific • Burke joins Exide as CIDO • Microporous hires sales director for the Americas • DNV GL appoints Ditlev Engel as new energy CEO • Servato appoints former GE Research head to advisory board • Sanjiv Malhotra to head up DOE Clean Energy Investment Center • 8minutenergy names Haubenstock as general counsel and vice president • Adolfo Rebollo, the new Ingeteam CEO Trojan appoints new SVP Engineering • SunLink appoints Ray as VP software engineering NRG appoints three senior staff • SolarCity appoints Wellinghoff as CPO


New king of JCI in Asia 


Crunching the numbers to calculate the price of lead



• Right on target — Time is money in the battery industry, so high precision testing tools designed to cut development times, and bring about other benefits, are being commercialized by several providers of testing equipment • The end-user’s perspective: Greensmith • Profile: CSZ, going to the extremes • Challenges ahead for testing firms as renewables enter electric mix • How to make an electric car battery as good as new



Taking thermal stability to the next level for lithium battery separators Not all separators are created equal, certainly not when it comes to those best equipped to preserve lithium ion battery safety. Growing demand for large format cells that pack in more energy are giving rise to separators engineered to achieve the highest levels of thermal stability reports Sara Verbruggen



California’s commitment to energy storage is catching on — as much as by relentless regulatory demands as the economic logic that seems to be showing its value.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 1



End of net-metering spells opportunity for energy storage



Toys for the big boys European grid storage market85



Securitizing energy storage — ABS to lead high finance charge into the sector



Graphene sales to top 3,800 t/y by 2026 with energy storage to account for 40% of the market Raising capital




Advanced intermediate temperature sodium–nickel chloride batteries with ultra-high energy density



The Battery Show moves to Europe for spring 2017

EVENT REVIEW  Graphene, the joys of The last word

93 127


NAATBatt 2016 Annual Meeting & Conference



Our comprehensive listing of the must-attend conferences of 2016





Superior Battery — Swimming against the stream



Standing room only, please • ‘Lead ain’t good enough’• Dark powers over BCI meetings dispelled • ELBC: where to next? • Something for the bookcase: Gustave Trouvé • The shape of things to come

Publisher Karen Hampton,, +44 7792 852 337 Editor: Michael Halls,, +44 1 243 782 275 Advertising executive: Jade Beevor +44 1243 792 467 Supplements editor: Wyn Jenkins,, +44 1792 293 222

Business development manager June Moultrie +44 7775 710 290 Reception Tel: +44 1 243 782 275 Fax: +44 1787 329 730 Subscriptions, admin manager: Claire Ronnie, +44 1 243 782 275 Research editor William Aslan

Staff reporters: Anna Cole-Bailey, Philip Moorcroft Production/design: Antony Parselle, +44 1727 899 360 International advertising representation: The contents of this publication are protected by copyright. No unauthorised translation or reproduction is permitted. ISSN 1462-6322 (c) 2016 Mustard Seed Publishing, UK company no: 5976361. Printed in the UK via ThisismethodUK

Disclaimer: Although we believe in the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this magazine, Mustard Seed Publishing makes no warranties or representation about this. Nor should anything contained within it should be construed as constituting an offer to buy or sell securities, or constitute advice in relation to the buying or selling of investments.

2 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

EDITORIAL Mike Halls •

Leadership by haphazard timing In my hands is a scrap of paper that is now over a 100 years old. It’s my grandfather’s character reference after he finished his apprenticeship as a wheelwright. “Wilfred Cecil Halls is a hard-working young man of sound character and good morals. He is industrious, sober and trustworthy,” it reads. It sounded like a promising start for a young working class man. But it wasn’t to be. The trouble for Wilfred Halls was that he was in the right industry but at the wrong time. Making wheels for wagons and carts was a good vocation at the start of the last century. Oddly enough Wilfrid was a supplier to the most energyintensive industry of Victorian Britain — horse transport across the country required a grazing area twice the size of modern day London. But in just a few years it was over. The automobile arrived, as did the truck, the motorbike and the omnibus. And, by the time the First World War broke out, horsepower was yesterday’s news. Wilfred volunteered in September 1914 — just weeks after war broke out. He went out to France the following month. It was an experience that would haunt him, and his children, for the rest of their lives. Three years in the trenches and shell-shocked after being blown up in the 1917 push with the Canadians at Deville Wood, he returned to England scarred for life and a broken man. In civilian life, now with no skills of any commercial use and two small children to support, he became a ticket collector at Barking, an east London train station. Some 40 years later he retired — still a ticket collector. He died in 1967 and lies in a lonely church plot in south Devon. He was a kind man and oddly enough a clever man. But one who never found his way in life. An odd start to an editorial you may think. But there are now furious arguments going on at the heart of the battery industry about our future. And, like the fate of Wilfred Halls, it’s about being able to do the right thing at the right time without circumstances overruling choice. There are high stakes at place. A failure in timing could become a failure of an entire business sector.

4 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

The trouble is this: the whole energy business is in a mess. From a crisis-management point of view governments across the world lurch from one energy policy initiative to another. Their timing and plans are chaotic, sometimes contradictory, and have a vision in tune with the ballot box than the business plan. In the Americas political reversal seems inevitable. In the US the energy storage legislation introduced by president Obama as part of his Climate Change Program would be immediately scrapped — probably as a knee-jerk reaction to having a balanced budget — if the Republicans won the election this November. The $8 billion loan guarantee programme to advance solar and solar+storage projects would slide to a halt before being slashed. There is little indication that a Democrat win via Hilary Clinton would support the deal much better. Even the notion of climate change is challenged by politicians as well as large numbers of the general public. Energy storage is anathema to a culture that sees cheap energy — the US is now the largest oil producing nation in the world, pumping out almost 12 millions barrels a day — as a birth right. Meanwhile, California will once again ignore Washington completely and try to legislate renewable energy into existence — even if the state’s targets chosen sometimes appear recklessly unachievable. And to compound this messiness, between a third and two-thirds of all North American utilities say they have little to no knowledge of how energy storage could fit into a larger picture of how or why renewables need to be integrated into the future. Government policy is short-termist — largely driven by market-led decision making — a strange contrast where some European states, think France in particular, which is making concrete (if fanciful) plans out to 50 years. Around the world the confusion over timing is surreal. In Europe the UK, French and German governments continue to play merry hell with policy. In the UK the same government that promised to boost renewable energy as a resource — and has made all the right sounds about energy storage — has effectively scrapped the feed-in tariff.

EDITORIAL Mike Halls • Once the incentive to adopt solar panels at the residential level is gone, so too are the hopes of a boom in energy storage. (Oddly enough, probably of the lead acid kind, as well.) Effectively this will kill off two-thirds of the 32,000 strong workforce. (It also equates to 818,000 fewer renewable energy installations over the coming five years.) Meanwhile, the UK continues to push for a 3,200MW nuclear plant to be built at Hinckley Point in the south of England. At a cost of £18 billion ($26 billion) work already looks as if it will be delayed beyond its 2018 start. In France, the 80% state-owned EdF, wends its merry way ignoring the commercial logic of renewing its aging nuclear plants, committing itself to build the UK’s Hinckley Plant (likely at a loss) and guaranteeing that since 2011 political support for renewables has faded. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association blames the French government for a lack of support, but also criticizes it for having “hastily frozen and reduced support mechanisms.” for further photovoltaic deployment. And in Germany enthusiasm for solar is waning as the price of electricity rises head and shoulders over the rest of Europe. The government’s sudden dropping of nuclear power and lurch into renewables has been rushed and unrealistically costed. Siemens, the engineering firm, estimated in 2011 that the direct lifetime cost of the government’s energy policy called Energiewende will be $4.5 trillion by 2050. That doesn’t include the economic damage from high energy prices. Their forecast — just one of many of various colours — could well be right. In the haphazard world of solar+storage at the moment there are confusions over chemistry, puzzles about mapping out a financial direction — since commerciality and battery storage seem mostly heading in opposite directions — and the odd situation where the established players are competing face-to-face with start ups. If the commercial logic of almost every project is effectively subsidized at some level, so too is the choice of chemistry. At one level the headline news shows an unblinking acceptance of lithium ion as the new standard. The 1980s marketing phrase — “nobody every got fired for choosing IBM” — has resurfaced in another

form. Lithium ion batteries have rapidly become the standard for grid storage for reasons primarily due to effectiveness rather than cost-efficiency. In a world of lemmings are we starting to accept the idea that “nobody ever got fired for choosing lithium iron phosphate”? Partly this has become self-fulfilling, there is more proven operational data across multiple projects with lithium ion storage than any other technology. So will the same tactic behind the highly successful IBM slogan — inducing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to make people consider as the safe option — be repeated in the creation of the next misplaced industry standard? There is a lot at stake. John Wood, the head of Ecoult which makes the UltraBattery and represents perhaps the best lead battery alternative to lithium, recently said this: “The market for lead-acid technology supporting solar is something like $2.5 billion globally. It’s a real market and it’s growing. But there is almost zero attention paid to that market.” My grandfather struggled his entire life from a misplaced expertise and an ignorance that was thrust upon him. How was he to know that he had chosen the wrong career direction and that fate would intervene so dreadfully in his own family’s life? But surely we — knowing the vast potential service we can provide our communities and the companies that we work for— can do better? To seize the day before the day seizes us.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 5






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DNV GL appoints Ditlev Engel as new energy CEO DNV GL, the international certification and testing firm, has appointed Ditlev Engel as the new chief executive for its energy business area. He started on April 4. Engel will succeed acting CEO Elisabeth Harstad and report to the group president and CEO Remi Eriksen. The energy business area, provides testing, certification and technical advisory services to the energy value chain including renewables, power grids, storage as well as energy use. Engel will be based at the DNV GL Energy headquarters in Arnhem in the Netherlands.

Servato appoints former GE Research head to advisory board Servato Corporation a provider of what it describes as active battery management solutions to  telecom, power, transportation, and solar companies, has added James Lyons to its advisory board. Lyons was formerly chief engineer for electrical technologies at GE Research, working as technology leader for a 250-member global team. He was a leading advocate for renewables within GE and corporate champion behind the formation of GE Wind Energy in 2002, which quickly grew to $8 billion in annual revenues. Lyons was also the technology leader during the creation of GE’s Digital Energy business unit. Since 2008, he has worked as chief technologist for the venture investment team at Capricorn Investment Group, a clean-tech com-

8 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

He also becomes a member of the executive committee for the DNV GL Group. Ditlev Engel has extensive executive experience from positions based in The Netherlands, UK, Hong Kong, Denmark and Norway. From 2005 to 2013 he was group president and CEO of the wind power manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems. Before that, from 1985 to 2005 he held several executive positions at coatings manufacturer Hempel, including group EVP for marketing and R&D, and group president and CEO in 2000 to 2005. Engel joins DNV GL from a number of senior non-executive board and advisory roles, which he says he will terminate to concentrate on his new position with DNV GL.  Engel said: “I look forward to converting DNV GL’s new strategy 20162020 into action and working together with my 2,500 new colleagues.

New COO/general manager and sales director for Bitrode

Bitrode, one of the best known battery testing equipment manufacturers in the US, has announced that Paolo Raponi became the new general manager and chief operating officer at the start of March. He succeeds David Rice in the position. Meanwhile, a replacement for John Grimm, Bitrode’s sales director who left at the start of the year has been found and Craig Brunk becomes the new head of sales. Raponi’s professional background includes responsibilities as an executive and as a consultant for American and European corporations in multiple industries. He has been living in the US since 2002. Brunk is an electrical engineer, with a strong technical background and with extensive experience in international sales.

SolarWindow appoints Sargent as VP, product development and engineering

Lyons: renewables champion

pany. Lyons has sat on the boards of Powerex, the Electric Drive Trade Association and the US Offshore Wind Collaborative. He continues to sit on the boards of Servato, Encell, Sunpreme, Kinestral, Helion, Norwegian Crystals, Navitas Semiconductor and Rayvio. He is a reviewer for the US Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

SolarWindow Technologies, a developer of transparent electricitygenerating coatings for glass and flexible plastics, appointed Patrick Sargent as its vice president of product development and engineering in January. “Sargent will use his knowledge of the glass and photovoltaic industries to guide the scaleup and pre-industrial processing of SolarWindow technologies necessary for commercialization,” said the firm.

Sargent previously worked at Asahi Glass Company, a $10 billion international glass producer, as photovoltaics cover technology leader for its North American Solar Business Unit. He has also worked for Lucent Technologies and Fujitsu Network Communications. SolarWindow recently appointed former Duke Energy veteran and power grid expert, Curtis Watkins, as vice president of energy markets and utilities.


Johnson Controls appoints Trent Nevill vice president, president Asia Pacific Johnson Controls appointed Trent Nevill in March as president for its Asia Pacific operations and a vice president in the larger organization. “Nevill becomes responsible for driving enterprise leadership, strategy, fastpaced growth and functional management for all of Johnson Controls’ businesses across the region,” says the firm. The position is a particularly interesting one given

the close liaison that the job entails at a governmental level in China where JCI has extensive operations. He will be based in the company’s new corporate headquarters in Shanghai. Nevill joined Johnson Controls in 1995 as an account executive with the company’s Building Efficiency branch office in San Antonio, Texas. Over the past 20 years, he has steadily advanced through numerous sales, operations

and general management positions. Most recently, he was vice president and general manager, Systems and Services North America, since 2014. Separately, Johnson Controls was recognized in March for the 10th consecutive year as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute, an organization that aims to define and advance the standards of ethical business practices.

Nevill: rising through the ranks

Burke joins Exide Technologies as CIDO Sean Burke joined Exide Technologies as the battery manufacturer’s chief information and digital officer at the start of March Burke will lead the Exide Technologies’ global IT team, driving digitization of functional processes,

Burke: IT veteran

customer integration and product offerings. He is responsible for global infrastructure services including data centres, wide area networks, and the end user workplace environment and IT security. He reports to Exide president and CEO Vic Koelsch. Burke has more than 20 years of experience in developing long-term business and IT strategies on a global basis. He previously worked for the Michelin Group, from 2013 to 2016 as chief technology officer. Before that he was CTO for LaFarge, a $12 billion French industrial company

specializing in cement, construction aggregates and concrete. Between 1999 to 2008, he was chief information officer for the international pharmaceutical company Galderma. Exide said: “In overseeing the company’s enterprise applications, Burke will help to drive growth at Exide by implementing an effective digital experience across all business and customer/ consumer touch points in each of Exide’s business segments. Burke will work closely with the company’s marketing teams around the world to develop disruptive,

Microporous hires Gillert as new sales director for the Americas Microporous, the developer and manufacturer of separators for lead acid batteries, has hired Arnie Gillert as director of sales for the Americas. Gillert has over 16 years of experience, both as a direct seller and in sales management. Gillert said: “My goals are to grow the business in North and South America, attract new customers, gain

share with current customers and execute plans to expand into other markets. Company president JeanLuc Koch says Gillert’s hiring is in line with the management team the company has built since re-establishing its status as an independent company two years ago. Gillert will be based at the company’s headquarters in Piney Flats in the US state of Tennessee.

market-leading digital offers to accompany and add value to Exide’s stored energy solutions.” Burke is based at Exide Technologies’ European headquarters in Gennevilliers, France.

SolarCity appoints Wellinghoff as CPO SolarCity named former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff as its chief policy officer. Wellinghoff was the longest-serving chair in FERC’s history, leading efforts to integrate solar and wind resources into wholesale electric markets and ensure that resources like demand response and DG were given an opportunity to participate. Wellinghoff also worked as general counsel at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, as well as working for two terms as the state of Nevada’s first advocate for customers of public utilities. Wellinghoff most recently was a partner at the law firm Stoel Rives.

Gillert: growth responsibility

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 9


Luce kicks off work at CalCharge, forms partnership with NAATBatt For the record, CalCharge, the public-private partnership which aims to accelerate innovation in energy storage technologies, has appointed Alex Luce as program manager. He started on December 1. He very rapidly formed a partnership between CalCharge and NAATBatt, North America’s advanced battery trade association. Luce previously worked at the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy — better known as ARPA-E — in Washington DC. He has also worked at early-stage investment firm Prelude Ventures, and at SkyDeck, the UC Berkeley startup accelerator. (Luce earned his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.) CalCharge’s new partner, NAATBatt, supports the commercial interests of its members by helping them identify technological and market developments in a variety of advanced battery applications. The two organizations plan to collaborate on resources and networking opportunities to provide their members broader insights across the sector. “We’re excited about offering CalCharge as a resource to our members and opening up NAATBatt as a resource to their members,” said Jim Greenberger, NAATBatt’s executive director. In particular, Greenberger highlights CalCharge’s unique agreement that provides streamlined access to three national laboratories. “Gaining access to the national labs could be a huge benefit to our members, helping to accelerate the development of ideas, technologies, and com-

Luce: new program manager hit the ground running

Greenberger: partnership benefits NAATBatt members

mercialization of advanced battery technology by the private sector,” said Greenberger. While CalCharge draws members from around the world, it provides a unique entry point to the energystorage innovation coming out of California. NAATBatt, which focuses on the commercialization of advanced battery technology in multiple applications worldwide, aims to give its members better access to the battery technology coming out of California. NAATBatt and CalCharge are hopeful about opportunities to collaborate on future endeavours, ranging from technical and business issues to safety concerns. “One of CalCharge’s goals is to develop and im-

plement industry standards and training for the safe and effective installation of energy storage devices, and that requires support across the industry,” says Bernie Kotlier, CalCharge board member and executive director of sustainable energy solutions for the IBEW/NECA Labor Management Cooperation Committee, which recognized and spearheaded the NAATBatt-CalCharge

partnership. “This partnership is the perfect way to connect the dots and get closer to standards that ensure safety across the energy storage sector.” CalCharge was formed in 2014 and has 28 members. These range from start-ups to multinational corporations, research institutions, national labs, and utilities. In addition to providing streamlined access to three national labs, CalCharge co-founded Battery University with San Jose State University, the world’s first master’s program in energy storage technology. Luce will report to CalCharge president Danny Kennedy who is also managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF). Kennedy came to CalCEF from Sungevity, which he co-founded.

“Gaining access to the national labs could be a huge benefit to NAATBatt members, helping to accelerate the development of ideas, technologies, and commercialization of advanced battery technology by the private sector”

Ken Doyle named SEPA chief operating officer Ken Doyle, an executive with more than four decades of association experi-

10 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

ence, became executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). As COO, Doyle joins the non-profit’s executive leadership team and provides oversight in programmes and meetings, finance, operations, marketing, membership, human resources, and management information systems. Doyle previously spent 34 years as the executive

vice president and CEO of the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), the trade association representing the interests of America’s leading fuel marketers. Most recently, he was president of Doyle Association Consulting, an association consulting firm. Doyle is chair of the National Association Executive Forum and a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives.

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Rebollo takes over as Ingeteam CEO Adolfo Rebollo has taken over as Ingeteam’s new CEO, replacing Javier Ojeda, who has resigned from the company. Rebollo was previously managing director of Ingeteam Power Technology, a division that brings Ingeteam’s business related to engineering, electronic systems and equipment for power conversion and control. Over the two decades in which he has been work-

ing in the group, Rebollo has held a number of responsibilities including being head of the project to establish Ingeteam in Milwaukee, in the US from 2010-2015. During this period, he acted as the general manager of Indar, dedicated to the manufacture and marketing of wind generators for the American market. Before that he was technical director of Indar

in Beasaín, Spain (20052010) and, during his initial years at Ingeteam, he worked in the electrical projects and industrial automation division (1996-2000), subsequently heading the creation of the Marine Systems Division (2000-2004). Indar Electric is the Ingeteam Group company specializing in the design and manufacture of rotating electrical machines.

NRG appoints three senior staff NRG Energy and NRG Yield made three executive appointments effective in January — Gaetan Frotte, senior vice president, finance and strategy of NRG Yield, became senior vice president and treasurer of NRG; Chad Plotkin, vice president, investor relations, became senior vice president, finance and strategy for NRG Yield; and Kevin Cole going to NRG as senior vice president for investor relations. Frotte, Plotkin and Cole report directly to Kirk Andrews, NRG and NRG Yield chief financial officer. Before he was head of finance and strategy for NRG Yield, Frotte was assistant treasurer of NRG. Before heading up investor relations at NRG, Plotkin led the finance organization for NRG Home Solar and previously worked in the strategy, mergers and acquisitions organization for NRG. Cole has followed and researched NRG for nearly 10 years. Most recently he was senior energy equity and credit analyst and energy sector team captain with Achievement Asset Management.

From 2007-2014, Cole was vice president on the Credit Suisse US power and utility equity research team with-coverage across the regulated utility, integrated power, and independent power producer sectors. Before that, he was an associate with Jeffery Slocum & Associates conducting fixed income research and investment consulting services.

12 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

Frotte: new SVP finance

8minutenergy names Haubenstock as general counsel and vice president 8minutenergy Renewables, the US solar developer appointed Arthur Haubenstock as general counsel and vice president, government and regulatory, in December. Haubenstock is an experienced energy attorney whose career includes extensive private and public sector work. This has involved negotiating and obtaining regulatory approval of more than 2GW of renewable energy power purchase agreements; acquisition, permitting and financing of very large-scale,

community-based and other smaller-scale renewable power projects; and assuring transmission for renewable power projects. Haubenstock has also contributed to the development of major renewable energy regulatory and policy frameworks, including California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard and its procurement mechanisms; wholesale energy and capacity markets; and transmission and land use planning initiatives. Haubenstock previously was vice president, regu-

latory affairs for BrightSource Energy. His professional background also includes working at Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the US Environmental Protection Agency and several national law firms. Additionally, Haubenstock is the chair of the Utility-Scale Power Division of the Solar Energy Industries Association, is a board member of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) and previously president of the Large-scale Solar Association.


Trojan appoints new SVP Engineering Trojan Battery, the manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, has appointed Michael Everett as senior vice president of engineering. Based at Trojan’s corporate headquarters in Santa Fe Springs in California, Everett oversees the company’s product development, research and development, process engineering, technical support and various other analytical responsibilities for the company’s worldwide engineering strategies.

With more than 20 years of experience in a variety of technology industries, Everett has held senior management positions with Maxwell Technologies, 3D Systems and Industrial Tools. In his most recent position as chief technical officer at Maxwell Technologies, the ultra-capacitor firm, Everett was responsible for the execution of the overall corporate research and technology strategy linked to the product roadmap. During his more than 13

years at the company, Everett led a wide range of technology teams focusing on innovation, and resulting in over 100 patents/patent filings generated in the energy storage technology field. “His diverse expertise across a wide range of industries makes him uniquely qualified to lead Trojan’s strategic product engineering roadmaps. This experience will play a key role in our business growth and market share expansion strategies.” said Jeff Elder president and

chief executive officer for Trojan Battery.

Michael Everett, senior vice president of engineering

Sanjiv Malhotra to be first director of DOE Clean Energy Investment Center The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced in January that Sanjiv Malhotra will be the first director of the Clean Energy Investment Center (CEIC), located within the Office of Technology Transitions. The CEIC was established in 2015 as part of the Obama Administration’s Clean Energy Investment Initiative to advance private investment in clean energy technologies that address the gap in US clean tech investment. CEIC will also increase the availability of DOE’s resources to private sector investors and potential partners in the public. The CEIC will become a single point of contact for investors to access technical

experts, acquire the latest reports on clean energy technology, and identify promising projects. Malhotra was most recently a consultant with the DoE’s Fuel Cells Technologies Office. From 2005-2014, he was the founder and CEO of Oorja Protonics, which was involved in the design, development, and manufacturing of methanol fuel cells. Here he attracted more than $32 million in investments from private sector equity firms, and he brought the company to profitability. He has also been an adviser at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, worked as part of the executive management team at DCH Technology and H Power Corp,

and been as a researcher at DOE’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. Malhotra will also be instrumental in supporting Mission Innovation, an initiative that was announced at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation. This will address global climate change, provide af-

fordable clean energy to consumers, including in the developing world, and create additional commercial opportunities in clean energy. “Malhotra’s unique experience as an accomplished scientist, entrepreneur, and businessman will be invaluable as the first director of the Clean Energy Investment Center,” said Ernest Moniz, the US energy secretary.

SunLink appoints Ray as VP software engineering Servato Corporation a provider of what it describes as active battery management solutions to  telecom, power, transportation, and solar companies, has added of James Lyons to its advisory board. Lyons was formerly chief engineer for electrical technologies at GE Research,

working as technology leader for a 250-member global team. He was a leading advocate for renewables within GE and corporate champion behind the formation of GE Wind Energy in 2002, which quickly grew to $8 billion in annual revenues. Lyons was also the technology leader

during the creation of GE’s Digital Energy business unit. Since 2008, he has worked as chief technologist for the venture investment team at Capricorn Investment Group, a clean-tech company. Lyons has sat on the boards of Powerex, the Electric Drive Trade Asso-

ciation and the US Offshore Wind Collaborative. He continues to sit on the boards of Servato, Encell, Sunpreme, Kinestral, Helion, Norwegian Crystals, Navitas Semiconductor and Rayvio. He is a reviewer for the US Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 13

PROFILE: FARID AHMED, WOOD MACKENZIE Forecasting supply and demand for lead is a complicated process given the number of variables at stake. But it’s also vital for battery manufacturers keen to buy lead at the best possible terms for price, quality and security.

Crunching the numbers to calculate the price of lead Lead. It underpins the entire battery business. And this in turn is the enormous cog in ensuring that keeps swathes of the world’s industries turning. Think transportation, telecoms, the internet, everyone is touched in some shape or form by lead. For the automotive business the 80 million cars sold each year — with each one needing a SLI battery weighing an average of 9kg — creates a market demand for 720,000 tonnes for this one sector alone. Less conspicuous is the huge requirement for uninterruptible power where data centres of giant internet companies and the world’s financial system need to have back up power (and then back up of that back up) to keep the world turning. And not to forget the huge world of other types of data centre, telecoms and the like that cannot afford to ever fall down, At this point enter the lead analyst. A key figure in understanding both the price and availability of the metal. Farid Ahmed, lead metal analyst at Wood Mackenzie, has worked in and around the metals industry since graduating with a degree in Metallurgy in the mid-1980s and has specialized in lead since 1992. “Understanding the dynamics of lead is fundamental to being able to price everything from a supply contract to deliver batteries to automotive firms at a future point or to work out what risks a supplier will face over a longer contract,” says Ahmed. “A shift in a few dollars per tonne can make a huge difference to the worth of a contract.” Moreover, as any veteran of the battery business can tell you, the price of

Farid Ahmed, lead metal analyst at Wood Mackenzie

lead has varied hugely over the past few years — not just in differences of a few dollars but occasional huge rocketings in price. Ten years ago a tonne of lead would have cost you around $915. But the following year it would have cost you $3,720. And although this volatility is more historical than current given the price has stabilized, the price of lead is around $1,770 a tonne, that is substantially cheaper — $220 — than last May. But it’s more than just price discovery, says Ahmed. For anyone entering into a longer-term supply of lead — and around 85% of all lead sold goes

Understanding the dynamics of lead is fundamental to being able to price everything from a supply contract to deliver batteries to automotive firms at a future point or to work out what risks a supplier will face over a longer contract,” 14 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

into batteries — the security of supply is important. “There’s a huge variety of factors that need to be understood,” he says. “These can vary from the political, say the government decides to shut down local smelters or other environmental factors come into play, to commercial ones. “What happens if another battery or car manufacturer opens up nearby? Or far off, what happens if a boom in manufacturing in China causes a huge demand for lead? Or the opposite, there’s a glut of lead in the market?” These questions open up the door to the job of the lead market analyst who has to examine an extraordinary number of factors in trying to understand the dynamics of an entire market. In Wood Mackenzie — which studies a large variety of markets and metals — the analysis of the lead market is dealt with by two people. On the supply side is Thomas Rutland who looks at figures such as mining output and scrap recycling rates. Lead is a subordinate co-product of mining for zinc and when the economics of zinc mining don’t stack up — zinc is used extensively in galvanizing sheet steel, so the present world crisis in steel is not a positive — then the price of lead may also dive. Farid Ahmed looks at the demand side of the equation. Ahmed, who worked in R&D of platinum group metals for Johnson Matthey in the late 1980s, moved into lead in the early 1990s working initially as a production metallurgist at Britannia Metals before moving into the commercial sector of that company. From the mid-2000s he worked as a consultant to the lead industry, spanning the whole vertical sector from raw materials, production and processing to specialist sales, product development and market analysis. He joined Wood Mackenzie a year ago. “There’s a huge overlap between Tom and I — the supply and demand side — on occasion,” says Ahmed.


Lead price and production volumes 1995-2015 Average Pb price ($ t)

Annual production (kt)


12,000 kt

9,000 kt $2,000

6,000 kt

$1,000 3,000 kt


1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

“But the essence of what we’re trying to do is build a complete picture of the factors working on the price and availability of lead for at least the next two decades.” For Ahmed that requires the import of an extensive variety of data. “It can range from the geopolitical level such as the impact of a five year plan in China or the impact of further environmental legislation,” he says. “I organize our forecasts by each battery sector, so we can make links about consumption between industrial stationery power and larger forecasts by others on industrial output. “I’ll also look at the more generalized trends that are going on. One example of this might be the impact of solar power and other forms of renewable energy on electricity supply and energy storage at the residential and utility level.” The actual business of trading lead is part of the analyst’s beat in that quoted lead prices on the London Metal Exchange, where it is traded, fluctuate according to market sentiment. “The lead market is lucky in that it’s regarded as far less important than say the copper, steel or aluminium ones,” says Ahmed. “So there are fewer wide leaps of price, There’s a degree of volatility to be sure but large price swings aren’t the order of the day.” Over the past few years, a greater element of speculative trading has occurred which obviously complicates forming a larger picture of demand and therefore price. “The quantity of lead traded on the LME outnumbers the actual physical deliveries of the metal by about 25 to one,” says Ahmed, “and in any event, almost all trades are dealt directly between suppliers and offtakers, so the LME just acts as a way of hedging risk.” The LME also has a futures market ensuring that lead buyers/suppliers can agree a price in a few years’ time. Lead futures go out as far as 63 months. Hedging risk has become an increasingly part of the market mechanism. Here contracts to buy and sell at a certain price are traded between dealers. Because the LME only requires payment when trades fall due, the ability to sell or buy future lead means that the lead has to be physically located somewhere when it needs to be paid for, or otherwise the hedge needs to be negated with an equal and opposite trade to give a net zero sum trade The need for physical lead trades

on the LME result in the requirement for warehousing. Warehousing costs money — the lead has to be stored in a bonded facility, has to be insured and there is also the lost interest if the money had been placed on deposit. This means that the future price of lead should normally be higher than the cash price. This is called a contango. The origin of the word is unknown and has no connection with dancing! Contango is also occasionally called forwardation. The opposite of contango is back-

0 kt

wardation. This is when the future price of lead is lower than the spot price. It’s typically a function of shortterm availability. “Reasons for this could be various,” says Ahmed. “Normally this would mean that the market is expecting the price of lead to drop after a period of short-term tightness; this could be the result of a sudden glut of supply or drop in demand. “Clearly knowing the way the future market is moving is essential to firms expecting to buy lead in bulk.”

“The lead market is lucky in that it’s regarded as far less important than say the copper, steel or aluminium ones, so there are fewer wide leaps of price, There’s a degree of volatility to be sure but large price swings aren’t the order of the day.” DRILLING DOWN INTO THE FINE PRINT Drilling down to the full extent of demand requires not just the ability to number crunch on a vast scale but try to get the full picture at the same time. Take for example, the nascent introduction of 4G telecoms networks across, say, India. This would require calculations on the number of base masts that would need to be introduced, the time scale for their deployment and their required back up power. “I’ll even look at changes to railway

networks,” says Ahmed, “which can have large implications on motive power batteries, UPS for signalling and the like.” And, to add a further element of complexity the weather too forms part of the larger picture given that cold snaps and heat waves shorten battery lives in ways that can more or less be predicted, affecting both demand and the availability of scrap (which forms half of total raw materials supply to the lead industry).

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 15

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2016 State of the Electric Utility Survey: an industry braced for change — but unsure how or where the advantage will be Perhaps one of the most interesting must-reads seen this year has been the 2016 State of the Electric Utility Survey released in February by Utility Dive. The survey of US utilities paints a picture of an entire industry braced for change, looking for a variety of ways to deal with it — and overall mostly puzzled by it all. “If respondents are largely in agreement that the utility business model is in flux, what exactly it will look like in the future is the subject of much more debate,” says a commentary on the survey. Most fascinating of all the most pressing challenges facing US utilities was not the imminent changes to the way they did business — though 97% of the survey agree that their regulatory model and internal resistance to change and technological integration were needed for their business model — so much as legacy issues. The utilities talked about the aging of their workforces, the existing utility regulatory model, and aging of their infrastructure. This was reflected in the uncertainties that utilities saw in capturing revenues from distributed energy resources. “Respondents see revenue opportunities emerging around DERs but are unsure about how to build a business model to capture them. The two most popular models for deploying DERs were partnering with third-party providers and rate-based investments through a regulated utility — a strategy whose legality remains in question in most states,” said the report. It would be unfair to castigate the respondents of the report for intellectual laziness yet when one in 11 utilities is not even contemplating tapping the new opportunities that distrib-

uted energy will bring then that implies a much larger universe of utilities that can only see minor gains to their revenue streams. Utility Dive conducted an online survey of 515 US electric utility executives at the end of 2015 and the be-

ginning of 2016. Although not every respondent answered every question, there were at least 300 respondents to each question in the survey. The survey was designed as a news-oriented questionnaire to illustrate the

perspectives of utility executives toward the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and should not be considered a scientific survey. The survey was sponsored by energy intelligence software firm Tendril.

“If respondents are largely in agreement that the utility business model is in flux, what exactly it will look like in the future is the subject of much more debate”

Maxwell announces 3V product and first MW scale, ultracapacitor-based wind farm energy storage system in the world Maxwell Technologies, the developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitors announced the newest addition to its K2 family in February with a 3V, 3,000-farad ultracapacitor cell. This it says is now available in sample quantities. It also announced a world first in ultracap wind-energy storage. The new ultracap has 31% higher power than Maxwell’s 2.7V, 3,000-farad cell in the industry-standard 60mm cylindrical form factor. “Customers can either increase available power and energy in the same volume or cost-optimize their system designs with fewer cells or modules while maintaining the same power and energy,” says the firm. “The new 3V cell design also incorporates Maxwell’s DuraBlue Advanced Shock and Vibration Technology to provide three times the vibrational resistance and four times the shock immunity of previous ultracapacitor-based competitive offerings. This, Maxwell says, will maximize life in demanding transportation environments such as on-

board rail, hybrid bus and other applications. Existing K2 2.7 and 2.85volt customers can also upgrade systems using the industry-standard cylindrical cell format while maintaining the same life performance criteria as our 2.7-volt cells, says the firm. Vishal Sapru, a researcher and manager at, Frost & Sullivan said: “Either used alone or in hybrid configurations with batteries, this new 3V large cell will help to reduce the overall cost and weight of the system and support in attaining operational efficiencies. This product is going to be a game changer for the ultracapacitor industry.”

Wind farms

Separately, the firm announced its ultracapacitors have been selected by Beijing Huadian Tianren Electric Power Control Technology, a subsidiary of China Guodian Corporation, as the core component of a wind farm energy storage demonstration project. China Guodian Corporation’s system is the first megawatt scale, ultracapac-

itor-based wind farm energy storage system in the world. “The advantages of Maxwell’s ultracapacitors perfectly suit them for stabilizing short-term power output fluctuation in wind farms and cabling in largescale deployments, ensuring reliable access to windgenerated power on the grid,” says the firm. “The demonstration project has deployed 1,152 Maxwell 56V/130F ultracapacitor modules, which is the largest ultracapacitor system in wind farms across China. “Ultracapacitors’ long cycle life and fast response capabilities can smooth power output fluctuation, allowing large-scale wind farms to connect to the grid as a more reliable power generation source,” said Yu Kang, the demonstration project leader at Beijing Huadian Tianren Electric Power Control Technology. “We are expecting ultracapacitors, alone or in combination with other energy storage technologies, to play a more important role in the advancement of renewable energy utilization.”

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 17

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS The recent BCI meetings highlighted a new wave of inventions — some potentially even being disruptive technologies — that provide a welcome break to an industry seeking to stay ahead of the game.

To the victor, the spoils

If it’s location, location, location that determines the price of a property, it’s probably, invention, invention, invention that will determine the value of the future lead battery business. The reason for this is simple — a wall of research money is being thrown at its nearest business rival, the lithium battery. One industry commentator reckons that the amount of R&D money that went into lithium development in 2015 was probably the equivalent of the entire research spend on lead from 2000 to 2015. So, unsurprisingly under the weight of that money the price of lithium batteries is steadily falling. This isn’t to deplore the arrival of yet better technology and better ways of storing energy. But there is a need for the lead battery industry to assert itself. In this issue, we present a shortened version of the many presentations at the Battery Council International’s

meetings in Texas at the start of May as 18 different firms competed to win the council’s award for innovation. This, clearly is only a snapshot of what other clever and inventive firms have been doing recently and which we have covered in previous issues. Notable mentions should go to Wirtz Manufacturing which in the past two years has been awarded a patent for better grid punching as well as a robotic stacker using vacuum cup technology, Glatfelter for its highly innovative research on separators, MAC working with EnerSys on removing lead from the workplace — an excellent example of how interfirm collaboration is often one of the best ways to advance product development — and not forgetting Zesar working with LTE in designing a vertical formation system that is at the cutting edge, or MAC’s new online COS product. And in this list of the great and the

good it’s also worth remembering East Penn’s Ecoult which continues to advance the revolutionary design of the UltraBattery as well as the ALABC for finding ways to deploy it to best effect and not forgetting it’s own pioneering work in research. Special mention should also good to some of the unsung advances being made by private firms such as RSR where in Tim Ellis’ lab in Dallas continues to develop everything from better uses of lead slag to experimenting with new chemistries in the electrolyte. In the personal view of the Batteries International team there are at least three developments highlighted here that could be called disruptive technologies — such a technology being defined as an innovation that displaces the way an established market operates. Rather than give our views, we’ll leave them to you, the readers, to decide what you think.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 19

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: HAMMOND GROUP Hammond Group, best known in the battery business for its range of expanders, is advancing the cause of better lead batteries in two ways — K2 a revolutionary expander formulation and providing an open-collaboration research laboratory.

Hammond’s K2 — LAB : a powerful combination 2

Hammond Group can point to two areas of its business where it can point to being a leader in introducing innovation. The first is the continuing expansion of its K2 Expanders, the second is its newly completed Lead Acid Battery Laboratory — known as LAB2. K2 expanders provide lead acid batteries with dramatically improved dynamic charge acceptance while the LAB2 is dedicated to industry technical development. Its goal is to enable lead acid batteries to achieve 80% of lithium-ion’s technical performance. But at just 20% of its cost. Dynamic charge acceptance — the way batteries can accept and rapidly store large influxes of energy — is the next big thing for the lead acid business. It opens up two worlds — that of microhybrids in the automotive sector and the huge new areas of business with grid-scale storage. In laboratory testing and now in production batteries, Hammond has achieved an order-of-magnitude increase in dynamic charge acceptance while simultaneously increasing cycle life — see charts — Figures 1, 2 and 3 show relative comparisons to Hammond’s control samples. The innovation — generically known

as K2 — does not require a change in other battery paste ingredients, grids, or plates. No change in any other material component or process. No new tooling, production technique, distribution, use, scrap characterization, or recycling. K2 represents a new expander family, with no safety concerns or known adverse effects. Moreover, K2 is customizable according to the needs of the batteries being made and their in-service operating conditions. Hammond has a long tradition in producing lead chemicals for a variety of glass, ceramics, colour, and plastic applications. “We’ve always pioneered technical substitutes and advancements in answer to an ever changing market,” CEO Terry Murphy told Batteries International. “We’ve been very successful adapting to industry’s shifting demand for lead-based chemicals.” As an example, almost 50 years ago, Hammond responded to the need to replace red lead-based corrosion inhibitors by inventing and patenting a nontoxic, functional substitute, marketed as HALOX inhibitive pigments. Later the firm’s Halstab division operated as a major US manufacturer of

lead-based heat stabilizers for PVC plastic. When environmental standards changed, Hammond responded with the Plastistab line of heavy metal-free stabilizers. “The point of these examples is that Hammond has a history of developing world-class solutions when lead is challenged,” says Murphy. “This ability to adapt to ever-changing markets has been key to our longevity and growth.” Murphy, who took over as the head of Hammond two years ago and is a long-standing board member, says: “While HALOX and Halstab were very good businesses — and they certainly demonstrated our ability to adapt — I didn’t think they were our future. I saw the need for efficient battery storage and pushed our board of directors for a strategic decision to concentrate on energy storage.” The board agreed and both businesses were sold in 2012. HALOX went to ICL Performance Products and Halstab to Mitsubishi Industries. Since then, Hammond has focused on changing the lead-acid battery chemistry to compete with lithium ion. It also means adapting to changes in sources of lead demand. “Some 30 years ago, less than half of Hammond’s sales were

K2 charge acceptance improvement

Hammond has created from scratch a state-of-the-art laboratory from a disused factory 20 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

Figure 1. K2 Expanders provide a dramatic increase in charge acceptance

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: HAMMOND GROUP to the lead battery industry; today it’s closer to 80%,” says Murphy. The nub of the problem between lead and lithium is mostly a question of price and recyclability. For advanced energy storage — power generation or hybrid vehicles — lithium-ion batteries meet most of the technical requirements, but are too expensive and not recycled. By contrast lead acid batteries are inexpensive and 100% recyclable, but don’t have the necessary cycle life. “On a personal note,” says Murphy, “A major influence on Hammond’s decision to invest in our LAB2 came from Sally [Miksiewicz] who understood these emerging lead acid battery markets better than anyone, which is why East Penn invested in the Ultra Battery. “My first meeting with Sally was scheduled for a quick 30-minute introduction, but ended up lasting several hours, with another follow-up shortly thereafter. We were immediately on the same page — both recognized the need and importance of research to lead the industry forward.” Hammond has amassed an impressive assembly of state of the art equipment in LAB2 — these range from multi-position testing equipment from Maccor and Bitrode, which can test up from mini-cells to SLI batteries to micro-hybrid and stationery testing. There is also general laboratory instruments such as units providing X-ray diffraction, BET Surface Area, UV/Vis spectroscopy. Gordon Beckley, chief technology officer says: “With the equipment we have on offer, the huge amount of algorithms that can be input to detail the types of usage batteries undergo — and why — that can form the starting point for what performance can be. “One huge advantage that we can

bring to bear is a “These applicarapid material and tions require a batelectrode screening tery to perform well process — typically in high-rate partial we can make valid state-of-charge (HRPperformance predicSoC) operations, actions within a couple cepting a wide range of weeks. of charging amps at “This is unheard various states of overof in an industry all charge, and mainwhere typically it tain this quality over takes several months a normal cycle life,” for a clear picture says Murphy. to emerge from re“As a specialty search.” chemical business, I Hammond’s in- “As a specialty felt that Hammond vestment in K2 and had an enormous chemical business, LAB2 is effectively potential to address an attempt at a com- I felt that Hammond this deficiency, so we pany level to compete had an enormous made the investment against the US govand the strategic comernment subsidized potential to address mitment to address advanced battery re- this deficiency, so we the PSoC requiresearch which has foment.” Hammond cused on lithium-ion. made the investment investigated the lead The traditional lead and the strategic acid battery princiacid battery suffers a ple failure mode in critical, but certainly commitment to HRPSoC applications not unsolvable, tech- address the PSoC through a materials nical deficiency. When interaction study, testsubject to high-amp, requirement” — Terry ing traditional and irregular re-charging Murphy, Hammond advanced expander intervals — such as materials. energy re-capture from braking, bat“Exploiting insights on material setery life may be seriously shortened, lection, material interaction, and dusays Murphy. ty-specific formulations, Hammond’s This helped form the background work culminated in its K2 family of for Hammond’s thinking in looking at negative plate expanders, available ways to see how a better hybrid vehicle for a wide range of HRPSoC applicabattery could be made to accommo- tions. We’ve discovered a whole new date rapid and intermittent charging class of materials, but it wasn’t just and discharging. Similarly, an energy our new material, or a particular cargrid storage battery must handle the bon, it was the interaction and exact inherent gaps between intermittent dosing of these new compounds that wind and solar energy generation and was central to this technical breakits consumption. through.

Simulated energy storage application

Figure 2. K2 Expanders show extended life cycle life in simulated energy storage application

K2 PSoC cycling mprovement

Figure 3. K2 Expanders enable PbA batteries to pass micro hybrid test Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 21

Visit our website to see how Hammond Group is driving innovation for PbA batteries.

For the challenges ahead...

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: BLACK DIAMOND Black Diamond Structures brings the nanotechnology known as MOLECULAR REBARTM to lead-acid batteries offering significant improvements in battery performance such as cycle life and charge acceptance.

Big battery improvements found in small packages Black Diamond Structures is the commercialization vehicle for Molecular Rebar, a nanotechnology, based on a patented form of the discrete carbon nanotube, that offers a variety of improvements to the lead-acid battery industry. The first is a dramatically improved cycle life — with increases of over 50% in cycling. Charge acceptance is also improved by around a quarter and there are also benefits of greater performance in cold temperatures as well as strong resistance to physical and thermal abuse. Perhaps most importantly for the successful introduction of battery manufacturing improvements, Molecular Rebar can be easily incorporated into existing manufacturing process — with no additional capital costs or modifications to production processes. “To understand the importance of our innovative technology, you have to understand the importance of the science behind the carbon nanotube,” says Kurt Swogger, CEO of Molecular Rebar Design and a Black Diamond Structures board director. “Carbon nanotubes first made a big splash in the materials research community in the 1990s. Their unique structures promised amazing electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties, but these advantages were often only realized at the laboratory scale. J In recent years, lead-acid battery developers have used activated carbon, graphite, and hybrid lead-carbon electrodes to accommodate higher rates of charge and PSoC operation. These additives show promising results, but frequently require significant alterations to existing production lines and paste-mixing recipes. Determining the optimum carbon composition and implementing the new additions have been challenging. Furthermore, carbon additives present a host of problems: many contain high concentrations of metallic impurities, which can lead to severe side reactions. Their presence in raw materials destined for use in lead acid batteries

24 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

is therefore strictly regulated. Carbon additives also alter paste rheology, requiring downstream process changes to accommodate the mix. The Molecular Rebar technology delivers advanced technological solutions at an industrial scale with a minimum of disruption to production. “When we first started thinking about adding Molecular Rebar to batteries, we understood that the processes of mixing, pasting, and curing are well established and have been optimized over decades in the industry,” says Clive Bosnyak, chief scientific officer of Molecular Rebar Design and Black Diamond Structures board director. “We challenged our team to ensure that our product could be incorporated into existing processes without disruption or additional optimization of the manufacturing process,”. Black Diamond Structures and its partner, Molecular Rebar Design, disentangle and functionalize stock carbon nanotubes, making the surface of

Figure 1: Recharge time decreases and capacity maintenance during cycling Note: Cycling tests indicate that Molecular Rebar can decrease recharge time 50% while retaining capacity; a mark of true increased charge acceptance (Data from full-scale, 12V, 38Ah VRLA batteries produced by Lantian Battery Company, China)

the tubes compatible with the lead-acid battery operating environment, and opens the ends of the tubes. The process also cleans the carbon nanotubes to reduce the residual catalyst content. The residual metals, which lead to performance problems in conventional advanced carbons, are reduced by more than more than 80% in the finished product. Ease of implementation enables Molecular Rebar technology to be accessible to manufacturers of any size and scale, regardless of their resources in R&D/engineering or their deployable capital. To prepare for use in lead-acid battery pastes, the tubes are uniformly dispersed in an aqueous solution. The final product is a pourable liquid which can be introduced directly into the paste mixing process. The Black Diamond Structures team has worked with international manufacturing partners to produce batteries with their additives on standard production lines. “Together, they have demonstrated significant charge-time improvements, widened operational windows, and extended cyclic durability. These characteristics allow manufacturers to meet the ever-increasing demands of new applications,” says the firm. The addition of this product to the negative active material improves charge acceptance and extends lifetime under lab-based cycling protocols and in real-world field trials. These tubes in the positive plates enhance the durability of plates subjected to charge/ discharge cycling still further. “Black Diamond Structures has collected significant performance data from industrially produced 12-V batteries at its own testing facilities, at customer sites, and at third-party testing facilities. The data show reductions in charge times of 25%-75% under constant-voltage conditions and increased cycle life of 25%-300%, depending upon the protocol. Pasting trials have shown that Molecular Rebar can reduce waste and improve produc-

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: BLACK DIAMOND / NORTHSTAR tion quality,” says Paul Everill, one of the principal team members engaged in the project. Figure 1 shows the cycling of batteries with a C/10 discharge to fixed voltage cutoff and a fixed-voltage recharge, indicating a drastic reduction of recharge time and a simultaneous retention of capacity. “When you observe higher currents during charging, you can’t tell whether you’re helping with charge acceptance, or if you’re just promoting gassing. When you get the capacity back on discharge, cycle after cycle after cycle, you know that the improved charge acceptance is real,” says Jeremy Meyers, a battery developer on the team. “To retain the capacity over dozens of cycles, the current must be going into the charging of the battery at a high rate, not to side reactions. That’s exciting.” Figure 2 shows that Molecular Rebar allows significant lifetime improvements under PSOC protocols, such as the SBA cycle. Across a variety of tests, the additive has demonstrated sulfation resistance on the negative elec-

trode and corrosion/shedding resistance on the positive. Molecular Rebar technology opens

Figure 2: Increased SBA SO101 cycle life performance Note: Molecular rebar increases the performance of batteries undergoing the JIS SBA S0101 cycling protocol when incorporated into the negative, positive, or negative and positive electrodes. Here, full-scale 12V, 30Ah NS40Z batteries were tested after being manufactured by Pacific Batteries Ltd. (Lami Fiji). No additional modifications were made. Formation, testing, and data collection performed independently at JBI Corp, in Genoa, Ohio USA.

NorthStar Battery Company has modified existing lead battery chemistry to provide a product with extremely high charge acceptance in difficult conditions as well as doubling cycling performance.

The trouble-shooter NorthStar Battery Company’s Blue Battery chemistry was developed to address a specific problem encountered by a telecom operator in Bangladesh, where mains electricity was operating less than 50% of the time and the telecom site was averaging 26 electricity outages over any 24-hour period. Conventional batteries didn’t receive enough charge current to operate — the batteries were failing within months. Frank Fleming, chief technology officer of NorthStar, and his team worked with the customer to refine the lead-acid chemistry, changing active material ratios, utilizing a carbon-enhanced negative electrode and refining the negative plate expanders. This was named Blue Battery Chemistry by the NorthStar technical team. Its major electrochemical attributes were an extremely high charge accept-

ance in abusive conditions, and the ability to provide increased cycling performance when operating in a partialstate-of-charge operating condition. After the batteries operated successfully in Bangladesh, NorthStar deployed them in other regions of the world with poor electrical grids. The high charge acceptance of the chemistry, coupled with the chemistry’s fast-charging capabilities and its ability to operate in a PSOC condition, provided a major performance advantage in hybrid telecom sites disconnected from the electrical grid. Previous wireless telecom installations that ran generators for up to 18 hours a day to charge the battery banks and operate the sites were now capable of reducing the generator run-time to less than four hours per day. The savings in diesel fuel in these remote installations were enormous.

new design windows and creates new opportunities for advanced battery manufacturers that can leverage the product to meet new, more challenging specification demands in advanced automotive, micro-hybrid eVehicles, renewables (solar, wind applications), eMobility (eRickshaw, eBike, mobility assistance) and grid storage. The Black Diamond Structures development team includes polymer scientists, chemists, and battery engineers with decades of experience bringing novel battery designs to market. They have also invested heavily in the capital equipment necessary to help partners bring advanced batteries to market. “We can perform plate analysis and battery performance analysis that many smaller battery manufacturers just aren’t set up to do. We have equipment at our facility to perform electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, porosimetry, and electrochemical characterization. We can quickly confirm plate quality and performance,” says Dru Kefalos, chief marketing officer, Black Diamond Structures. The company’s first major Blue Battery installations in the remote areas of Pakistan produced savings for the operator of over $70 million in the first year — simply due to the reduction in diesel fuel required to operate their sites. Over the past two years, NorthStar has installed Blue Batteries throughout the Middle East, Africa, eastern Europe, southeast Asia and South America in those areas with poor electrical grids and where operating conditions are difficult. The chemistry is also pushing cycling performance for AGM telecom batteries to new frontiers — the chemistry delivers over twice the number of cycles seen from conventional lead-acid batteries. This means a longer lifetime in those areas where the electrical grid is unreliable and the battery is cycling numerous times throughout the day. It also means another area where advanced lead acid batteries are staking territory for the entire industry. The fast-charge capability for leadacid batteries, coupled with the improved cycling performance due to the chemistry and the charging parameters, continues to demonstrate that lead-acid is the most-efficient solution for the vast majority of the world’s wireless telecom installations.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 25

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COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: ADVANCED BATTERY CONCEPTS Advanced Battery Concepts has almost halved the lead used in its battery in the world’s first commercially viable bi-polar lead acid battery.

The challenges of bipolar lead It’s been a long time coming but after considerable product and process development Advanced Battery Concepts says it is close to full scale production and a global roll out of its bipolar technology. Ed Shaffer, ABC founder and chief executive and Don Hobday, business development director say they have solved the problems associated with developing a true bi-polar battery capable of being widely commercialized. Both have previous experience with bipolar lead batteries having worked for Atraverda, a Welsh start-up that nearly achieved commercial success. Shaffer left in 2008 to set up ABC. Hobday left in 2010. Shaffer says the battery industry has always recognized that if a bi-polar lead acid battery could be manufactured successfully it would have significant advantages for the battery manufacturer and the end user. “Bi-polar battery designs eliminate grids and top lead and utilize the active chemistry far more efficiently thereby reducing the lead content for same energy, they would be cheaper to make, they would be smaller and lighter, better for the environment, have a faster recharge rate and greater cycle life,” he says. “To be successful a bi-polar battery needs to be commercially scalable, recyclable and robust. We have concentrated our business focus on simplifying materials, product designs and manufacturing processes and are taking bi-polar lead acid batteries to a new level at ABC.” Previous attempts at making a commercially viable bi-polar battery at scale have met with limited success because of a number of problems. These include the inability to seal between cells and failure to seal to the external environment, the use of costly exotic materials to overcome corrosion and conductivity issues, the requirement for an external strengthening structure to provide uniform AGM compression and to overcome cycling stresses which ultimately re-

28 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

sult in poor performance in terms of energy and power density, cycle life and cost. In addition, new materials, radical designs and new manufacturing processes mean significant restructuring to battery manufacturers’ existing operations and hence slow down and impede adoption. Following five years of development Hobday is convinced that ABC has overcome the past problems associated with bi-polar lead acid batteries. He won’t go into full detail on some of the technology used as the company is still awaiting patents but he says it now only uses simple low cost materials already used in the construction of lead acid batteries today. What is clear, however, is that a unique pasting frame structure is employed, “by which paste may be applied to or employed in the substrates so that the appropriate desired electric conductivity can be achieved across the substrate, while also preserving a means suitable for battery shut-down in the event a predetermined temperature condition is met,” according to US patent US 8,357,469 B2. “And further by which adjoining plates can be suitably employed and maintained in spaced opposing relation to each other so that the internal structure creates an external seal such that no additional external structures or devices are required to seal the battery for leakage prevention.” Nevertheless ABC has received a powerful endorsement from Bob Nelson, a lead acid battery expert with almost four decades of experience. Asked to give an independent verdict on the technology, he wrote: “ABC has developed a new approach to bipolar design that avoids several short-comings of conventional bipolar batteries, including: limited capacity, relatively high cost, poor thermal management and unsuitability for many applications. “Given this, combined with excellent demonstrated performance, they have a product line that will be of

great interest to the battery industry. I believe it is a truly disruptive technology that will find wide acceptance once it becomes accepted by the industry.” In the past two years, ABC has been working with battery producers to gain more data and establish true proof of concept for the technology. He says the results on all fronts have been very positive. Validation and testing results have been obtained at ABC’s battery partners and at third party accredited test facilities. “In 2013, our internal test data supported a substantial claim set and since then we have embarked on external validation,” says Hobday. “Battery testing is a lengthy process especially obtaining full cycle life data but we are now very comfortable with where we are.” One of the biggest breakthroughs in the design is that it reduces the lead content in the battery by some 45%. “That reduction, which is attributable to the bi-polar design, means a significant reduction in the battery manufactured costs,” Hobday says. The company has also achieved a higher energy density (50 Wh/kg with a path to > 60 Wh/kg — this compares with 35Wh/kg for the best in class AGM batteries today). It has also achieved higher power — >1000 W/kg while maintaining high energy (>40 Wh/kg), a faster recharge of 1.4x faster, a cycle life of three to six times the current VRLA battery life with a path to greater than 10 times and all at a lower cost. He suggests that it is this innovation that could help them win the innovation award. “Everyone who has tried it can see how successful it is and that it truly has the potential to revolutionize the battery industry. That is what innovation is all about.” Hobday says the company is working with more than one major battery manufacturer and is planning for fullscale production. Launch product will initially target the automotive and stationary power sectors globally. “We

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: ABC/ABERTAX can make a very high voltage battery very simply and cheaply and we can also make large capacity batteries. There is no reason this will not be relevant to many sectors very quickly.” Hobday says due to its lower cost and higher performance the technology can move into sectors that had either been using less advanced lead-acid

technology or had increasingly been adopting lithium-ion batteries. “We are closing the gap to the performance of lithium-ion at pack level now but at significantly lower cost, with simplified installations and safety advantages. We are a credible alternative.” The firm has also identified a big opportunity in energy storage if the cost

of storing the energy can be brought down below what it sees as the magic number of $0.07 per kWh cycle. At this level, it starts to make economic sense to store the energy being produced by power generation during periods of low demand, he says, before moving it back into the grid when needed.

Better gel filling for VRLA batteries Abertax has developed a new gel filling process for PzV and OPzV cells. Abertax Technologies has developed a new patented gel filling process for use in PzV and OPzV cells which the company says, represents an important breakthrough that could make the manufacturing process cleaner, safer and cheaper while improving the quality of the batteries. Gel batteries cost a little more and they do not offer the same power capacity as AGM batteries. But they excel at slow discharge rates and slightly higher ambient operating temperatures. One of the reasons for their slightly higher price has been the cumbersome process associated with their filling, formation and finishing processes. This is where Abertax has focused its attention. Klaus-Dieter Merz, a senior figure at Abertax, says there are three main methods used in gel battery manufacture. The first is whereby the battery is assembled with formed plates, then filled with a gel/acid mixture and charged. “This is the oldest process and gives good quality products,” he says. “But it has a high cost associated with the tank formation and is not very environment friendly.” Second, there is direct gel formation; the most economic and easiest process.

“However, direct gel formation takes a long time and does not result in the best quality product,” Merz says. Finally, there is jar or bloc formation where the battery is filled with liquid acid. After formation, the battery is partly discharged and the acid drained before the battery is re-filled with gel. “This is more complicated and costly and sometimes there’s a variation in cell performance,” he says. Just over a year ago, Abertax looked at improving this last method. The aim was to develop a filling process of the jar or bloc formation without the acid drainage and re-filling process. The solution was what he calls a ‘gel circulation’ process. At first, the cells of a lead acid battery are filled with a sulphuric acid of a specified density, followed by formation. After this the cells are part-discharged and the gel filling method can also be applied to fully charged cells. He notes that precautions are needed in terms of homogeneous filling. Then, the cells are fitted with a plug/ valve, which has an intake and an outlet duct. The hoses or tubes are connected with a mixing and filling gel container. Then gel from the container is pumped into the cells of the battery

through the intake tube, while the outlet tube transports the electrolyte from the top of the cell back to the container. An electrolyte exchange process is done until the SiO2 content is equal in cells and container. “The new method reduces time and cost,” Merz says. “The existing filling and formatting equipment can be adapted to the components and procedures of the invention. Only minor modifications to existing installations for gel battery production need to be done to introduce the cleaner and faster production process.” After lab testing, Abertax made a small test prototype and the first industrial applications were tested in March 2015. The results have been promising and, one manufacturer is already working with the concept, which Abertax has patented. Abertax is in talks with four more potential manufacturers about this. This September the company will publish a paper at ELBC in Malta, after which it will seek more industry feedback. Merz says: “This represents a new and improved step in terms of value regulated technology. There hasn’t been too much innovation in the lead acid business in recent years so this is exciting.”

Gel transport tubes

Acid tank Gel mixing tank

Dead end plug


Filling plugs OPzV cells


Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 29


Raise your performance

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: DARAMIC A good separator is at the heart of a good lead battery. Daramic’s new, high performance polyethylene battery separator enables manufacturers to use less lead in their products without the subsequent reduction in battery performance.

Taking the lead out of lead acid batteries Daramic has been at the cutting edge of product innovation since its release three years ago of high performance separator but with research continuing on further refinements. Called DuraLife®, this helps protect and maintain the quality and performance in battery designs that use less lead content — a technique that many battery producers have adopted as a way of reducing overall cost of their products. DuraLife, is a new, high performance polyethylene battery separator. Its design improves battery performance, improves efficiency and yield during battery assembly and, most importantly, compensates for lack of performance or lifespan in battery designs where manufacturers are looking to reduce the amount of lead. There are also benefits from the DuraLife co-brand campaign which yields more go-to-market tools and selling points on the end-customer communication Dawn Heng, worldwide marketing director for Daramic, says that against a backdrop of ever increasing competition in the lead acid battery market and the encroachment of other cost-effective chemistries into some traditional markets, one of the most impactful actions a battery manufacturer can take is to reduce lead content in the battery. “As the technology has matured, the automotive SLI lead-acid battery market has become more competitive, and battery manufacturers are under pressure from OEM’s to reduce costs,” Heng says. “Traditionally, the path to improving cost competitiveness was achieved by squeezing out components costs, but there is a limited impact that can be achieved, and some approaches can lead to potential quality risks.

32 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

The benefits and value of DuraLife have been proven by testing in the lab, field quality compliance data, and financial performance that the battery producer can achieve through the product re-positioning “The fact is that the majority — often over 70% — of the material cost of making a lead acid battery can be attributed to the cost of lead. We can look at the cost of the other materials, but we are then only targeting less than 30% of the overall opportunity. If we can help reduce the lead content, then we can really give significant value to the battery manufacturer.”

Thinner grids hit performance

The problem is that reducing the thickness of the grid lead can compromise the performance and life of the battery in many applications. Battery manufacturers have previously reduced lead content by making the grid thinner and by improving pasting control with less lead used in the active ingredients. Both options, however, can reduce the life of the battery and damage performance long term. DuraLife is designed to compensate by reducing water loss, which lowers positive grid corrosion ensuring there is less trapped gas which impinges on functionality and improving the TOC and acid stratification. “There are innovative ways to achieve margin improvement by focusing on lead reduction. DuraLife bridges the gap to save lead content costs, while at the same time mitigating the potential quality impact. It is the optimum solution for SLI batteries,” says Heng. Heng says there are many benefits to battery manufacturers beyond the lead content reduction. Many bat-

tery designs that use DuraLife demonstrate superior life performance, meaning battery manufacturers can upgrade their batteries from sub-premium batteries with a longer lifespan and warranty period. This, in turn, allows battery manufacturers to differentiate their product lines and sell batteries at higher margins. Daramic has also launched an innovative way of partnering with battery manufacturers to co-brand the battery with the DuraLife branding. “Working with us allows manufacturers to offer a complete solution to customers while benefitting from the brand and the superior performance the product offers,” says Heng. “This can help our customers improve profitability and increase market share in their respective segments.” Daramic which is releasing DuraLife worldwide, but first launched it in Asia two years ago says it is real world tested. “The benefits and value have been proven by testing in the lab, field quality compliance data, and financial performance that the launching battery producer can achieve through the product re-positioning. This innovation will allow the lead-acid battery to become more competitive versus other technologies and more sustainable for future growth,” Heng says. Heng believes DuraLife could also prove an effective solution in stopstart applications, where he sees an increasing overlap in the innovations occurring in lead acid and lithiumion, the main competitive chemistry in vehicle electrification.

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COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: DIGATRON Digatron Power Electronics has launched what it calls the world’s first laboratory test system with silicon-carbide technology.

Battery testing’s next leap forward: rethinking switch mode technology Modern electrochemical energy storage devices such as lithium batteries or supercaps must be subjected to extensive performance and safety testing in specialized laboratories to validate their suitability for industrial or automotive application. Since battery capacities keep on increasing the turnover of electricity during charge/discharge cycling tests becomes a significant cost factor for the laboratory owner because traditional cyclers have poor efficiency during charge and during discharge they output 100% of the energy as heat. Additional expenses for air conditioning and noise protection occur. But also floor space becomes an expensive, limiting factor for laboratories as the demand for a high count of circuits increases, for example, for cyclic ageing research. The few worldwide manufacturers of battery testing equipment have

been trying for some time to employ switch mode technology to achieve higher efficiency or energy recuperation. Corresponding circuits continue to struggle with design-related restrictions caused by today’s mono-crystalline silicon semiconductors and large transformers and chokes. “At Digatron Power Electronics we’ve reinvented a battery test system from scratch, to provide Energy Neutral Technology” says Kevin Campbell, chief executive of Digatron. Points of departure were customer demands with regard to energy efficiency, construction size, circuit density, ergonomics, power and dynamic envelope, as well as the latest semiconductor technology derived from military and aeronautics: Silicon Carbide (SiC) MOSFETs. Digatron this year will be introducing battery testers with active frontends and output amplifiers in SiC-

technology in their Repoweren™ UBT (20V) and MCT (6V) lines. These systems provide up to six 1.8kW test circuits in one 4U (178mm) rack module. This is equivalent to an almost 10fold increase of power density compared to any previous designs. Digatron’s Biconditional Energy Supply Tracking (BEST) system ensures optimum energy efficiency under any operating condition,” says Campbell. “This is an innovative process that automatically balances the energy flows between the six circuits and tracks the energy balance of the DC link accordingly, either to regenerate 100% in the DC realm (and top off from AC as needed), or to feed excess energy back to the three-phase grid. The front is dominated by a central seven inch touch screen that visualizes the current operating status of each circuit and overall system status.


Silicon Carbide is a diamondlike crystal of carbon and silicon. Especially with higher blocking voltages, SiC MOSFETs are superior to conventional IGBTs

36 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

made from mono-crystalline Silicone (Si). The primary reason is the nearly 10 fold disruptive strength and threefold bandgap of SiC over Si. The switching characteristics, the efficiency factor, and the thermal properties of these next generation semiconductors offer the advantages of lower losses, higher operating voltages, and higher operating temperatures in the power conversion system. In switch mode designs the significant increase in switching frequency permits much more compact constructions or higher power densities. In particular with switch mode design, a significant increase in switching frequency leads

to downsizing and high power density. That is also the reason why Digatron employs switch-mode technology in transformer-less power supplies and not just the output stages right now. Conventional semiconductors with low switching frequencies would have necessitated bulky and expensive transmitters thus denying the benefits of a design without a mains transformer. By contrast the Repoweren series’ high-frequency transmitters are roughly the size of three matchboxes, only. Digatron expects SiC based semiconductors to become the de facto standard in inverter designs in the near future.

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: DIGATRON/GRIDTENTIAL Linking it with tablets or smartphones is possible, depending on the customer’s IT infrastructure and policy. The Repoweren™ units can be cascaded in standard 19 inch rack systems. Test circuits can be paralleled up to several kiloamperes. Extra expenses for climatization or acoustic insulation are unnecessary. The regenerative series’ modular construction allows easy servicing and replacement of assemblies. DC cassettes for single cells (6V) and 20V (SLI) can be mixed within the same module. Additional DC cassettes with new voltage and current ranges will be developed in the future. “The Repoweren™ Series is designed to provide several decades of reliable service when maintained properly,” says Digatron. Its modular construction simplifies complete recycling at the end of its service life.”



Smaller, more efficient

Advanced batteries open new gigafactories of silicon-lead beckon Gridtential has developed a silicon-lead battery that offers a real and sustainable alternative to lithium, with clear power and price advantages. Gridtential, a Californian start-up that has taken successful university research and adapted it to the production line, has developed a proprietary technology for an advanced lead battery that replaces the metal grid in current lead battery designs with a silicon substrate. “We’re calling it Silicon Joule Technology,” says Christiaan Beekhuis, chief executive of Gridtential. “The advanced architecture and materials will provide up to two times faster discharge at the same efficiency, two times the greater available energy at the same weight, and up to five times longer life at 80% depth-of-charge compared with traditional  lead-acid batteries. “Gridtential is able to target a $100/ kWh installed price for its drop-in lead-based battery replacement.” Perhaps most interesting for lead battery manufacturers is the fact that it has the potential to provide breakthrough performance with little disruption to the existing 500GWh global production capacity of the lead battery industry — the early processes of paste mixing and curing are unchanged as is the high investment for-

mation and charging equipment. “The process changes for battery makers occur in the modular stack and seal assembly process that makes the product a manageable transition for a range of battery makers” says Beekhuis. “With respect to the stack and seal assembly, I expect some of the highend battery machine manufacturers to step up here to produce high quality, high speed lines. “To date two battery firms that are serious players are well down the road towards establishing pilot production of Silicon Joule batteries and four others are in the process of evaluating the product.” Gridtential’s business model is based on licensing the technology to customers, which makes its initial capital requirements comparatively light. “Initially we’re focusing on licensing firms involved in the diverse industrial and specialty markets,” Beekhuis says. “These are the ones that are easiest to bring in as adopters, and some of the markets most challenged by lithium batteries. “But the eventual aim is to tap into the huge automotive sector. The area

where Silicon Joule technology could have the greatest impact is in the new 48V power trains for micro- and mildhybrid vehicles.” One interesting perspective of the licensing model, and the fact that the Gridtential technology can be fitted into existing battery manufacturing lines worldwide, is that it creates the possibility of the industry as a whole providing an almost immediate counter-balance to the so-called ‘gigafactory’ of Tesla. Lead battery gigafactories could be just a couple of years away.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 37


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COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: HIGHWATER INNOVATIONS HighWater Innovations is developing a VRLA technology to challenge the power of NiMH in hybrid electric vehicles and for other power hungry but size/weight-sensitive applications.

Optimizing spiral-wound VRLA cells to deliver higher power in smaller packages Like the best of start-ups, it all began in a garage. And now five years later, the commitment by industry veterans Mike Gilchrist and George Brilmyer to design a better battery is paying off. The two, believing that a lead acid battery capable of powering an HEV was possible, reckoned that design — rather than, say, yet another additive to the pasting mix — would be the key to unlocking the extra power and capabilities needed. Moreover, the product would cost a fraction of the going price for competitive chemistries — the NiMH battery for a Toyota Prius can cost around $3,000. The result has been the ‘GO battery’ where the GO stands for “Geometrically Optimized”. The two have gone way beyond proof of concept to demonstrable, repeatable hand-made batteries suitable as replacements for NiMH for hybrid electric vehicles. About 18 months ago, a patent was issued. Since its early days in 2011, the Tennessee start-up known as HighWater Innovations, has been developing a unique battery for high power appliFigure 1

cations — including finding investor funding two and a half years ago to advance their designs. “The innovation in the GO Battery is its unique low aspect ratio grid,” says Brilmyer. “These grids, complete with multi-current collecting tabs are specifically designed for high power applications (see figure 2). These grids with their short grid-tab current path, result in a wound cell that has disruptively low electrical resistance that is 3X lower than a similar size (Ah) conventional spiral-wound VRLA battery. The resultant wound cell has two tabs per wound lap that creates a structure having four rows of tabs at the top edge of the wound cell. Opposing rows of tabs are the same polarity by design. The development process can be daunting. “You know if one stares at a bipolar battery long enough you

can see its advantages and its faults!” says Brilmyer who with Gilchrist have worked in the battery business for some time including working on bipolar VRLA. “For example, you see the short inter-cell connections for high power. But you also notice that you must build an entire battery (and test it) before you can determine that there is a single bad cell that leads to scrapping the entire battery! “One will also notice that there is no way to balance or sort cells in bipolar. These are all some of the observations that lead to the conceptualization of the GO Battery.” Since in essence they were trying to build a battery from the ground up they looked at other aspects of the design. “The open core is not a fundamental key to our battery design (or our patent) but it is useful in thermal management,” says Gilchrist.

When we tested our first cell we knew we were on the right track when the internal resistance of the cell measured just about 1 milli-ohm.

Figure 2

Figure 4

Figure 6

Figure 5 Figure 3

40 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

COVER STORY, THE INNOVATORS: HIGHWATER INNOVATIONS “We use it for our counter-current air flow system. Air is forced up through the core of each module and then flows down around the outside of the module enabling us to cool the cells in a uniform manner. But, the open core also helps with cell assembly. You probably can’t see this, but we wind on a plastic core and the core stays with the element and goes into the cell.” One unrealized benefit of the plastic core is that the inside wound laps of the element remain tight and in good contact with the separator. This is not the case when winding on a mandrel such as those used in conventional spiral-wound technology. The design then uses conventional cast-on-straps to connect the current collecting tabs in parallel. The resulting four COS and posts create a dual post system of two positive posts and two negative posts per cell as shown in Figure 3. The wound cell, complete with cast-on straps and posts in then heatsealed into a thin, light-weight polypropylene container/cover (Figure 4). After the posts are burned the high power wound cell, complete with its hollow central core is then fitted with terminals designed for stacking and integral thermal management (Figure 5). The two positive terminals extend upward, while the two negative terminals extend down-ward. When the cells are stacked, the flange on the central core mates with the cell above

Our GO Battery cells are now pushing the industry in terms of pulse power and we believe with the right battery manufacturing partner that these limits can be increased by at least an additional 30%” to form a cooling channel. Figure 1 shows a fully assembled 12V GO Battery module. In this construct, the positive termination is at the bottom of the module along with a 90 degree air injection port. Air blown into this end of the module travels up through the central cooling channel and exits the top at the negative end of the module. Subsequently placing a module into a closed-ended thermal management tube uses the closed end of the tube to redirect and reverse the air flow past the exterior of the GO Battery module such as that shown in Figure 6. An example of how this counter-current thermal management system will be deployed in a full 200V module is also depicted in Figure 6. This figure shows a 96 cell battery pack for a 5” x 24” x 26” prismatic requirement such as that might be used in a Ford Escape HEV or in a server rack in a computer server room application. “At the beginning — in our garage days — we needed long and narrow grids so we used continuously cast SLI grids and cut them down by hand,” says Brilmyer. “We built our first winder from wood and PVC pipe. We

had containers/covers machined from ABS and then used epoxy to attach the covers and create the post seals. “A very simple DC power supply was used for formation that we monitored by the hour. In the end, we managed to produce some very good cells. Then we decided to focus on 10-second power and to optimize our cells based on this rather simple premise. When we tested our first cell we knew we were on the right track when the internal resistance of the cell measured just about 1 milli-ohm. Our first set of cells performed better than expected and established our internal benchmark of 10-sec power of 265 watts and 311 W/Kg.” Highwater Innovations now has much better test equipment and have moved on to a custom winder, smaller COS straps, thinner punched grids and an injection molded container/ cover. “Our GO Battery cells are now pushing the industry in terms of pulse power and we believe with the right battery manufacturing partner that these limits can be increased by at least an additional 30%,” says Gilchrist.

the exact same test regime in all situations. In terms of gravimetric and volumetric specific power, these early results are disruptive and transformational. Note that despite the exemplary performance, these cells were hand-pasted, and therefore there is significant room for improvement.

In a hand-pasted plate, the paste is applied on to the grid frame with little or no over-paste. This means that the paste (active material) to grid (inactive material) ratio is lower than typical since machine pasting is required to optimize the paste to grid ratio and to properly compact the paste into the grid frame.

THE RESULTS The results shown below are compelling in terms of specific power, both gravimetric and volumetric. They show a direct comparison of these hand-built cells and five different commercially available VRLA cells/batteries. This comparison was made by using a 10-sec HEV Power Test using

Design Specifications

10-Sec Power Pulse Testing (1.6vpc CV Discharge)

VRLA / Brand /

Nominal Wt Actual Dimensions Volume Max 10 Sec 10 Sec Specific Specific Capacity (g) (Liters) Amps Wh Power Power Power (Ah) (Watts) (W/Kg) (W/L)

Go Battery Cell #167 EnerSys Cyclon X-Cell EneSys Cyclon E-Cell Optima Group 34 Yellow EnerSys Group 31 East Penn ETX30L

5.0 5.0 8.0 RC = 120 RC = 188 26Ah

588 362 486 19,587 30,820 9,585

58mm x Dia 85mm 73mm x Dia 44.5mm 100mm x Dia 44.5mm 254mm x 172mm x 198mm 330mm x 173mm x 240mm 168mm x 132mm x 175mm

0.329 0.114 0.156 8.692 13.703 3.883

454.0 84.1 100.3 1,089.0 1,029.0 488.0

1.67 0.33 0.38 21.20 21.90 12.34

601.2 118.8 136.8 7,632.0 7,884.0 4,442.4

1,022 328 281 390 256 463

1,827 1,046 880 878 575 1,144

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 41

BATTERY TESTING Time is money in the battery industry, so high precision testing tools designed to cut development times, and bring about other benefits, are being commercialized by several providers of testing equipment. Sara Verbruggen reports

Right on target even ultra-high precision testing, depending on the level of accuracy, can provide data on how a battery cell is going to perform all through its entire lifetime. It does this by cycling the cell a fractional amount of cycles it would need to do in real life once coulombic efficiency stabilizes. The results can then be extrapolated. The technique potentially halves the development time cycle that traditionally goes into a new product deploying, say, lithium ion batteries.

Precision, precision, precision

Forget lithium, or cobalt, or vanadium or lead. The battery industry’s most precious commodity is time. This is particularly true when it comes to testing energy storage devices. There is no way around it, the whole process can take months and sometimes years, depending on the end-use application. For an EV the battery must have a lifetime of 10 years, for a medical or aerospace application, it can be 15 years, or more, and for a grid storage system, it can be 20 to 30 years. That translates into batteries that could well need to cycle for 10,000 times, or more. Since the most accurate way, historically, of forecasting a battery’s useful life is done through cycling the bat-

tery, by repeatedly charging up and discharging the device, development timeframes for new products can take a long time. A full charge/discharge test plan to validate a new technology for an electric vehicle or a grid battery can take three years, minimum. But some traditional methods of accelerated testing can skew results. Instrumental precision needed in order to reliably assess the likely performance of thousands of cycles can be corrupted by something as subtle as a small increase in temperature, which can occur in accelerated testing conditions. Measuring coulombic efficiency, also termed high precision testing, and

Measuring coulombic efficiency to accurately pinpoint these percentages could, for example, give a cell manufacturer developing a new cell chemistry a clear indication of what materials will be needed for a battery to perform over its lifetime in a given application. Or enable a developer of energy storage systems to select which cell suppliers to source from, by testing different cells head-to-head under the same conditions. Research, notably by Jeff Dahn, professor of physics and chemistry and Canada research chair in battery and fuel cell materials at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, has shown the industry how taking coulombic efficiency measurements with a high degree of accuracy indicates battery cycle and calendar life. To measure coulombic efficiency to a much higher accuracy than with previous systems, a few years ago Dahn’s lab built its own system with precision current instruments. The prototype had just six channels, capable of measuring six cells. Each channel cost about $10,000 to build. Chris Burns, who co-founded Novonix, is not a typical high-tech start-up chief executive. He doesn’t do hype and his respect for his mentor is apparent. Last year Burns completed his PhD, supervised by Dahn. Burn’s focus of research was lithium ion cell

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 43

BATTERY TESTING lifetimes and the impact of electrolyte additives in short-term experiments using high-precision coulometry. The work also involved scaling up the lab’s proof-of-concept machine. Earlier on research literature published by Dahn and his team stirred up interest from across the industry. One of these was A&D Technology. “A&D visited the lab five or so years ago and said they were interested in this space. We thought, ‘great’, so we worked with them on their system,” says Burns. A&D’s concept involved taking a regular cycler and adding to the front of it an A&D module designed to operate in series with the cell to enable it to log the current, accurately and rapidly, so providing greater precision than the cycler by controlling its charge/discharge operation.

Scenting opportunity

With various researchers in the industry contacting Dahn, it became clear to Burns there was demand in the market for an advanced diagnostic tool for testing lithium ion cells using high precision coulometry. “I wanted to design a low noise, really accurate system.”   So in 2013 Burns set up Novonix

to develop a multi-channel diagnostic tool and commercialize the system and also to provide some testing services using its equipment. Novonix is not a spin-out in the traditional sense because it has not licensed intellectual property from the university to develop the system. Novonix has developed a high precision diagnostic tool from scratch, which adheres to the same degree of accuracy as Dahn’s lab equipment. Burns says: “You can buy the components for high precision coulometry from Keithley Instruments. The devices they supply are highly accurate but are designed to do several things, which is overkill. Keithley’s equipment was the benchmark, but we needed it to do one task but better or at least equally well.” Novonix makes channels for under half the cost of those Burns helped build in Dahn’s lab, in the range of $3,000-$4,000 per channel for full turn-key systems. The initial plan was to sell systems to academia, establishing a base of users that could vouch for the system’s performance and then target the industrial research labs. “We leap-frogged the whole academia stage; because of Jeff’s work.

He’s been a great friend of the company,” says Burns. By late 2014 four customers had put down deposits before the final testing systems had even come off of the production line. They included Bosch, Alcatel Lucent, for its labs in Ireland, and a lithium ion cell manufacturer in China, which had been in contact with Dahn, several years previously, afterwards it had followed the professor and his team’s progress in this area. Most sales have been to industrial and corporate R&D labs, for testing different chemistries and validating supplies.   Through partnering with a distributor in the region, Novonix has recently been making inroads with Japanese companies. “My pitch is 100% scientific, the results speak for themselves.” Novonix can build individual systems between eight and 64 channels. Each channel is dedicated to one cell. “Professor Dahn’s lab, for example, will typically run tests for three to four weeks. He also duplicates each test so a research group could test up to 32 cell types in parallel our one of Novonix’s system.” The company’s high precision charg-

WHAT THE COULOMBS! Coulombic efficiency can be used to estimate both calendar and cycle life. For batteries used in consumer electronics, which have a typical shelf-life of two or three years before they are discarded in favour of an upgraded version, there is little rationale for such precise

Arbin sales VP Antony Parulian

44 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

forecasting. But for use in an electric vehicle or a grid-tied storage application, lithium ion batteries have to be guaranteed to operate for many more years, even decades. And so increases the need for diagnostics to estimate accurately calendar and cycle life of the battery in a given application. Coulombic efficiency measures the ratio between the amount of charge that goes into a battery during charging and the amount that comes out when the battery is discharged. A ‘perfect’ battery would charge up 100% and discharge 100%, repeatedly. In reality, parasitic reactions, due to various causes, from film formation

to electrolyte reactions or particle cracking, exposing batteries to higher temperatures, can all degrade the cell, consuming charge. When Coulombic efficiency is less than 100%, some combination of these reactions are present. Taking measurements of columbic efficiencies can be used as a powerful prediction tool to assess both the present state and the future capability of a battery. This type of testing is also known as high precision testing because of the accuracy required in the delivery of the current, the precision of voltage measurement, the short time that occurs between voltage measurements and the very precise control of cell temperature.

“If you want to ensure that the battery is going to last its guaranteed lifetime, you oversize it. However, overbuilding the battery increases the cost of an already expensive component.” — Antony Parulian



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BATTERY TESTING The number of high volume cell manufacturers in the market is relatively small, though these companies invest in thousands of channels. “We’d expect to supply a subset of those channels.” Even, these could end up being substantial contracts, though the installation might be staggered over several deals. In its current iteration, the system is not suitable for large format cells. Burns says: “It’s good for smaller cells; 1 amp maximum current, up to 5 volts. By the end of this year we’ll have a product that can test larger format cells; 20 amp maximum current.”


“Keep in mind that coulombic efficiency is an additional accelerated testing tool that gives cell cycle life predictions but we still have a lot of customers doing the real thing and run cycle tests for months, even years,” – Raf Goossens er systems can measure the coulombic efficiency of cells to typically less than 10 parts per million (ppm) precision and 50 ppm accuracy. The system is able to compress testing times. For example, tests which might take many months on a standard charger system could be shortened to only a few weeks on a Novonix system. It has the potential to be developed further into critical piece of equipment, for use in industrial labs, as well as in independent battery laboratories and, eventually, cell manufacturers. “The economics for independent labs are good. They have the budgets to invest in testing equipment, and a capital expense of around $100,000 can have a short payback time given the potential benefits they can obtain. Economics are also good for third party testing labs, who will invest in equipment and are able to recoup the cost through charging customers to use their services and facilities,” says Burns.

46 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

A half-hearted approach to measuring coulombic efficiency will not work. It is a finickity form of testing and it can take about six months to set up the equipment in a lab, including installation and calibration. If measurements are not done accurately enough, when they are extrapolated to thousands of cycles, the risk is a large spread on the potential end result. Precise, granular control of the environment in which the measurements are taken is critical. According to Raf Goossens, who founded PEC along with Luc Vereycken in 1984, typical customers that are interested in his company’s coulombic efficiency measuring technology are R&D labs and some end users, or OEMs, looking to do supplier validation tests. “Keep in mind that coulombic efficiency is an additional accelerated testing tool that gives cell cycle life predictions but we still have a lot of customers doing the real thing and run cycle tests for months, even years,” he says. The main point of coulombic efficiency is to predict the cycle life of new cells or processes. Goossens says: “The process is often forgotten and underestimated when discussing cycle life.” The company’s range of testing tools can be used in early stage R&D of cell development. Customers include cell/ module and battery pack manufacturers and independent testing labs, such as Intertek. In addition, companies in different end-use industries, including automotive, aerospace as well as stationary energy storage, use PEC’s equipment to perform validation of lithium ion batteries. PEC’s advantage is that the company also makes production tools as

well as testing equipment used in the battery industry, including high volume, fully automated and integrated, cell finishing lines used in formation, degassing, ageing, grading and sorting steps. High speed inline testers can be included for finishing or qualification of cells during manufacturing. The company’s cell finishing equipment can improve cell cycle life by up to 40% by growing a very consistent solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer during formation. “Such cycle life improvement basically comes for free,” says Goossens. “To evaluate real-life cycle life improvements we need to test cells for many cycles and this is very time consuming — especially at low C rates. For this reason faster testing methods have been developed and coulombic efficiency is suitable.” Cell materials R&D and coulombic efficiency measurements are typically done on smaller cells and scaled up later. Building a consistent SEI layer is one of the key challenges for good results, hence PEC’s cell finishing manufacturing equipment for this. “Due to this large format cells are much more challenging to produce, but it does make sense to verify materials-oriented cycle life achievements on larger cells. Our equipment can support such tests but we should keep in mind that the more power losses, the more challenging the set up. The maximum cell size we used is around 50Ah,” says Goossens. Coulombic efficiency readings are supported by PEC’s system ACT0550, an 80-channel high power cell tester, developed for testing and evaluating cells for high speed and accuracy in demanding applications that include electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as renewable energy storage systems, for R&D, production quality control and incoming goods inspection. The company uses a water cooling technology developed for keeping cells and all the circuitry chilled, eliminating the use of fans. “It is the only way to keep the heat to the needed levels for such stability and accuracy.” According to Goossens, some customers are using coulombic efficiency measuring to accelerate testing. “But it is not very common yet. Not only is the battery test equipment set up important, but the whole test setup is very critical, especially from a temperature control level. We do have a setup which is so accurate that we could see the sun coming up and going down (delta T) when using a cli-

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BATTERY TESTING mate chamber in an air conditioned room. It is like zooming very deep on a digital picture where the image only stays clear if the resolution and focus are perfect.” Arbin Instruments has developed a high precision high power battery tester for measuring coulombic efficiency of a large scale battery; 200 amps at 5 volts. “Coulombic efficiency testing is performed in academic research at lower current, but not at a scale relevant to industrial battery performance,” says Antony Parulian, vice president of sales and marketing, at Arbin. The degree of precision with the majority of cycle testing equipment on the market ends at about 300 parts per million (ppm). Arbin has developed a system that is able to go less than 40 ppm. “That level of granularity is the Holy Grail in battery testing because with that level of accuracy, you can then extrapolate how the cell is going to perform in a battery in a given application,” says Parulian. “With our equipment, the typical six-month period that’s usually

“You can buy the components for high precision coulometry from Keithley Instruments. The devices they supply are highly accurate but are designed to do several things, which is overkill. Their equipment was the benchmark, but we needed it to do one task but better or at least equally well.” — Chris Burns needed in battery testing for a consumer electronics application could be halved.” And for batteries in applications with much longer operational lifetimes compared with smart phones, testing can also be shortened significantly. In the automotive industry, where

tests need to run for two to three years, these can be reduced to under a year. The same for stationary storage applications. In early 2013, the Department of Energy awarded a $3.1 million grant to Arbin, Ford Motor Company and Sandia National Laboratories, to improve the efficiency of batteries in


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BATTERY TESTING electrified vehicles, enabling the company to develop and commercialize a high current, high-precision battery tester. “Sandia National Laboratory is such an important partner as they have provided expertise and capability in metrology and precision calibration,” says Parulian. Arbin began commercializing the system in September 2015, with several customers evaluating the equipment, fulfilling orders for the system earlier this year. In electric cars, or in grid energy storage applications, the battery pack accounts for one of the costly components, and cells make up the largest portion of the battery pack’s cost to produce. More accurate data on cell performance can enable more accurate sizing of the battery. “If you want to ensure that the battery is going to last its guaranteed lifetime, you oversize it, says Parulian. “However, overbuilding the battery increases the cost of an already expensive component. We think that anyone that is developing batteries for longterm use, will be interested in these high precision tools. “By shortening testing, with the ability to get more accurate data about what degrades batteries and ultimately causes them to fail, you can expedite the product development cycle and you also ensure that you have a battery properly sized for the application.” Eventually, this type of testing could potentially be applied further along the battery production process, nearer the end of product development and mass production. However, the benefits of implementing such high precision testing earlier on in the battery development and production process means a better battery, ultimately. Parulian says: “In cooking, starting out with the best possible ingredients has a huge impact on the quality and the taste of the final dish. It’s the same with batteries. “If you select the best performing cells for your application, then you will have better performing packs. Also, once you get to pack level testing there are several things that can conflict with the coulombic efficiency measurement, such as the connections between the cells and the pack’s electronics. “A version of the system that works with the high voltages and amps, at the pack level, would need to be developed.”

The equipment used in the ARPA-E project by Ford and the other partners is 25 ppm and below. Not everyone will want such a degree of accuracy. In addition to the system Precision 25, Arbin is also planning to introduce additional testing series — Precision 50 and Precision 100. “This level of precision is still much better than 300 ppm, but is more costeffective than the tools that are 25 ppm and below. We want to improve precision measurement for everyone in the industry. We plan to replace all of our testing equipment, which is at 200 ppm, to 100 ppm,” says Parulian. PEC is also responding to cost-conscious customers in the battery industry by developing equipment that is more affordable but maintains same levels of quality in testing and results. Asia is where most demand for test equipment is coming from, especially South Korea and Japan, though China is catching up. Many customers tend to be aggressive on pricing. They want good performance but at a lower price. So, in response, we have developed a cell tester that has similar performance compared with our existing tools.” PEC is expecting to ship the first units in the first quarter of 2016. The new product will have the same accuracy and dynamics as PEC’s ACT0550 system but parallel switching will be limited to 1000A, versus 4000A with the ACT0550. “In addition there is no deep discharge function and the kit supports two automatic switching current ranges, as opposed to four on the ACT. The price however will be substantial lower,” he says. Deep and negative discharging at maximum current is typically only needed for cell development or abuse testing. “Our new system is designed to provide lower cost testing during cell sampling, incoming inspection and validation, but can also be used for R&D,” says Goossens. “A lot of low cost cell testing equipment that is being made available to the industry is totally incomparable in terms of performance. With our new cell testing system we are conscious that customers need to drive down the cost of cell testing, but that this can be done with our high accuracy, quality and advanced software.” The activities by various providers of testing equipment to commercialize high precision testing tools using coulombic efficiency measuring tech-

That little black number ...

niques, is part of a trend to improve battery cell diagnostics. “Unlike funded developments that claim to be unique, our ACT0550 system has achieved 50 ppm accuracy on the voltage for a few years already and we can achieve similar accuracy on the currents with a specific setup,” says Goossens. For the battery industry, testing is a critical dimension, along the value chain. Development of new materials and new cells, to meet the demands of longer life applications, cannot occur without testing. Approaches and innovations that can reduce development cycles, reduce costs or that can make the process of testing itself run more efficiently and smoothly, are going to be favoured.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 49

something NEW is coming...


The end-user’s perspective: Greensmith Since it was set up eight years ago, Greensmith has emerged as notable player in the energy storage industry. One third of energy storage capacity installed in the US is running on the company’s software platform, equating to about 70MW. Customers include utilities, including public utilities in the state of California, and independent power producers. Greensmith takes batteries and inverters from suppliers that it builds into stationary storage systems for providing renewables integration, grid balancing and other services. The company’s services include designing and building turn-key energy storage systems for customers. The company’s advanced software platform, GEMS — Greensmith Energy Management System — now in its fourth iteration, is able to interface with the grid and is programmed to manage and control the systems based on the requirements of each specific project. This can involve asking batteries to perform several different applications and functions. Greensmith is battery-agnostic, sourcing different battery technologies, including lithium ion batteries from Samsung and other suppliers, as well as flow and other chemistries. To date, the company works with 14 different battery technologies, mainly different forms of lithium ion. It conducts regular technology and factory audits around the world on a quarterly basis. Chief executive John Jung says Greensmith’s quality control process and how it works with supplier partners is arranged so that: “Greensmith performs all tests in-house, sourcing batteries from credible OEMs that provide the performance guarantees for their products.” Greensmith tests at the rack level and system level. The GEMS software connected to the power conversion system (PCS) and the battery management system (BMS) provides an extensive diagnostic tool to evaluate and analyze the performance of the systems or subsystems. “We test systems for electrical (performance), thermal, functional

and safety adherence to the requirement,” says Jung. “Initially, test data is received from the battery companies during the component qualification stage. The data set includes, but is not limited to, the performance characteristics, cycle life at various conditions, thermal characteristics and safety test results of batteries.” Greensmith’s engineers perform factory acceptance tests at the OEM facility for the batteries before shipping. The engineers test for communication interface, thermal characteristics and adherence to functional requirements. “We have devised a fairly extensive scoring matrix which it uses to evaluate battery vendors and their factory operations,” he says. “The key is to understand their quality control and production capacity and efficiency. “For example, the cleanliness and organization of the factory, the level of automation, the number of quality factors collected through the manufacturing process include some of the good indicators of how OEMs approach their quality assurance and quality control processes. The factory’s capacity and efficiency are good predictors of the cost curves.” In addition to meeting standards and safety requirements, the functional test can be used to demonstrate how the systems will perform under various conditions. “For instance,” says Jung. “that could mean what performance score can be achieved in PJM Interconnection’s frequency regulation market, based on the averaged day signal versus the worst day signal or the performance of ramp rate control based on various PV signals.” For a large project, Greensmith will typically bring one building block unit to its facility for the full system testing with the PCS and balance of plant (BOP). Extensive integration, functional and performance tests are performed according to the test plan agreed with the customer, leading to the customer factory acceptance testing which would be signed off at facility. The system is shipped to the site upon full acceptance of FAT. Time and efforts required for new

Rack testing at the Greensmith facility

battery qualification can vary depending on the vendor. Criteria such as Greensmith’s previous experience with the vendor, the amount of data available on a new battery, the vendor’s reputation and their warranty conditions are all important considerations for battery qualification processes. “We have seen tremendous improvements in the safety and performance of lithium ion batteries over the past few years,” says Jung. “The redundancies in design at the software controls and physical hardware levels have significantly improved the safety. “The lifecycles of lithium ion batteries have improved while cost has dropped to the level that even most experts did not see coming so soon. These factors have enabled energy storage to become an economically viable solution for grid-tied storage applications. “While the uniformity of lithium ion cells produced by the same vendors are improving, the gaps between various suppliers, particularly between the Japanese and Korean manufacturers versus Chinese vendors still exists.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 51


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BATTERY TESTING: STATIONARY STORAGE The growth in energy storage for integrating renewable energy and other grid applications is providing new opportunities, as well as challenges, for the battery testing industry to get its teeth into

Testing times ahead

As fast as one new technology leads energy storage in a new direction, so too — by necessity — follow the testing industry. The move into electric vehicles and hybrids generated a boom in the testing industry a decade ago. And now the dash into energy storage from renewable sources on an industrial scale is sparking excitement as a new generation of testing equipment for everything from flow batteries to supercaps comes to the fore.

Moving into grid testing

One company that has seen new business from the grid storage industry is PEC. The company supplied the testing equipment used in the Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Test and Commercialization Center in Rochester, New York state, which cost $23 million to set up. As well as supplying the test equipment for the facility the company supplied the software management system, Life Test, which schedules and

controls the cell, module and pack testers, the climate chambers and other equipment. The software also manages and consolidates the data coming from the different systems into the central Life Test server. “We are software-oriented while other companies are hardware driven,” says Raf Goossens PEC co-founder and one of its chief executives. The company’s systems are intuitive and user-friendly. “Our test regimes, test data and results are stored in relational databases and reporting can done in seconds. We’ve introduced a data warehousing function that automatically generates reports. You are saving time because otherwise someone has to do all that number-crunching, based on various different files and data sources.” Though PEC has been working with organizations and companies in the grid storage industry, Goossens say there has been a pick-up in activity in the past two years. “With support from the state gov-

Bitrode is developing equipment for testing batteries that are out of warranty, from electric vehicles, in second life applications in stationary storage systems for microgrids. The equipment will be able to ensure that the batteries are capable of turning DC electricity to grid quality AC electricity.

ernment, New York State has become a hub for batteries in energy storage and many of the players are PEC customers,” says Goossens. PEC’s customers also include electric vehicle manufacturers in Europe that are investigating so-called second life stationary storage applications for batteries. For these companies PEC’s standard software is equipped with algorithms to produce automatic grading rules for ex-electric vehicle lithium ion battery cells, and is able to grade cells based on several characteristics indicative of performance, including capacity, step pulse response, impedance and other programmable criteria. Cincinnati Sub-Zero (CSZ) has also had requests from companies in the automotive industry that want to test ex-EV batteries for secondary life applications, for stationary storage. Wayne Diener, application engineer in CSZ’s industrial division, says: “In our experience, in most instances, the point is to virtually qualify these batteries all over again.

Second life too

“Tests that would be carried out for the materials or cell development are not required. But, the testing that is implemented at the end of development — that same degree of testing — is being used for testing second life batteries because they have to qualify what performance is left. In this case, temperature and humidity testing is high on the list.” Bitrode is developing equipment for testing batteries that are out of warranty, from electric vehicles, in second life applications in stationary storage systems for microgrids. The equipment will be able to ensure that the batteries are capable of turning DC electricity to grid quality AC electricity. This could potentially require developing new testing hardware. The company is also supplying its existing equipment for testing remaining capacity of ex-electric vehicle batteries to help with grading batteries

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 53

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BATTERY TESTING: STATIONARY STORAGE with similar capacities left in them. Currents and voltages can be measured by Bitrode’s equipment, for various different capacities and outputs. But, looking to the requirements of some of its customers in the longer term, Bitrode is investigating what might be involved in developing high power testing equipment for very high voltage batteries – 1500 volts or more. Testing equipment that’s available from Bitrode today is adequate for 1000 volts, but in future there are customers of the company that will need to be able to test very high voltage batteries, for applications in what are niche markets at present, including microgrid energy storage systems, heavy transportation, as well as batteries used in electrified car racing. To develop testing hardware able to handle much higher voltages, new suitable components will have to be investigated. Not only that, the testing equipment will also need redesigning to be able to properly test batteries at such high voltages. This could require bigger components, different layout and spacing. CSZ says it has had requests for its environmental testing chambers for alternative energy storage devices, including fuel cells and flow batteries, technologies that are seeing increased uptake in off-grid and renewables integration applications. The advantage of using flow batteries is that they are extremely rugged and robust even in hot climates. With several companies now supplying energy storage systems based on flow battery technology there is growing interesting in using them instead of lead acid in telecoms in regions of the world such as like and Africa, for example. Unlike other battery chemistries, flow batteries can cycle many times without the need for replacing. However, weak points tend to be components, such as membranes. It is possible to swap out aged components, without replacing the entire device, so a flow battery, in theory, can operate for several decades. Environmental testing chambers are able to simulate harsh conditions, such as extremes in temperature as well as shock and vibration to see how energy storage devices can operate in tough conditions. Flow batteries could require larger chambers but CSZ is used to building large-scale chambers, so this should not be a huge challenge to overcome for the company.

Arbin’s flow battery testing equipment can monitor individual cell voltages and control the flow rates of the pump, stopping and starting and regulating the flow rates as well as control the temperature of the electrolyte Arbin, a major battery testing firm both within the US and with a growing international presence, supplies testing equipment for flow batteries, aimed at customers that are developing new electrolyte materials. Compared with lithium ion batteries and other types of energy storage devices, flow batteries are a much more straightforward technology. About a decade ago, Arbin developed testing equipment for fuel cells, in response to R&D in the field, and the flow battery testing work is related to this. “With fuel cells you are managing the flow of gases, temperature, humidity, and pressure through membranes. With flow batteries, you are managing the flow of liquids and temperature through the device under testing, which is less complicated,” says Antony Parulian, vice president of sales and marketing at Arbin.

Customization too

Arbin’s flow battery testing equipment can monitor individual cell voltages and control the flow rates of the pump, stopping and starting and regulating the flow rates as well as control the temperature of the electrolyte by heating or cooling it, pressure monitoring, and a provide host of safety features. Additionally, the company plans to offer customized flow battery testers to control or interact with a variety of external hardware. At the other end of the energy storage scale, Texas-based Arbin also provides testing equipment for supercapacitors. Thanks to falling costs and performance improvements, supercapacitors are increasingly being used in electric vehicles as well as stationary

storage applications. “When you cycle batteries you tend to cycle them within hours. Supercapacitors cycle in seconds. So you need really rapid detection, able to respond within milliseconds, as the charge and discharge rate is so fast. While batteries might achieve thousands of cycles, supercapacitors need to achieve hundreds of thousands of cycles,” says Parulian. Testing of supercapacitors aims to quantify three key performance characteristics or attributes. These are capacitance (or cycling), equivalent series resistance (ESR tests) and leakage current. “The tester needs to detect voltage limits happening very quickly, and provide a data acquisition speed which must be consistently fast. The ability to transition from charge to discharge should exhibit no deadtime. Measurement of the capacitance happens after the test.” In the ESR test the equipment needs to provide a quick voltage pulse which means a fast rise time and a short pulse. At the same time during the leakage current tester, or floating test, the tester has to maintain a stable constant voltage regulation. “The challenge is to build testers that have very stable regulation and at the same time very dynamic response time,” he says. The company’s high precision tester, for measuring coulombic efficiency, can also be applied to supercapacitor cell testing. PEC supplies one of the fastest testers on the market, which can also be used for testing supercapacitors, where excellent, rapid dynamics are key.

PEC supplies one of the fastest testers on the market, which can also be used for testing of supercapacitors, where excellent, rapid dynamics are key. Testing of supercapacitors aims to quantify performance characteristics such as are capacitance (or cycling), equivalent series resistance and leakage current. Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 55

TESTING: ADVANCED BATTERIES Spiers New Technologies’ business model is built around the repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing of advanced battery packs used in hybrid and electric vehicles. And that requires testing to understand the batteries’ health.

How to make an electric car battery as good as new It’s probably not the newest twist on testing but certainly Spiers New Technologies has fitted the final piece of the jigsaw into the larger puzzle of what to do with advanced batteries when they are close to the end of life. Or simply have just gone wrong. The process is a simple one. Battery packs arrive at Spiers NT direct from the OEM. The first stage in the process requires trying to learn about the battery’s usage from the vehicle’s service history, the mileage, the region or area driven in and any other relevant information passed on from the dealership about the vehicle. “This gives us a good idea if the pack can be repaired and can go back into the car or if it is degraded — and to what extent — and how it can be repurposed,” says head of engineering, Bryan Schultz. The next step is to transfer the pack to the test bench and check that it has been diagnosed correctly. “In some instances, low cell voltage indicates a problem, but it could be with the connections, which might have come loose, rather than the cell itself. Actually, dealerships have become better and better at identifying the problem but it is important, still to check that it is the correct diagnosis.” The battery pack is disassembled by splitting it apart down the welded components, so that the module where the problems lies can be removed. The replacement module selected needs to match the rest of the pack. Shultz says: “You want to avoid mismatching modules, in terms of capacity. For example, if you replace one with a module with a lower level of capacity then the whole pack performs at the lowest capacity. “If a replacement module has a much higher capacity than the pack average, then a large voltage divergence will occur especially at low states of charge. This high divergence

56 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

Dirk Spiers (left), Bryan Schultz: solving a larger state-of-health puzzle

can set off a code in the vehicle.” OEMs set the warranty levels for batteries. To qualify for refurbishment as a battery pack within warranty the batteries typically need to have 85%90% of their original capacity. Spiers NT also refurbishes battery packs for the after-market, post-warranty, where packs still retain plenty of capacity. After the packs are taken apart the modules are graded and binned to group modules with matching capacities in the same sets. Spiers NT has developed algorithms that grade modules. “When we test at a pack level we still get information on each individual cell. However, it is all gathered simultaneously,” says Schulz. “The algorithms we use take the raw voltage, current and temperature measurements during a test and generate derived parameters for the cells or modules. The parameters such as capacity, resistances, self-discharge and remaining life can then be used to build matches for applications, whether refurbishment or second life, for example.” After the modules have been matched pack reassembly happens.

“The testing procedures the assembled packs go through are the same as a new battery at the end of the production line would go through,” says Schultz. Spiers NT is working on streamlining processes. The time taken to tear down packs, grade and reassemble can vary. “To tear down a pack, for example, can take up to four hours; the same for rebuilding the battery. We have increased the speed at which we can process batteries in this way,” he says. “We started out working on a single module and then figured out how to create algorithms that let us process eight modules in the same amount of time. Today, on average we are processing about 120 packs a month.” The company has continued to develop algorithms to improve accuracy in its assessment of incoming packs. The majority of incoming packs are used for either refurbishment or second life. The repurposed batteries are now being used in a variety of places including the University of California San Diego for a campus microgrid, which has containerized battery systems.








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TESTING PROFILE: CSZ Cincinnati Sub-Zero has been making environmental test chambers for 75 years for customers in North America that include automotive OEMs and military/defence contractors. Plans for expansion include looking to overseas markets.

Going to the extremes Cincinnati Sub-Zero has probably the most evocative firm name in the whole battery testing world, if not the battery world itself CSZ provides environmental testing equipment for energy storage devices, including lithium ion, nickel metal hydride and lead acid batteries. “Lithium ion is the most common battery type that we have seen applications for, whereas lead acid applications tend to be more sta-

ble in nature. The level of safeties required by customers tends to be highest for lithium ion,” says Wayne Diener, application engineer at the industrial division of CSZ. CSZ supplies chambers into more than 20 industries, many of which deploy batteries, including military, medical, consumer electronics, handheld tools, automotive, as well as stationary energy storage. The key driver for customers us-

CSZ also provide chambers that can provide control of altitude while simultaneously controlling temperature and humidity, as well as chambers that can interface with shakers to allow for control of temperature and humidity while inducing vibration.

CSZ battery pack chamber

58 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

ing CSZ’s chambers and equipment for battery testing is safety, on two levels. “We have a lot of enquiries to replace chambers and equipment that are not safe. It is critical that our customers use environmental test chambers with the appropriate safeties for use in battery applications,” says Diener. Then there are the batteries themselves. Above all else these devices must be tested to meet protocols to ensure that they are not going to compromise on safety, even in extreme conditions. Using environmental testing chambers help the industry to meet these requirements.” The company’s chambers put batteries through extremes in temperature — hot and cold — to see how these affect the performance of batteries and how these devices can react, as well as humidity and altitude testing. In conjunction with cyclers the chambers are able to provide accelerated conditions for testing. In real-life conditions, batteries will be exposed to variants of several of these conditions. “We also provide chambers that can provide control of altitude while simultaneously controlling temperature and humidity, as well as chambers that can interface with shakers to allow for control of temperature and humidity while inducing vibration,” says Diener. Automotive customers, for example, will want to see how batteries perform in transit-like conditions. “In springtime roads can be very rough so an automotive OEM will want to see what these sorts of conditions can do to a battery, while it is in operation.” The company has also supplied altitude chambers to companies in the aerospace industry wanting to see what conditions at heights of 30,000 feet, or even over 100,000 feet, can do to batteries used in aircraft. “High altitude can cause increased life-cycle depletion, so that battery

TESTING PROFILE: CSZ “Testing is not merely about meeting certain criteria to be awarded a standard to supply a product in a certain market — it is about providing the customer with the means to gain more knowledge about the performance potential of the batteries in a given application” might not last as long. There is also large concern over thermal runaway while at altitude and customers may be testing for stability of a certain chemistry while charging and discharging at various altitudes. In terms of volume, CSZ sells more small chambers, for cell testing, than large. The smaller labs tend to have capability to test a few test cells, from two to four, as opposed to 80. Typically these will be labs that are developing batteries for handheld tools.

Go large

“Many of the first labs that were built went big and perhaps had an overcapacity for testing large packs. There is a likelihood that the big lab approach may come back around as the battery chemistries and volumes to be tested continue to evolve. We are seeing more demand, for large walk-in and drive-in chambers,” says Diener. The largest chamber that CSZ has built for the battery industry is almost 3000 cubic feet — about 30 feet long, 10 feet high and 10 feet wide and a full electric vehicle can be tested inside it. “There is a lot of competition between new and established electrified vehicle manufacturers so it is becoming more commonplace to build testing chambers for testing the whole vehicle,” says Diener. “As battery systems are getting bigger as we are seeing in the stationary grid storage industry, where packs are too big to test, you would get around this by testing several modules and predict what is going to happen at pack level.” The lifetime of CSZ’s equipment depends largely on how it is being used. But with a welded type construction, the chambers can last for

three decades. Demand for CSZ’s environmental testing chambers for energy storage applications comes mostly from North America, though the company also has some customers in Asia — mainly in China and South Korea.

Europe potential

“We are also focused on growing our footprint in Europe, which also happens to be a highly competitive market with several reputable chamber makers supplying demand,” says Diener. “However, we have the results to back up our claim that we are able to deliver world-class temperature management equipment. We have been building environmental test chambers in one form or another for more than 75 years now.” While lithium ion battery production is now highly commoditized, the demand for using these cells in battery systems for renewables integration and grid services is beginning to establish itself, with Germany leading the way. A number of Europe-based companies are building energy storage systems to meet this demand. The company also has the flexibility to customize chambers for specific requirements of customers, which not every supplier of environmental testing chambers can do. “With CSZ’s technology, customers can use a variety of combined environments such as temperature/ humidity, shock and vibration and altitude,” says Diener. “For some customers that have to meet a certain test standard, they may want

CSZ reach-in chamber

us to supply them with equipment that goes above and beyond what is needed to meet that standard.” CSZ recently supplied a test chamber for a military application which provides the customer with information about how the batteries operate in a difficult environment and with a specific function in mind. “You could only gather that type of information, otherwise, by sending the product into the field,” he says.”They know how it is going to work in the desert rather than actually having to send it into the desert. “Testing is not merely about meeting certain criteria to be awarded a standard to supply a product in a certain market — it is about providing the customer with the means to gain more knowledge about the performance potential of the batteries in a given application,” says Diener. “There are many customers that are trying to push past the current requirements to be ahead of the technology curve. They want to have the ability to know where they stand as the requirements change.”

“However, we have the results to back up our claim that we are able to deliver world-class temperature management equipment. We have been building environmental test chambers in one form or another for more than 75 years now.”

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 59

Bringing the industry together

Meet the team Sara Verbruggen, Associate Editor Sara, one of the founding figures of Energy Storage Journal, has since relocated to Madrid, and now works as our in-house adviser as well as a respected contributor to sister magazine, Batteries International. Mike Halls, editor Mike, a former journalist with the UK newspaper the Financial Times, has been involved in journalism, publishing and print for three decades. “I’m particularly fond of writing about the batteries industry,” he says. “It’s an unusual mixture of being fast-paced but slow to change — and friendly too. What’s more there’s always something more to learn.”

Claire Ronnie, office manager and subscriptions Claire’s our unflappable person — she’s the go-to girl for subscriptions or account enquiries. Go ahead and challenge her!

Karen Hampton, publisher In her recent years of working within the battery business Karen has become a well known figure at conferences — not least as our social butterfly. “My job,” she says, “is to get the maximum benefit for our advertisers to make sure their name and brand is out there, while maintaining the integrity, fairness and excellence our publication is renowned for.”

Antony Parselle, page designer Better known in the office as ‘Ant’ he’s been working in magazine design and layout since the early 1990s. Not so good on showing his best side however

ADVERTISING Karen Hampton Tel: +44 (0) 1787 329 722

June Moutrie, business development manager She’s our accounting Wunderkind who deals with all things financial — a kind of mini Warren Buffett.

Jade Beevor, Sales Executive Jade, who joined the team in early 2015, is already getting a feel for the industry. “This is an incredible business we’re in,” she says. “These people are literally changing the future of our lives — and the planet too!”

Jan Darasz, cartoonist Jan has an international reputation as a cartoonist able to making anything — including an electrolyte! — funny. And as for LiCFePO4 ...

EDITORIAL Mike Halls +44 (0) 1787 329 721

Wyn Jenkins, Supplements Editor Don’t let his boyish charm deceive, Wyn’s been a journalist and respected editor on major financial titles for some 20 years. When not heading his own publications firm, Seren Global Media, he looks after our supplements.

Kevin Desmond, batteries historian Actually more than just a historian on batteries as he’s written about many things. He’s the inspiration behind our Batteries Hero section.

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LITHIUM SEPARATORS Not all separators are created equal, certainly not when it comes to those best equipped to preserve lithium ion battery safety. Growing demand for large format cells that pack in more energy are giving rise to separators engineered to achieve the highest levels of thermal stability reports Sara Verbruggen

Taking thermal stability to the next level for lithium battery separators Lithium ion cell separators initially commercialized for small format cells, used in consumer electronics batteries tended to be made from a single or sometimes multilayer, sheets of olefin plastics, such as polyethylene or polypropylene. Many multilayer separators are designed with a shutdown feature, where two of the layers have different phase transition temperatures. To improve the thermal and mechanical stability of lithium ion separators, coating the base substrate with a

ceramic layer has become a tried and tested approach. The addition of a ceramic layer prevents short-circuiting within the lithium ion cells while helping to maintain good structural integrity at high temperatures. Variants of ceramic coated separators are supplied by the large Japanese and South Korean producers that account for about 90% of the global separators market for rechargeable lithium ion batteries. But, there is a strong case for separators with better thermal stability

for large format cells, which are used in electric vehicle and other electric transportation and mobility markets, as well as in grid and stationary energy storage segments. Take China, for instance, which is now the largest electric mobility market in the world. The government has had to enforce a moratorium on the production of higher energy density large format lithium ion cells, which contain nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathodes, in favour of lithium iron phosphate batteries.

On a roll. Litarion’s separators are also capable of being made in more efficient, higher throughput production processes, as the stacks can be dried at higher temperatures, shortening drying times

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 61

LITHIUM SEPARATORS SQUARING UP TO THE SUPERCAP AND TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES Thanks to investments in production capacities and increased uptake in mass transportation segments, supercapacitors are falling in cost, making them more attractive for automotive applications. These devices can provide the high power peaks and allowing the battery to handle the long, smooth energy needed for partially electrified vehicles. Dreamweaver International was set up in 2011 to bring to market an industrial technology and process for making separators from nonwovens, for supercapacitors and also lithium batteries. (A nonwoven fabric is a fabric-like material made from long fibers, bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment; it is not woven or knitted.) To commercialize its technology Dreamweaver International partnered with nonwovens and specialty paper maker Glatfelter, and has spent the past two years scaling up the production of these substrates, which when produced are very thin and paper-like in feel, with uniform properties throughout. Getting to this point has taken dozens of manufacturing plant trials, over the past two years. “We’ve burned through a couple of tonnes of substrate in the process. But these machines are high-speed and you need to feed them with a lot of material at one end. It’s all part of the process,” says Brian Morin, chief executive of Dreamweaver. The first non-woven separators products the company will make are now qualified for manufacture on a line installed at Glatfelter capable of making over 40 million square metres a year. Where a lead acid separator might be 100-200 microns in thickness, supercapacitor separators are less than half this. At about 33 microns, Dreamweaver’s are a few microns thinner than competitors on average. The company is also the only one to be producing supercapacitor separators outside of Asia. The partnership with Glatfelter has been critical in helping Dreamweaver attract customers. The company has announced two, both of which are new entrants in the supercapacitor industry. One of these is Dae Technologies, which has built a 30,000 square foot

62 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

“The company’s target markets include mass transportation, such as electric buses and wayside storage on railways, as well as the microhybrid vehicle market, where next-generation models will use supercapacitors to capture braking energy,” — Brian Morin, Dreamweaver clean-room plant in China. One of the draws of using Dreamweaver’s substrates is their good price versus performance point, according to Linhong Li, chief executive of Dae Technologies. “The company’s target markets include mass transportation, such as electric buses and wayside storage on railways, as well as the microhybrid vehicle market, where next-generation models will use supercapacitors to capture braking energy,” says Morin. Going from making supercapacitor separators to those for lithium battery means a change in requirements. “Safety is the top of the list of priorities, especially when we are talking transportation, automotive and stationary storage applications. But other requirements are high rate and improved cycling, for instance,” he says. “Different applications

demand different characteristics, so you will have to offer a portfolio of options.” As well as making nonwoven substrates and paper from products as diverse as coffee filters, to the paper used to make the pages in the Harry Potter books, Glatfelter also produces other materials for the energy storage industry, including a nonwoven material especially for continuous grid pasting used in the manufacturing of lead acid batteries. So is it a logical next step for Dreamweaver International to focus on the lead acid battery separator market? Developments here are at an early stage, says Morin. Following some lead acid battery makers getting in contact, the company has produced samples to the specification of these batteries. “They seem pleased with the results so far,” says Morin.


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and loyal following. However, by 2020 I see that electric vehicles of all kinds will be part of regular public consumption.� One of the most difficult challenges of Abraham’s job is, perversely, less about the creation of the next superenergy storage unit, but more about the units already in place. “A lot of lithium-ion battery systems under development contain oxides of cobalt and nickel,� he says. And these come from what are essentially non-renewable resources. For example, nickel makes up only 90 parts per million, and cobalt about 30 parts per million, of the earth’s crust. We’re examining technologies for recycling lithium batteries to recover the non-renewable inorganic components and examining new lithium battery systems based on organic molecules that can be synthesized. “Energy and energy storage will remain a challenge in the coming decades, and we will need to develop solutions to these challenges that are both renewable and sustainable.�

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Batteries International • Winter 2014/2015 • 127

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Ceramic-based separators, however, are limited in terms of how thin they can go before mechanical properties are affected. Litarion has certainly tried and the limit is about 20 microns.

Using an advanced engineered nonwoven substrate, which is being produced by Glatfelter, Dreamweaver International is supplying supercapacitor separator demand for markets that include microhybrid, stationary storage and portable electronics

LiFePO4 cells have better stability as the lithium iron phosphate materials do not decompose at high temperature, generating heat, in the way that lithium nickel and lithium cobalt materials do. Some suppliers have developed separators consisting of membranes with higher ceramic content for large format cells. They include Entek and Freudenberg. Another is Litarion, sold by German specialty chemicals producer Evonik to Canadian energy storage company Electrovaya in 2015. Litarion was set up to supply separators and electrodes to Li-tec, a joint venture between its parent Evonik and Daimler, for making lithium ion battery cells for the German car marker’s e-Smart electric vehicle model. The cells were designed to meet stringent safety requirements devised by the automaker, which go beyond the standard tests. In addition to acquiring Litarion’s advanced production lines for making lithium ion cell components, Electrovaya also has exclusive rights, from Evonik, to the company’s separator in-

tellectual property Separion. The acquisition has put Electrovaya in a much stronger position to bid for large grid and other stationary energy storage contracts. The Litarion factory in Kamenz, about 40km from Dresden, can produce up to 0.5GWh of electrodes and 10 million square metres of separators, guaranteeing the Toronto-headquartered company with supplies of core components in the lithium ion cells used in its battery systems. The separator technology was originally developed by Evonik (previously Degussa) in the late 1990s as an offshoot of the company’s business in producing membranes for filtering applications. The company, at the time, was investigating materials that it could potentially supply for emerging electrochemical energy storage devices, including lithium ion batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors. Separator strategies vary among the world’s largest cell producers. Some will produce their separators in-house, sourcing in the base film and either coating one of both sides with a ceramic layer, while others buy it in as a component. However, in most cases, manufacturing separators for the electric vehicle industry is a high volume business dominated by a handful of producers. These include Asahi Kasei and the joint venture Ube Maxell in Japan, both of which have, over the years, invested in capacity. Asahi Kasei’s overall capacity for wet and dry process lithium ion cell separators is in excess of 500 million square metres, following the company’s acquisition of Polypore and its Celguard lithium ion cell separators business in 2015. The economies of scale achieved by these producers have enabled them to

Separion substrates show better dimensional stability, compared with competing products, including polyolefin ceramic-coated separators. In tests the competitor material wrinkled due to shrinkage at 127°C, while Separion maintains less than a 1% shrinkage rate at 200°C. 64 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

supply separators in volume and to drive down costs, reflecting the direction that the production of lithium ion cells themselves has taken, where a few companies in Japan and South Korean, mainly, dominate. Ube Maxell’s coated separators are used in the lithium ion cells found in Toyota’s fourth generation Prius plugin hybrid, which uses batteries from Panasonic. Ube Maxell has a patent licence agreement in place with LG Chem to use the South Korean lithium ion battery maker’s technology concerning ceramic coating of separator substrates. Unable to compete on costs with the industry in Asia, it proved more cost effective for Daimler to import cells from LG Chem than to make them in Germany, leading to the company’s decision to close down Li-tec in 2015. Though Litarion’s separator and electrodes technology was initially commercialized for the EV market, due to the Daimler contract, Electrovaya’s acquisition of Litarion and its associated separator technology has opened up new lines of enquiry among industries and companies that are using large format lithium ion batteries. “At the time of commercializing our efforts into the ceramic membrane separator, the technology was unique, but it was also just too early,” says Jörg Reim head of product development at Electrovaya-Litarion. “But this has changed. Most major separator manufacturing operations see the benefit of ceramics and use such materials in the production of their separators,” Litarion’s technology, protected by numerous patents, goes further than ceramic-coated separators. The company uses a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) nonwoven substrate, which has excellent thermal stability. Ceramic particles are embedded into the nonwoven, to create a material with intrinsic properties that achieve superior temperature stability. In addition to using Litarion’s separators and electrodes for making cells used in its own battery storage systems, which have been commercialized with several utilities, Electrovaya is also supplying cells and components to

LITHIUM SEPARATORS third party companies. Customers in the lithium ion battery industry include Switzerland-headquartered Leclanché, as well as battery producers in Germany, the US and in Asia. “We are seeing a lot of interest from the stationary energy storage industry and have been gathering good feedback from potential customers that have been testing our materials, including our separators,” says Reim. The company supplies separators in two thicknesses, 28 and 21 microns for use with large format cells, which tend to be used in larger applications, including mobility and stationary storage, as opposed to consumer electronics. Both thicknesses are suited to either mobility or stationary applications, though for high energy density cells the thinner separator can be more suitable. As the trend in the lithium ion battery industry focuses on higher energy density, using higher nickel containing cathodes, as well as silicon anodes, Litarion’s technology has some important characteristics that preserve safety as well as performance. Separion substrates show better dimensional stability, compared with competing products, including polyolefin ceramic-coated separators. In tests the competitor material wrinkled due to shrinkage at 127°C, while Separion maintains less than a 1% shrinkage rate at 200°C. More energy dense lithium ion batteries, at 200 watt hours/kg/cell, or higher, need separators that maintain stability at higher temperatures. When Litarion developed materials for use in Daimler’s batteries, the cells were put through tests for thermal stability in 180°C temperatures, as opposed to the 130°C temperatures required by standard testing procedures. In these thermal stability tests, which essentially involve putting cells in a 180°C oven, the competing multilayer polyolefin separator caught fire before reaching this temperature, while the Separion cell opened, with no fire or explosions. An additional advantage over competitors that Litarion has benefitted from has been the company’s historical close development ties with Li-tec, which was its sister company at Evonik. “This gave us access to cell knowhow and expertise that many other separator producers on the market simply do not have,” says Reim. Li-tec benefitted too, with access to one of the most advanced and safe sep-

Lithium ion separator and electrode layers shown

arators on the market. One of the only other companies that makes lithium ion cells as well as separator materials is South Korean producer SK. While the high degree of mechanical robustness in Litarion’s separators imparts high safety properties, in production the material is able to withstand faster and more efficient production processes. Usually the stacks are dried at 80°C-90°C, but the company’s technology can be dried at 130°C, speeding up stack drying times by several hours,

helping to increase throughput. The higher stack drying temperatures also ensure electrodes with less moisture, leading to performance advantages in the batteries themselves as cells can achieve longer calendar lifetimes, which is an advantage in some stationary energy storage as well as other applications. Germany-headquartered Freudenberg has a large customer base in China from supplying separators for NiMH batteries since the early 1990s, used in

When Litarion developed materials for use in Daimler’s batteries, the cells were put through tests for thermal stability in 180°C temperatures, as opposed to the 130°C temperatures required by standard testing procedures.

Daimler’s e-Smart electric car commercialized Evonik’s extremely safe separator technology, which is now being produced and supplied by Electrovaya in Canada as part of the company’s acquisition of Litarion from Evonik.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 65


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LITHIUM SEPARATORS “The lithium ion battery industry either consists of big or huge players, so we anticipate it will take longer to commercialize our separators in this industry” — Brian Morin, Dreamweaver

the transportation market. Over the past few years, Freudenberg has been developing and commercializing separators for large format lithium ion batteries, in response to growing demand from the Chinese bus market. “We/ve been effectively collaborating this customer base since day one of their NiMH batteries business,” says HolgerMichael Steingraeber, director of global communications at Freudenberg. “Now these customers are expanding into lithium ion chemistry for highend automotive applications. Therefore, our supply chain and relationship network is well established which has proven very valuable to introduce new technologies.” In addition the company is also targeting global markets for energy storage as well as other various electromobility markets around the world. Freudenberg’s separator for lithium ion batteries is also based on a ceramic formulation, making it suitable for high safety and long life applications. “Generally, safety is a major concern, especially for such large format applications like stationary storage and electromobility. Higher voltage as well as higher capacity electrodes are being developed and introduced to the market for making batteries with increased energy and power density,” says Steingraeber. “This means thermal and mechanical separator properties must meet the highest standards and are an important indicator of the best choice of separators. This is where we see an opportunity for our material.” Freudenberg has been working with others to bring the technology to commercialization for the past two years. These companies are looking to improve safety and cycle life beyond the current standard multilayer polyolefin membrane-based separator technology. The company has accomplished

qualifications and will enter commercial production in 2016. The same technology at the heart of a new significantly thinner separator for supercapacitors which also has the potential to bring about reduction costs in lithium ion battery separators, while preserving safety characteristics. Dreamweaver International, which is headquartered in the US state of South Carolina, was set up in 2011 to bring to market an industrial technology and process for making separators from nonwovens, for supercapacitors and also lithium batteries. The company has developed a technology and process that will enable it to eventually reduce its nonwoven separator material down to thicknesses of 12-10 microns, dramatically thinner than separators for lithium ion battery and supercapacitor separators available on the market.

Fibre size

“Nonwovens have been used to make separators for supercapacitors. But one of the problems was that the fibres have been too big,” says Brian Morin, president and co-founder of the company, which is headquartered in Greer, South Carolina. Going thinner uses less electrolyte offering significant cost reductions. Dreamweaver International’s technology lowers the separator’s basis weight a little, but compresses the material to half its original porosity. The resulting material has its thickness reduced by about half, but is significantly stronger with a reduced pore size and an ESR (equivalent series resistance) equal or lower. Both supercapacitors and lithium ion benefit since the amount of electrolyte, which is expensive, used in the separators can be reduced by up to 70% in the separator, reducing overall electrolyte usage by 30%. Higher energy density in the cells can be achieved. Crucially, for lithium ion batteries, Dreamweaver’s technology for going thinner still yields a thermally stable nonwoven. The company’s highest performing product, Gold Standard, is embedded with Twaron, a man-made fibre produced by Teijin Aramid. Properties include excellent strength, high

dimensional stability and high heat resistance. The fibre only starts to melt and degrade at 500°C. Ceramic-based separators, however, are limited in terms of how thin they can go before mechanical properties are affected. Litarion has certainly tried and the limit is about 20 microns. “Ceramics, when compressed, tend to crush, whereas fibres turn into composites, which is beneficial as this retains strength, for example,” says Morin. Dreamweaver’s strategy is to commercialize its technology with supercapacitor producers initially, working with start-ups and early stage companies, looking to disrupt the market. One customer includes Zapgocharger, a UK company behind a graphene supercapacitor and is commercializing a device capable of charging mobile electronics in a few minutes. “We are now moving up the food chain, now that we have customers that we can point to, using our separators,” says Morin. Several large supercapacitor companies are in industrial trials with the material. The company has developed prototypes of a 15 micron product for supercapacitors and has developed a 20 micron product for the lithium ion battery industry. Products as low as 10 microns will eventually follow. “The lithium ion battery industry either consists of big or huge players, so we anticipate it will take longer to commercialize our separators in this industry. In addition development cycles are much longer in the lithium ion battery industry than the supercaps industry,” says Morin. The company is at the early sampling stage for lithium ion battery cells. “Olefin separators are the real competition, in other words single or multilayer substrates with a ceramic layer coated on the surface, as opposed to the more technically advanced ceramic separators, where the substrate and the ceramic particles are more infused,” he says. “What we term as olefin separators dominate the market, but we see lots of opportunity for higher safety separators, for large format cells.”

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 67

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CALIFORNIA California’s commitment to energy storage is catching on — as much as by relentless regulatory demands as the economic logic that seems to be showing its value. Sara Verbruggen reports.

Lessons for the energy storage brave Point 1: Legislate distributed energy storage into existence Point 2: Or else. You don’t have much of a choice Point 3: Make it profitable. That’s if you can California — the US state with an economy worth just under the top five countries of the world — now ranks with Germany as the leader in terms of renewable energy and seems to be edging ahead in energy storage development. Rather than wait for a new disruptive technology in the form of intelligent battery energy storage to force changes in the market; a process that can drag on for years, California’s policy makers and regulators have virtually shoehorned the technology into the market by a mix of mandates, incentives and rule changes. Just over two years ago the California Public Utilities Commission announced a target for the state’s privately owned utilities to procure 1.3GW of energy storage by 2020. The CPUC’s rationale was that energy storage is a vital part of the grid of the future, and should be deployed right away. But, even today, as more countries cautiously turn to the technology, California’s market, measured in terms of installed capacity and projects contracted and under construction, remains the largest single market for grid-connected batteries in the world.

It exceeds the eastern seaboard where the regional transmission operator PJM Interconnection is paying for energy storage to provide frequency response and dwarfs the collective markets of Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain and France. But, more importantly, California supports a variety of energy storage models, with an even spread across customer-owned, utility-owned and third party-owned projects. In addition to the multi-megawatt utility-led in-front-of-meter projects, California’s behind-the-meter market is the largest in the US. According to GTM Research, annual demand for solar-plus-storage in the US is forecast to reach just under 800MW in 2020 with the majority of this capacity going in behind-the-meter. Over half of this market is in California, where peak demand charges for commercial and industrial (C&I) electricity users are high compared to other parts of the country. John Schaaf, vice president and general manager of distributed energy storage, at Johnson Controls says California is a frontrunner in some of the states that are moving ahead of initial expectations. “California is probably

the most advanced,” he says. “California’s key policy makers — the energy commission, the utilities commission and the ISO are aligned in their objectives and that has really helped facilitate the demand for energy storage.” The behind-the-meter energy storage market, despite the growing interest, is at an early stage. For it to prove itself commercially, energy storage systems will need to execute multiple tasks to tap several revenue streams to be economically viable. Models being commercialized at present are occurring in the C&I market, since the high demand charges that these electricity customers pay to utilities create an economic driver for using storage. For Johnson Controls, the global battery maker, which operates a building efficiency business, offering a battery storage system developed specifically for commercial and public institution properties expands upon the company’s portfolio of products and services. Johnson Controls will market and sell its energy storage offering to its existing customer base, primarily made up of large institutional clients,

There are four factors driving demand for distributed energy storage. These are the high cost of demand charges for commercial utility customers, the closing of local nuclear plants, the state-wide mandate requiring 1.3GW of energy storage by 2020 and, the Self Generation Incentive Program that provides funding for distributed energy storage resources. — Marc Roper, chief commercial officer at Coda Energy

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 69


The 4MW/28MWh Yerba Buena storage plant: operational since 2013, uses molten salt batteries for reliability improvements. But also operates in an islanding mode, providing resiliency, a key benefit for one of the local area’s biggest electricity users.

within its building efficiency business. “In several cases some of these have been clients of Johnson Controls for 10, 20 or 30 years. For them energy storage will be attractive as it complements existing measures to use energy more efficiency and reduce expendi-

ture on energy but will enable them to reduce costs further through peak shaving and shifting.” While Johnson Controls has yet to install any of its new behind-themeter buildings storage systems in California, it has a healthy pipeline of

The progress so far with the 1.3GW mandate California’s big three are procuring storage to comply with the state’s 1.3GW mandate. In late 2014 SCE announced it had procured 261MW of energy storage as part of its first tranche of targets to meet its total 580MW share of the 2020 mandate broken down as: AES Energy Storage




Advanced Microgrid Solutions Ice Energy Holdings

50MW 25.6MW

NRG Energy


Once deployed, the systems will provide a number of services to SCE’s power grid, including ensuring adequate available electrical capacity to meet peak demand. The majority of the technology deployed is based on lithium ion battery storage. Last December, PG&E unveiled its first bunch of storage contracts, which amount to 75MW, as part of its overall target of delivering 580MW by 2020. The first of these comes online in May 2017. The utility put out request for information

70 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

(RFIs) a year ago. In addition to third-party owned storage offers, PG&E issued a list of five distribution substations where it would like to consider energy storage projects on distribution circuits to defer distribution investments. PG&E also identified three sites where it owns and operates solar PV facilities, where energy storage could be added. The projects are all battery-based except one flywheel — a first for the utility. Amber Kinetics (flywheel)


Hecate Energy (lithium ion battery) 10MW Next Era Energy (lithium ion battery)30MW Convergent (zinc air battery)


Western Grid (zinc air battery) 


Hecate Energy (lithium ion battery)


Hecate Energy (lithium ion battery)


SDG&E has to procure 165MW by 2020, since it has the smallest load of all three and has yet to announce any awarded contracts. When it issued its RFI in 2014 SDG&E called for a minimum of 25MW of storage, but allows for a maximum of 800MW of energy

projects in the state, says Schaaf. “Culturally, too, Californian electricity customers in the C&I segment are more aware of energy storage, which helps, while other states in the US are starting to follow suit.” Marc Roper, chief commercial officer at Coda Energy, which makes and operates behind-the-meter, commercial and industrial energy storage systems, lists four factors for driving demand for distributed energy storage in the state. “These are: the high cost of demand charges for commercial utility customers; the closing of local nuclear power plants; the state-wide mandate requiring 1.3GW of energy storage to be installed by 2020; and, the existence of the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) that provides funding for distributed energy storage resources.” The company’s business is focused on providing distributed resources to help reduce California’s electricity demand during peak hours, including the aggregation of stored resources to

storage systems that could be procured. To reach the 1.3GW mandate, targets for the three utilities will escalate over time. The next will be later this year and the last in 2018. The utilities’ targets are also divided within different places on the grid network: transmission-connected, distribution system-connected storage and for customer-side (behindthe-meter) storage. This provides flexibility in terms of compliance as the storage deployed must prove to be cost-effective. This is defined in terms of the benefits outweighing the costs of energy storage installation over the duration of the system’s operation. Bids that do not meet those standards can be deferred by utilities, for up to 80% of the target, to the next period. There is also flexibility to allow the utilities to shift between the target categories to see where storage makes most sense on the grid. The mandate allows for different ownership models for storage. The overall target can be no more than 50% utility-owned but within a particular category this percentage can be higher, to ensure third party participation and competition.

CALIFORNIA storage as part of its obligations to the mandate. “The third party model has proved popular and will likely continue because utilities are very bankable offtakers and at the same time might want to leverage storage benefits without making big investments in such assets. So, California has used policy heft but the point is that other markets are opening up using a vari-

ety of different approaches,” says Lin. The largest project for SCE went to independent power producer AES, which was awarded in 2014 a 20-year power purchase agreement by the utility, to provide 100MW of batterybased energy storage, able to produce up to 400MWh of energy. The investment is to help meet the shortfall left by the retired San Onofre nuclear power station. Other options

Texas’s West Coast enthusiasm for change Energy storage-friendly markets don’t have to arise from mandates and legislative politics. In Texas, the non-profit Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is in the process of rule changing. But the energy storage industry must use this window of opportunity to make its case heard. In Texas, utilities are transmission and distribution (T&D) companies. Similar to Europe, as part of market deregulation in the late 1990s Texas regulators unbundled generation of electricity from activities concerning supplying electricity, to end utilities’ monopolies and open up the market to competition. Utilities in the state can build energy storage but it would be for functions solely concerned with transmission and distribution of electricity. As utilities, such as Oncor — which has had to shelve its gridscale storage plans — cannot use the asset, under current market rules, to provide ancillary grid services or other market services. Put simply, building batteries on the grid is an expensive way to address voltage support issues or to defer network infrastructure investment. Unsurprisingly utilities will always opt for more cost-effective alternatives available. Independent power producers (IPPs), or generators, are not prohibited from building storage on the grid and to use these assets to sell services or do arbitrage, but the ability to extract all the value, as the application of the asset is limited, again, is not quite there. Or not yet. “As an energy storage developer, for example, you’d like to get

a contract to provide network services to Oncor, such as voltage support services. But utilities are paid to build and operate assets, and there is no incentive to contract this out,” says Chad Blevins, an adviser at The Butler Firm, which has been working with ERCOT. (ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers – representing 85% of the state’s electric load.) Instead, ERCOT and its advisers have been looking at how distributed energy resources (DERs), for example energy storage, can offer services into the wholesale power market. In the registration process it is easier for DERs to register with ERCOT once. For example, an energy storage developer that specializes in putting behind-themeter batteries into buildings of commercial electricity users, can register all of its distributed batteries as one resource. This single portfolio can also provide more flexibility. While some of the individual assets may be at a low state of charge, others, elsewhere, won’t be. The portfolio as a whole can meet the amount, or demand, or services contracted for. For many energy storage providers, their business model relies on stacking revenue benefits. Batteries are still too expensive to rationalize their use for just one application. However, as companies such as Stem are proving, building owners are willing to pay them for a service that reduces their demand charge,

in submitted bids that AES went up against, included thermal generation, demand response as well as preferred resources.

Utility-scale storage

The battery plant, which will come online by 2021, is a cost-effective alternative to a new gas peaker. The 100MW acts as both generation and load, enabling more than twice the which is tied to kW (as opposed to kWh usage) and is the high water mark for power. Energy storage batteries can help keep customers safely from breaching it and incurring excessive rates added to their bills. These system providers can also be paid for offering back-up as a service, as many companies cannot afford to risk being without power, or experience power quality events. That leaves capacity in each battery in the portfolio, or fleet, to provide grid services enabling the developer to extract fuller revenues within the Texas market. “Then, in time, with actual distributed storage assets sitting on various parts of the grid, developers can eventually be in stronger position to pitch for T&D type of work,” says Blevins. “As a service as it will be easier to convince a utility that you are equipped to provide these and point to existing operating assets, rather than, say, the utility building a new substation.” Blevins reckons the new DER market could be online by the third quarter of 2017. “If you think about it for many developers, they are already completing their pipelines for 2016, so 2017 is not that far off.” Some energy storage providers, companies like Stem, have been involved in conversations with ERCOT about the market changes. Blevins says: “For companies, thinking of participating in 2017, it is the language of the market reforms that is being crafted right now. I would urge potential participants, like energy storage providers, to have your say. There are a lot of companies at these ERCOT meetings, and they are all saying what how they think the market rule changes should be worded, and these are not companies that are in favour of energy storage.”

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 71

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CALIFORNIA lic Utilities Commission. The company is the first commercial energy storage provider to be chosen for Southern California Edison’s Preferred Resources Program. The initiative is focused on increasing distributed storage in the Orange County region. “Given the infancy of the industry, we have dedicated time to hone best practices in energy storage safety, interconnection and installation education, including customers, municipalities (cities and AHJs [Authorities Having Jurisdictions]) and California non-IOU utilities,” says Roper. Carla Peterman, CPUC commissioner: “The desire is to keep growing the renewables capacity but also address the oversupply issue.

participate in utility demand response events. Since its introduction in 2001, the SGIP has driven deployment of clean distributed energy resources such as wind turbines and fuel cells and facilitated their integration into California’s grid. Funding for the incentive scheme, which had been amended to include storage, was set to expire at the end of 2014. But a new law passed maintains funding at the current annual level of $83 million through 2019 and the programme’s operation through 2021. In 2013, energy storage projects accounted for the majority of SGIP applications. It is, without doubt, a crucial incentive for behind-the-meter storage in the state. While California is leading the way, other states are starting to follow suit. For example, both Texas and New York are going through grid evaluation proceedings that are creating new energy storage opportunities in the future, which will help to facilitate distributed energy storage. In California, Coda Energy has been informing utility and state energy storage policy through being a member of the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) and participating in proceedings with the California Pub-

Green energy, a 1940s legacy

Since California issued its mandate a handful of others have also moved to issue their own, including Oregon, which sets out a target of 5MWh by 2020. In other places, like Hawaii and New York, utilities have announced storage solicitations. But none match the scale of California’s mandate. But, the market in California today is borne out of a state that experienced first-hand the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, even in the 1940s as a result of Los Angeles undergoing rapid population growth and industrialization, which also coincided with the automotive boom. The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a product of decades of previous legislative development, set the stage for the state’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future and tackle climate change. The act set out a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. California has also experienced a broken electricity system, when following deregulation during 2000 and 2001, energy company Enron was able to manipulate market prices by shutting down pipelines to artificially decrease supply leading to an 800% increase in wholesale electricity prices. It led to Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy and many businesses experienced rolling blackouts — the sorts of potential problems that grid operators in Europe are only just starting to

California supports a variety of energy storage models, with an even spread across customerowned, utility-owned and third party-owned projects. In addition to the multi-megawatt utility-led in-front-ofmeter projects, California’s behind-the-meter market is the largest in the US.

Janice Lin, CESA : “Policy is as important to market development as technology and market solutions. It creates the rules for the market”

have to get their heads around. California continues to proceed with its clean energy focus. Last October, the state expanded on its 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy, with governor Jerry Brown signing into law a bill requiring utilities procure 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030. Within this context, issuing a mandate for the state’s public utilities to procure 1.3GW of energy storage by 2020 seems reasonable given the size of California’s economy, the historical efforts by the state to decarbonize its environment, from cars to energy production, and embrace renewables, while trying to maintain a secure and reliable electricity supply. CPUC commissioner Carla Peterman said: “The desire is to keep growing the renewables capacity but also address the oversupply issue, so storage is a tool that can help with that. Storage devices can store that power at times when it is less valuable and move it to times of high demand.” In terms of meeting their procurement targets the state’s three investorowned utilities, PG&E, Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) exceeded these early on. “They were against storage, initially, but have now begun to embrace it. They evaluated the benefits with pilot projects and when the request for offers came in they were attractive, the first test of cost-effectiveness,” says Janice Lin, executive director of CESA. SCE has procured 216MW, while PG&E has just announced it has signed contracts for 75MW of energy

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 73


A natural progression as JCI moves into behind-the-meter storage Johnson Controls announced its large-scale entry into distributed energy storage last October in a move that had been anticipated — but surprised all the same. The system, says John Schaaf vice president and general manager of distributed energy storage, is 85%-90% produced in-house by the company, from the lithium ion battery cells up to racks and containerized units, as well as software. Only the inverters are sourced from third party manufacturers. Johnson Controls’ offering is a natural extension to its existing building efficiency business. Customers of the company typically own facilities such as military bases, hospitals, governmental offices and university campus buildings and have been contracting Johnson Controls to manage their energy usage in different ways. “Our rationale for entering the market with a product was based on reviewing some earlier forecasts made by analysts a few years ago about the projected growth of energy storage, globally and within North America in particular. The market has been developing at such a rate that many of these forecast’s predictions are materializing, in contrast to the electric vehicles market, where those projected numbers and values are taking longer than initially expected to happen,” says Schaaf. The company has supplied its smallest sized system, which is 85MWh, to a retailer in Chicago, Merchandize Mart, which has been using it to provide frequency response services to the PJM Interconnection since summer. The second operational installation, is a grid-connected 510MWh container installed at a military base on Puerto Rico and is being used to meet ramping requirements for a solar array also installed at the base. Meanwhile, Johnson Controls’ third energy storage project, went live in December. The 510MWh

74 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

“The key policy makers. the energy commission, the utilities commission and the ISO, are aligned in their objectives and have helped facilitate the demand for energy storage” — John Schaaf, Johnson Controls (1MW inverter) container is being installed at a large industrial customer in Illinois, to be used primarily for providing frequency regulation services into the PJM Interconnection and for power factor correction, ensuring that the customer’s voltage quality is maintained at all times. By being an almost vertically integrated producer of energy storage systems— bar the PCS hardware — Johnson Control has several options in which to

be a player in the market as it continues to evolve. The hardware and controls could be adapted, potentially, for other segments like residential. “In terms of MW volumes residential will not be as big as utility or C&I markets for storage but it will still be a significant market in the US,” says Schaaf. “Especially as costs reduce and battery capability enhances. It’s an intriguing market, as utilities become more comfortable with storage, especially coupled with residential PV, as it can bring all kinds of benefits.” The cell chemistry used in the company’s batteries for stationary storage is the same as those for its electric vehicles battery business, achieving a balance between both power and energy values. However, the cell formats are larger for stationary storage. The cells and batteries are produced in Michigan. Within a large, established business the energy storage team led by Schaaf operates within the company as a distinct entity, reporting directly into the corporate level. This enables it to move relatively quickly in true start-up fashion, while being able to benefit from the company’s longevity and reputation — a 130 year history — something which start-ups in the industry do not have and have to rely on lithium battery OEMs to provide. The first three projects have been financed with capital by the customers, but Johnson Controls is evaluating other financing models. This is an area the company will issue more clarity on in future. “But, yes, we see it as a necessity that, to win business, alternative leasing or third party financing may be required.” Schaaf has been working at Johnson Controls for 25 years, for the first 17 in the building efficiency business and for five in power solutions, giving him insight into how both businesses can mutually benefit each other.


Troy Miller: over three years costs have reduced by a factor of three almost. Most of this is via reductions in lithium ion battery prices

flexible range of a traditional peaker plant on the same transmission infrastructure. AES develops battery storage systems through its energy storage division and is able to offer the technology as part of a portfolio of options that it can make available to utilities for new capacity, which also include combined cycle power plants. Projects like the one with SCE show

how comfortable utilities today have become with large-scale energy storage. They have been piloting the technology for a number of years to understand how such assets integrate into existing infrastructure. California has kick-started developments, agrees Troy Miller, director of the grid solutions arms at S&C Electric Company. “California is a highly competitive market for energy storage and over three years costs have reduced by a factor of three almost. Most of this is via reductions in lithium ion battery prices,” says Miller. The company’s customers include utilities and S&C has worked on larger-scale energy storage projects in the US, including four installations in California. As with behind-the-meter energy storage, grid-scale projects can achieve acceptable payback if they can stack revenues or provide several different functions or services. One of these is the 4MW/28MWh Yerba Buena storage plant, operational since 2013, which uses molten salt batteries. S&C served as the lead engineering, procurement and construc-

“The international understanding of California as the most dynamic and fast-growing market for energy storage technology is changing. There’s a huge amount of catch-up starting to happen across the country. You wouldn’t expect it to be homogenous, and it’s not, but it’s signalling a possible explosion of business yet to come.”

tion contractor on the project. Yerba Buena’s main application is for reliability improvements. But it also operates in an islanding mode, providing resiliency, a key benefit for one of the local area’s biggest electricity users, a PG&E commercial customer in the semiconductor industry.

The projects continue

The installation has also bid into the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) ancillary services market, which has changed its market rules to enable technologies like battery-based energy storage to provide frequency regulation services. The Vaca Dixon installation, in Vacaville, is a 2MW/14MWh system used for load shaping, renewables integration, and ancillary services, which has been live since 2012. The plant was initially built to provide peak shaving but now provides ancillary grid services into CAISO. One of S&C Electric’s first energy storage projects in California was the Santa Rita jail microgrid. The 2MW/4MWh lithium ion energy storage system is connected to inverters, solar PV, some small wind, diesel generation and fuel cells. With the storage system and the power controls, the high security jail has electricity even when there is an outage. Since the microgrid began operating, the solar PV resource has been expanded, from 1MW to almost 3MW of PV. The 4MWh energy storage system gives up to two hours of backup power, and in case of an outage, provides spinning reserve and onsite renewable energy generation shifting, allowing the jail’s microgrid to use as much onsite renewable energy generation as possible while also ensuring reliability. The most recent Californian project completed by S&C was for a large utility, in the San Diego area. The 1MW/2MWh installation, which uses lithium ion batteries, was originally awarded three years ago. A recent report published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, titled The Economics of Battery Energy Storage, extols the benefits of distributed energy storage. However, Miller believes not all grid challenges are best dealt with by aggregating lots of behind-the-meter batteries. “An issue that is looming in North America, which energy storage can address, is localized capacity constraints, which are eased by assets bid-

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 75

CALIFORNIA ding into a resource adequacy market, a 24 hour market,” he says. This issue is beginning to show its head and will continue as more power plants are shut down and more renewables are added. “The question is whether behindthe-meter energy storage, such as aggregated individual distributed assets, is the best approach. If, say, 3MW is required, will a hundred 3kW systems aggregated be best or is it better to site three 1MW assets situated on mid-way feeder points, assets which are owned by the utility?” says Miller. S&C has delivered such a project in Ohio, a 7MW/3MWh system for providing frequency regulation services to PJM Interconnection, while also deferring costly grid works. “For eight to 10 days of the year it is required for peak shaving and PJM is looking at energy storage for easing localized capacity constraints,” says Miller.

A fast market

Behind-the-meter storage has helped to launch start-ups, many based in California, developing energy stor-

age systems that integrate hardware components, including batteries and inverters, controlled by advanced software. Meanwhile traditional utility supply chain companies, like S&C, are more likely to be found supplying and building grid-scale in front-of-meter storage. However, longer term the prospects for distributed energy storage look increasingly optimistic, compared with previous forecasts. Behind-the-meter energy storage can technically provide the largest number of services to the electricity grid at large, even if storage deployed behindthe-meter is not always the least-cost option. According to modelling done by CESA, using California’s grid services market, even small increments of energy storage can have large impacts on the grid. CESA’s modelling runs use CAISO’s 2014 RPS scenario of 40% for longterm procurement planning. The modelling aimed to understand how grid emissions, unit starts, and

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76 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

curtailment would change with energy storage. Modelling spanned several scenarios, including one with no energy storage, and three with storage, in each assuming 60% round trip efficiency. In the first energy storage scenario but with the least capacity, the modelling assumes 412.5MW of two-hour energy storage based on behind-themeter and distribution-sited installations spread across each of the investor owned utilities’ territories plus the SGIP’s target. This is equivalent to 0.5% of California’s total generation capacity. CESA’s modelling found that savings of over 203,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are possible, along with a reduction of nearly 3000 unit starts across the system, which is a 6.4% reduction in total annual fossil fuel unit starts. The 412.5MW of two-hour energy storage also reduced renewable curtailment by 8.1% equating to shifting 299,002MWh of renewable energy that would have otherwise been wasted and helping to ensure California’s RPS portfolio target is reached costeffectively. Other states are seeing the advantage of adapting their electricity networks to accommodate more distributed energy resources, including behind-themeter storage. But, the will of the market alone cannot ensure that energy storage finds its way into the grids to help alleviate the challenges that operators and utilities are facing. The Rocky Mountain Institute report’s promising findings come with a caveat, that regulatory barriers must be overcome. Lin says: “Policy is every bit as important to market development as technology and market solutions are. It creates the rules by which the market can play.” Since California issued its mandate, other US states are beginning to move toward energy-storage friendly grids. “The international understanding of California as the US leader and the most dynamic and fast-growing market for energy storage technology is changing,” says one industry commentator. “We’re now thinking that there’s a huge amount of catch-up starting to happen across the country. You wouldn’t expect it to be homogenous, of course, and it’s not, but it’s signalling a possible explosion of business yet to come.”

NORTH AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL MARKET Providers of energy storage systems have been working with solar photovoltaic installers, but now utilities want a cut of the action. Sara Verbruggen reports

End of net-metering spells opportunity for energy storage Passing fad. In a nutshell that was the attitude of energy utilities towards rooftop solar PV technology eight to 10 years ago in the US. In contrast to Europe, where residential uptake has formed the core of solar markets like Germany and the UK, only recently has residential PV demand in the US started to meaningfully contribute to the market’s growth as utility and commercialscale PV have done. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found the US residential PV market is growing strongly with year-on-year increases of around 70%. Today around a million homes in the US have solar panels installed. Falling costs have certainly contributed to this growth. But there are also other factors at play. Across 43 states, encouraged by law, the roll out of net metering programmes has also encouraged PV take-up. Utilities pay out retail prices for surplus solar electricity that those commercial or residential customers, with panels installed, export to the grid. Solar City, Sun Edison and other installers have cornered the residential solar PV market, offering no-moneydown systems, blowing demand wide open. In California, most solar installations in the residential segment are financed through leasing deals and other third party arrangements, with other states, such as Georgia, recently following suit. What started as a passing fad has morphed into something else. Incentivizing solar PV has made the technology popular but the projected cost of maintaining and expanding the grid to allow lots more distributed power plants send electricity back up the

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wires means net metering is no longer a viable option. Meanwhile, the solar industry itself signals a threat since installers are in a strong position to pitch an alternative option to customers concerned about rising energy costs and energy efficiency. Germany has showed how, in practice, battery storage was the missing jigsaw piece that, combined with solar PV, puts residential electricity customers in charge of energy that they generate and use. Utilities are playing catch-up to understand the technology. “For utilities, smart energy storage becomes compelling, especially if they are able to control or manage these distributed energy resources (DERs),” says Ken Munson, chief executive and co-founder of Sunverge. “Also they don’t want to be caught flat-footed, potentially losing customers to solar companies that are able to swoop in and supply energy storage on a largescale by offering a cleaner and more cost-effective energy alternative.” Sunverge, headquartered in San Francisco, provides smart energy storage systems, which includes advanced software as well as battery storage hardware. And, despite the shortcomings of its product offering, detailed in press coverage, the launch of Tesla’s Powerwall has further promoted energy storage in consumers’ minds. Ryan Wartena, founder of specialist energy storage software developer Growing Energy Labs Inc (GELI), says: “Tesla has made energy storage a must-have gadget. It has made a battery in the house desirable in the way that Apple made desktop computers desirable.” That has been the case even if, in

places like California, the need for storage among residential electricity consumers is for resiliency and backup. “Only in Hawaii is it economically attractive to install storage for selfconsumption. The only other places, worldwide at this stage, are Germany and Australia,” says Wartena. GELI has developed specialist software for energy storage, which the company describes as an energy operating system. The technology manages and underpins lots of different hardware inputs, be they batteries, solar PV, electric vehicles, air conditioning units, energy efficient lighting, for example, in the same way that a computer operating systems allows other hardware devices and software to plug in. “We recognize that this is not going to be a market dominated only by the ABBs and the GEs, but by the electronics and white goods firms. They all have a relevant offering, not just home batteries, but electronics and appliances,” says Wartena. One of the company’s partners is Japanese inverter and energy storage system producer Tabuchi Electric.

Net metering

The popularity of residential PV has led to many utilities calling for changes that in effect de-incentivize net metering, reducing the payback by, for instance, applying fixed charges. Utilities argue such schemes absolve solar customers from paying their share of costs that go towards maintaining and upgrading the grid, which is unfair. (After all, these customers are making use of the infrastructure to export their excess energy to the grid.) In 2013 the California Public Utilities Commission published a net me-

NORTH AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL MARKET tering study that predicted by 2020, non-solar customers in the state would be footing a bill of over $350 million annually. The study pointed out that most residential solar PV is installed by higher income earners — who tend to use more energy than their less well-off neighbours — effectively putting the cost of going green on to lower income earners. The state’s utilities also fought hard to restrict grid interconnection of PV plus energy storage systems. This was because these systems could store cheaper night-time electricity and could ring up net metering payments by later injecting it back into the grid. In Hawaii over 10% of the island’s roofs have solar panels, the highest penetration of any state. It also has the most ambitious renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandate of any in the US, requiring utilities to procure all of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2045. To meet this target, net metering has to ensure that all customers benefit from continued growth in distributed energy — not just those who have the ability to install solar PV. Utilities, despite having to ensure the security of electricity supply and that the grid functions properly — as well as increasing regulatory pressure to integrate renewables into the grid — are challenging incentive schemes that encourage adoption of solar. However, the solar industry represents the only real alternative choice for energy customers wishing to switch to clean electricity and lower bills. Or does it have to be like that? In the North American residential energy storage market a growing number of utilities and energy providers are piloting storage technology with their customers. And energy storage players are obliging with products and offerings that address concerns among utilities.

Customer pilots

One such player is Tabuchi Electric, the number five solar inverter supplier globally. The company, with a few others, won over Japan’s conservative utilities in its home market. After the 2011 earthquake, the tsunami and related nuclear crisis at Fukushima the Japanese government incentivized the uptake of renewables by one of the most generous feed-in tariff schemes in the world, proving an immense headache to the local utilities. Tabuchi developed an inverter tech-

RESIDENTIAL ENERGY DEBATE REKINDLED IN HAWAII TAKE-OVER The proposed take over of Hawaiian Electric Industries, the US state’s largest public utility by NextEra Energy, are coming to the closing stages this spring as hearings from the Public Utilities Commission draw to a close. In December 2014 NextEra agreed to merge with HEI in a deal valued at around $4.3 billion and with NextEra taking on $1.7 billion of HEI debt and with the separate spin-off of ASB Hawaii, effectively the parent company for a banking subsidiary. Since then the take-over has been the subject of much public debt, most particularly over the issue whether NextEra can deliver the state government’s plans to reaching Hawaii’s goal of 100% renewable energy in 2045. Also whether it can achieve nearly $465 million in customer savings and $500 million in economic benefits over the first five years of operation. Last July Hawaii state governor David Ige announced that he opposed the deal as did two state agencies, Hawaii’s Office of Planning and the Department of Business, Economic Development and nology that put control of how much solar electricity is exported to the grid in the hands of utilities. From PV inverters, Tabuchi moved developments on to an all-in-one battery inverter, using its hardware integrated with Panasonic’s batteries. The company has sold about 2,000 all-inone inverter-battery products in Japan and has shipped small volumes to Hawaii, California and Ontario, following the release of a North American version of its system in mid-2015. Drawing on lessons learned in Japan, Tabuchi’s products de-risk, from the utilities’ point of view, the integration of distributed solar energy into the grid. This makes it easier to directly manage distributed energy resources in the form of PV plus storage systems and optimize energy use across the grid. Functions include the ability to set a limit on how much electricity can be exported to the grid. The company has a nifty patent to help the utilities monitor where the residential energy pumped into the grid is coming from. The 10kWh capacity system, which includes a 5.5kW solar inverter with a bidirectional

Tourism. NextEra Energy — which is in effect part of utility Florida Power and Light — has offered additional commitments to help sweeten the deal. As another part of the deal, NextEra agreed to expand HEI’s smart-meter pilot programme to almost all of its 450,000 customers over the next two years. The programme would also include time-of-use rates, giving customers greater visibility into and control over their electricity usage. NextEra also agreed to donate at least $2.2 million in corporate donations each year for a minimum of 10 years if the deal is successful. This would match HEI’s 2014 charitable giving. Opposition to the take-over includes doubts over Florida Power and Light’s commitment to residential solar where uptake has been relatively poor. FPL points, however, to the fact that the case for PV adoption in Florida is poor as the economic case is hard to make given that the price of electricity costs much less than in Hawaii. DC-to-DC battery power converter, allows for separation of the solar PV array and the battery to distinguish if the output is from the panels or the battery.


In Ontario, the only Canadian province with a FiT (feed-in-tariff) subsidy for solar PV, the utilities are concerned about how coupled battery systems’ ability to inject cheap off-peak grid electricity back into the grid for subsidized prices. In 2014 Tabuchi announced a solar and storage pilot with Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation in Ontario, in Canada, which was funded by the Japanese government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). In the pilot, 30 homes in Oshawa are being fitted with solar panels as well as Tabuchi’s energy storage systems. Each of the homes can choose if they want to store, sell or use the electricity generated by the solar panels. Stored electricity could be used during a power outage, or residents could use power stored during overnight off-

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“Utilities … don’t want to be caught flat-footed, potentially losing customers to solar companies that are able to swoop in and supply energy storage on a large-scale by offering a cleaner and more cost-effective energy alternative” — Ken Munson, Sunverge

peak hours during the day when electricity is more expensive. Another key aspect of the pilot is to see how the storage systems perform in Canada’s cold winters and its suitability as a back-up power source during outages. This is achieved by isolating the power of the household. Sunverge has also supplied a pilot in Ontario run by Powerstream, one of the province’s energy suppliers.

THE EVER SPEEDIER ROAD TO RICHES Typically a new technology such as intelligent energy storage, goes through several stages on the pathway to commercialization. Technical evaluation proves the technology works in practice. This is followed by evaluation in the field, the point at which end user cases are tested and the system undergoes further adjustment and refinement, before moving into customer evaluation, or pilots. The period between field evaluations and customer pilots may have taken two or three years before, but Sunverge’s Ken Munson says: “This period is compressing. Market players, such as utilities and energy companies want to move faster to customer evaluation, to begin to rapidly understand what sort of service they should offer to the market and to get their offering right.”

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The trial, comprising 20 residential customers of Powerstream with rooftop solar panels and Sunverge’s 11.4kWh battery systems installed, forms part of a plan by the utility to reduce overall power consumption in its service area by 535MWh by 2020. This is the equivalent of taking more than 62,000 homes off the grid. Powerstream, which is community-owned, by the cities of Vaughan, Barrie and Markham, has nearly 400,000 customers based north of Toronto and in the centre of the province. Using Sunverge’s software the separate batteries are managed by Powerstream as one aggregated resource — a virtual power plant — at the point of load. Again, the project will allow the utility to see how the lithium ion batterybased systems operate in cold temperatures and function as a reliable back-up source of electricity for the homes. According to Munson, Powerstream and other progressive energy providers and utilities see distributed energy resources, based on PV coupled with storage, as a technology that can potentially be rolled out to large numbers of individual customers, helping them manage their electricity consumption. “But, when aggregated together as a single large-scale multi-MW resource, behind-the-meter energy storage is able to provide grid balancing services such as frequency control instead of building new peaking plants, or lets a utility defer expensive upgrades on portions of the distribution infrastructure,” says Munson. At the regulatory level, changes — Ontario’s proposed net metering programme, which is scheduled to go into effect by at least early 2018 — will make self-consumption attractive, financially, helping to drive demand for residential PV and storage systems. For Powerstream, the detailed, realtime insights concerning the virtual power plant and the local distribution system’s performance will allow the utility to make more informed decisions about how the storage assets are managed when the decision is taken to commercially roll out energy storage. This could mean that some utilities will be entering full-scale rollout of storage technology among their customers in 18 or even 12 months from now. Munson co-founded Sunverge with Dean Sanders, the chief technology officer and founder of another company, called Inertia Engineering, to develop

a utility-friendly tool for managing loads on the grid, in other words electricity usage focused on customers, both residential and commercial. “We have a background in energy storage technology as it relates to distribution electric utilities. By understanding this environment we’ve designed a product as a utility would look at a traditional asset on the network, like transformer equipment or diesel generation sets,” says Munson. “What we see mainly in the market is companies with a battery in a box or a sophisticated inverter integrated with a battery product. We can offer the whole solution — the hardware, controls and the software. What’s more, we can also lay our software over energy storage systems from other hardware providers, so they can operate their energy storage systems with the same level of granularity that we already know utilities and power companies are happy and comfortable with.” Sunverge’s software is compatible across different products coming to market and can serve the needs of the utilities’ various customers, as well as the utilities themselves. “Selling our integrated energy storage system will always be our top priority, however we recognize that to encourage overall market growth, we need to support other systems,” says Munson. It is a shrewd strategy. When a utility plans a commercial rollout of energy storage, across thousands or tens of thousands of customers, they will want to use more than one provider, to spread the risk that is inherent in depending on a single supplier. This approach is already being adopted by utilities when changing over their traditional meters to smart meters. However, the utility might specify that all the systems it procures are compatible with one software platform. In the same way that organizations don’t want to have to use multiple accounting applications to manage their finances, they are not going to want to use multiple platforms for managing their disparate distributed energy resources. “They want one view into all the DERs on their grid, regardless of which vendor made the DERs,” says Munson.

Multiple benefits

By being closer to the end customer on the grid network energy storage can

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NORTH AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL MARKET provide multiple benefits. The muchdiscussed revenue stacking model is still more of a concept than a reality with most installations having just one, two or three functions. However, according to ‘The Economics of Battery Energy Storage’ a report published by the Rocky Mountain Institute last October, distributed energy storage assets can provide up to 13 different services, across three stakeholder groups; electricity end customer services, independent system operator (ISO)/regional transmission operator (RTO) services and utility services. To better serve utilities and grid operators with various services or benefits that range from frequency regulation to distribution deferral and transmission congestion relief, multiple batteries popping up all over the grid are more useful if they can be aggregated and controlled as one asset. Under current market rules, not all of these possible services are yet applicable. Still, utilities are interested in future-proofed goods. According to Neil Maguire who founded Juice Box which is headquartered in California, public utility Pacific gas & Electric likes his company’s product because it can do peak shaving, load-shifting and back-up power as well as be programmed to avoid exporting to the grid during peak solar generation. Like Sunverge’s system, Juice Box’s systems have enough gas in the tank to ensure that residential customers get maximum benefit too. The 8.6kWh energy storage system has 5.5kW of power — in comparison, Tesla’s 7kWh and 10kWh Powerwalls both have 2kW of continuous power — plenty to power some of a typical household’s appliances and loads at once, without tripping any breakers, including, microwaves, refrigerators, garage door openers, lighting and wifi outlets, during peak times. However, Maguire says: “Right now, for residential customers, energy storage systems are still too pricey if the only value considered is peak shifting to save money via time-of-use rate structures. All the initial customers also place value on back-up power, clean energy at night, advanced technology, or the desire for greater independence from the grid and utilities. It is not purely a return on investment decision.” Juice Box has chosen to focus on solar installer channels through which to distribute its system and now has

60 installers on board. The company has been running training sessions for installers to ensure they are able to sell and install a system in a predictable, profitable and reliable way. “Our aim is to make a storage product that is simple and straightforward for small, two man, installation crews to install for their customers. All systems are set up by default to do peak shaving then adjusted according to local requirements and rate structures. A deep integration with the inverter allows the installer to simply press a button to commission the system,” says Maguire. Juice Box expects to ship some 1000 units in North America this year and has been taking enquiries from Europe and is also exploring options for Australia. The projection is in line with other manufacturers of energy storage systems that are supplying the North American market. The company’s intellectual property

“All the initial customers also place value on back-up power, clean energy at night, advanced technology, or the desire for greater independence from the grid and utilities. It is not purely a return on investment decision” — Neil Maguire, Juice Box

ENDING NET METERING, A BATTLE HARD-FOUGHT ON BOTH SIDES Two years ago, a report ‘Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Energy Business’, published by the Edison Electric Institute advocated that utilities, to recover costs, should be able to levy fixed monthly charges on solar panel owners. An alternative was to revise the net metering buy-back rates paid to these customers to be based on wholesale as opposed to the much higher retail electricity rates. The report’s author Peter Hind, a veteran of investment banking, specializing in utility and power sector finance, has since changed his stance, and his revised views can be read in report published in October 2015 by Ceres, a non-profit that directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of institutional investors with collective assets totalling more than $13 trillion. In Pathway to a 21st Century Electric Utility Hind thinks that penalizing technological advancement with fixed charges is not in the best interests of energy consumers or society as a whole. It will slow progress but it won’t kill it. And, while adopting monthly fixed or demand charges systemwide might reduce financial risk for

utility revenue collections for the immediate future, as a long-term strategy it is flawed. Nevertheless, utilities in a growing number of states, where distributed PV generation uptake is high, have trained their sights on net metering. Predictably, such proposals have proved controversial among solar advocates. In October, Californian solar supporters gathered outside the offices of Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E) to protest against the utility’s proposal of a policy to replace net metering once caps are reached. These include moving solar customers to time-of-use rates, a monthly demand charge of a few dollars per kilowatt and calls for PV system owners be credited at a lower rate than retail electricity. Solar proponents argued such proposals will curb rooftop solar PV adoption in the residential segment. PG&E’s proposals for rolling back net metering followed similar moves in Hawaii, where regulators have published new rules for selfconsumption. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has issued a ruling that closes net metering to new applicants that are customers of the island’s utility Hawaiian Electric.

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NORTH AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL MARKET Juice Box’s software developments also allow systems to be updated and repaired in situ without turning the system off and affecting the homeowner.

Market strategies

“We want to provide the picks and shovels in an automated sense to the solar installers and the developers. There are many companies that can deliver solar and storage, but they don’t have the necessary tools to bring everything together” — Ryan Wartena, GELI

is around the system’s software controls, its ability to optimize battery life, aggregate a network of distributed devices and also allow for the systems to be configured, depending on local factors that change state-by-state and utility-by-utility. For example, in Arizona, solar dropoff patterns would differ to a region in the north-east. The software configures the system for operation in various regions or states, due to different tariff structures, grid regulations, utility requirements as well as seasonal changes.

Like Juice Box, German energy storage system supplier Sonnenbatterie has arrangements with solar companies as distribution partners. The most recent of these is Atlanta-headquartered Hannah Solar. The state’s Free Market Finance Act of 2015 has created a market where third party ownership of solar is allowed. Georgia is one of the fast-growing solar states in the US. Sonnenbatterie’s other solar partners include Sungevity. The company is also working with utilities and energy retailers in North America, with the view to doing customer pilots. “Similar to Europe where we have relationships with the utility RWE and green electricity supplier Lichtblick, we are looking to implement similar schemes in the US and are in talks with utilities and energy retailers for pilots,” says Boris von Bormann, who runs the US division of Sonnenbatterie, based in California. He sees that changes in net metering rules that are occurring in the US, will only help to accelerate the growth of solar PV and storage. “It is similar to the German market where we are almost exclusively servicing the self-consumption model because of a spread of the FiT to the retail rate.” The company is supplying energy storage systems in substantial vol-

JUICE BOX Juice Box’s energy storage system packs enough power to provide electricity for most of a typical American home’s loads. The system works by feeding all the energy from the rooftop PV panels into the PV inverter, supplied in this case by Solar Edge, which connects to the storage inverter, supplied by Schneider Electric. The inverter is programmed to either pass the electricity through to the loads or charge the battery. When the grid fails, this configuration allows the battery and Schneider’s inverter to provide the necessary voltage and frequency to emulate the grid and keep the Solar Edge inverter alive to continue to use solar for the protected loads

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panel and to recharge the batteries in preparation for the next night. The company provides both DC and AC configured energy storage, with the DC-coupled solution ideal for new PV with storage installations, as it is simpler and cheaper. The best part about the AC-coupled configuration is that it can be used with existing installs for microinverters and grid tied inverters without anyone having to get on the roof to re-wire it. The company is looking at high voltage batteries and more integrated solutions. “But the modular approach has a lot of flexibility in terms of where it is installed and allows us to support other inverters in the future,” says CEO Neil Maguire.

umes, mainly in Germany, where it has sold around 8,000 systems and has set up a contract manufacturing partnership to serve the US market. GELI too is also partnering with companies active in the solar PV industry. One of these is Rexel-owned Gexpro, a national electrical distribution company with a solar PV division. “We want to provide the picks and shovels in an automated sense to the solar installers and the developers,” says Wartena. “There are many companies that can deliver solar and storage, but they don’t have the necessary tools to bring everything together.”

Balancing act

Future growth of solar PV in the residential market in North America is going to be dependent on energy storage, that much is true. But at present there are few places where a definite economic rationale exists. Payback remains outside of eight years, which limits the market to technology savvy first adopters, or energy customers that are significantly affected by power outages and those keen on being less dependent on the grid. The exception is Hawaii where the island’s Public Utilities Commission’s recently proposed alternatives to net metering, such as a self-supply tariff, will create demand for energy storage systems, coupled with solar PV to manage zero export. Other states, like California, Nevada and Arizona look set to follow. The details — how rules will change state-by-state — paint the same big picture. Net metering is being rolled back, making PV and storage, to enable self-consumption, a compelling proposition and one that the solar industry is in a strong position to sell, hence various tie-ups including Sunverge and Sonnenbatterie, Sunpower and Sunverge and others. But, energy storage also provides a way for utilities to adapt to the challenges brought by distributed generation. It offers utilities a way to remain relevant to customers that increasingly see technology as an effective means to hedge against energy price rises, generate clean electricity and control electricity consumption. At the same time, it provides utilities with an adaptable tool for grid resilience and services, one that cannot be gamed. The challenge for energy storage providers is managing the expectations of both groups.

EUROPEAN GRID STORAGE In Europe, battery storage for renewables is now a cost-effective technology — but only for utility-level deployment, as demonstrated by recent developments in Germany and the UK. Sara Verbruggen reports.

Toys for the big boys For Europe’s energy storage players, large and small, the US continues to represent the land of opportunity. Utility mandates, changes to ancillary service market rules, peak electricity demand charges, scaling back of solar photovoltaic incentives — the list goes on — have all contributed to a diverse market place, where applications for energy storage in-front-of and behindthe-meter are fast-emerging. In Germany, Europe’s largest deployment of behind-the-meter battery storage — for the residential PV selfconsumption market — has required subsidies to make such investments attractive and to dis-incentivize pure PV adoption. However, subsidies or incentives of any kind are unlikely to be forthcoming in other austerity-gripped countries, like the UK, which is tipped to be one of the next markets for solar selfconsumption, along with Italy. In Europe, today, energy storage technology at current prices ensures utilities are the group best able to afford it. The demand is there, as grid operators procure more capacity for fluctuations between electricity going into the grid and coming out of it, which are becoming more frequent and acute as traditional power assets are taken offline and intermittent solar and wind continues to be added. But even with reductions in costs of lithium ion batteries, the business case is tight. Steag, one of Germany’s largest electricity producers, announced plans in

November to invest in 90MW of battery energy storage. The batteries will be used for the marketing of primary control power. The German primary control reserve market, which was valued at €100 million ($110 million) in 2014, the same amount as Steag’s total investment in its new batteries, will provide the generation company with the opportunity to earn €3000 per MW a week (which is where current prices hover around). “Steag won´t invest without a strong business case. We do think that battery storage systems will be an important part of the energy landscape and based on some assumptions and experiences with our pilot project LESSY we were ready to invest,” says Jürgen Fröhlich, a company spokesman. The LESSY project provided experience in areas such as availability, construction of battery assets and how the asset ages. Unexpected fluctuations between the feed-in of electrical energy into the grid and the outflow have to be balanced out as quickly as possible. In Germany, so-called primary control power is used to compensate for such fluctuations. Power plants that can provide primary control reserve must be able to increase or decrease their output in only a few seconds. The country’s four transmission system operators (TSOs) procure the required primary control reserve on the market via weekly tenders. LG Chem is supplying the batteries

Nidec ASI signed a contract with Steag in Germany for the supply of a 90MW energy storage system, which the utility will use to ensure the stability of its electricity network and is are planning to deliver to the UK

for the 90MW rollout, which will be developed as six separate plants, each 15MW in size. Milan-headquartered Nidec ASI is the main contractor for the installations. The contract is worth €70 million. The only other organization deploying grid-level batteries in bulk, which can also leverage economies of scale, is AES Corporation, an independent power producer active globally with its own energy storage division and platform. Last year the company was able to quote (€900/kW)/4-hour, for its technology, making it competitive with building new gas peaking plants. Based on the quoted value of the contract with Nidec ASI, this means the cost per kW is a competitive €770. However, based on Steag’s announcement that the total investment is actually €100 million this would put the cost per kW at around €1100. “We can’t comment too deeply on costs. One factor is the battery itself but we also have to do some preparations on the location and we have to take some risk mark ups into consideration,” says Fröhlich. To minimize costs, Steag is siting the six 15MW units at existing power plants, mainly coal-based, locations. This allows the company to use existing grid connections and the technical infrastructure already in place. The power producer is also trying to complete the rollout in as short a deadline as is feasible, aiming for the first asset to go live in August 2016 and the rest by 2017. “The tight timeframe would be very optimistic without using these existing locations,” says Fröhlich. Based on AES Corporation’s experience big battery plants can be built in about six months, while the grid connection can add several more months. For Steag, battery storage contributes to a more efficient and cleaner provision of primary control because the need for the number of thermal power plants will be reduced. In future, the power company also expects opportunities for additional

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EUROPEAN GRID STORAGE GOING FROM 1MW TO 90MW — STEAG’S BATTERY STORAGE LESSONS FROM LESSY In 2013 German power company Steag built and began piloting a battery plant at its Fenne power plant in Völklingen, Saarland. LESSY was designed to create a buffer when more energy was generated than used. The storage system, which is housed in a shipping container, can help to stabilize the grid. The ramp-up of test operations underway will show whether lithium ion storage systems can reliably fulfil this function. The system holds 4700 lithium ion battery cells with a storage capacity of around 700kWh and an output of types of grid services to emerge, in correlation to declining production of base load power plants. “However, in the near future we expect both thermal power generation and stationary energy storage to be complementary. Batteries can provide primary control when they are equipped with controls to manage intelligent charging. However, we see a minimum provision of 30 minutes as necessary because they cannot deliver a continuous 24/7 provision like thermal power plants, which is necessary since there are situations where a longer, or common, provision is necessary,” says Fröhlich.

The UK perspective

In the UK opportunities for largescale energy storage are also looking rosier. In early 2016, National Grid will award contracts to successful applicants for a new 200MW enhanced frequency response market. Following a webinar that it hosted in mid-October outlining the market, the TSO was inundated with expressions of interest, with some two thirds describing the use of batteries. “They represent a good mix of different technology types,” says Adam Sims, senior account manager, at the National Grid. The new market will help balance the grid as thermal power generation is scaled back. “One approach is to contract for more inertia by buying frequency regulation in bulk, or to contract for fast-acting frequency regulation, which can be provided by energy storage — which is what we have decided to do,” says Sims. Energy storage, can act as synthetic

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around 1MW. The plan is to develop this to close to 100MW. Steag’s industrial and academic partners in the research project included speciality chemicals producer Evonik, Li-Tec Battery, Digatron Industrie-Elektronik, the EWE Next Energy and Power Engineering Saar institutes, and the University of Munster. The project was developed from research from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. LESSY is based on the lithiumion battery technology that Evonik developed for electric vehicles. inertia, by injecting power into the grid rapidly, for instance, to balance supply and demand in real time and ensuring the grid always operates within the normal frequency range. The majority of expressions of interest range from the UK’s Big Six utilities, energy storage system suppliers and start-ups, to interconnector owners, which could also provide such a service using their spare capacity. While most applicants are UK-based companies, French and German companies also sent in expressions of interest as well as a few from Japan and the US. Based on reviewing the expressions of interest documents, National Grid has gathered information for the tender process, which took place in midDecember, and will identify main cost drivers for potential suppliers, ensure fair treatment of differing technology types and also see where technical requirements create barriers. Contracts were awarded in March after Batteries International went to press. The TSO is looking for providers to use cost-effective and commercially proven technologies, which means, for example, energy storage systems based on advanced batteries such as lithium ion. And more capacity for providing enhance frequency response is highly likely to be required as the renewable energy capacity in the UK continues to grow. The resources will be remunerated for the service and though exact pricing structures have not been announced the current firm frequency response market pays out between £11/ MWh ($16/MWh) and £20/MWh, for a combined pumped storage hydro

(PSH) service, with the new enhanced frequency response market paying out between £22/MWh and £40/MWh. “We’re keen on grid-scale providers. Though behind-the-meter concepts and platforms, such as using electric vehicles, are interesting we are not there yet for this first tender,” says Sims. The capacity will be built to come online before the winter of 2017/2018. “We’re probably looking at a delivery timescale of around 18 months in total. The systems themselves could take six to 12 months to construct but the other consideration is the grid connection timetable,” says Sims. To enable potential providers to produce details required for this first stage of the process, the National Grid has sent operability data documents for 2014, which included forecasts for inertia requirements. Distribution network operator (DNO) UK Power Networks, which has been operating a 6MW/10MWh lithium battery storage system in Bedfordshire on the outskirts of London, is also interested in the market. Primarily the asset will defer conventional network reinforcements, by peak shaving. To pay for itself the asset also has to be able to generate revenues from several grid services. These include existing ancillary services programmes in the form of National Grid’s firm frequency response and the short term operating reserve (STOR) services. Participation is enabled via a third party company separate to the DNO, which is the aggregator company Kiwi Power. Apart from some small changes to the control systems architecture that might be needed, in terms of capacity there is a sufficient amount to deliver services into the new enhanced frequency response market. “Our project is all about demonstrating the multi-purpose application of storage and stacking of value, so we welcome the development of new services into the market mix,” says Nick Heyward, commercial manager at UK Power Networks. Because the installation has been built with £13.2 million from the Low Carbon Networks Fund the installation could afford to be more aggressive on pricing. The cap on the maximum resource able to bid into the enhanced frequency response market is 50MW. It is likely that projects selected will include large-scale battery installations. Building 50MW of battery storage is more cost-effective than building 1MW, due

EUROPEAN GRID STORAGE to economies of scale. The 50MW cap may well attract power generators, looking to add to their portfolios that can leverage existing sites to build the assets on, says Andrew Jones, senior vice president of international business, at S&C. Just like Steag, this would enable them to minimize costs further by using existing infrastructure connecting to the grid. Indeed, one of the Big Six’ utilities wants to develop two battery-based storage projects for grid services provision, which would bid into the enhanced frequency response market. One will be up to 40MW, at one of its own sites, while the other is a 10MW plant intended for the site of an industrial customer. During a recent energy storage conference held in London, attendees welcomed developments by the UK National Grid. “It’s something that, along with our members, we’ve been advising on for a number of years,” says Anthony Price, director of the Electricity Storage Network. Eliano Russo, vice president energy storage, batteries, at Europe’s biggest utility Eon, sees the new services mar-

ket as an encouraging sign that energy storage in Europe can continue to develop. However unbundling of generation and supply assets, done as part of moves to break up Europe’s energy monopolies in the 1990s, pioneered by the UK, creates challenges today for some players in the market that can potentially benefit from operating energy storage assets, the most obvious group being DNOs. For this class of licensed market players, battery storage has a valuable role to play in deferring grid works and preserving and maintaining the functions of cables and wires already in place. But, based on current prices of the technology, only stacked revenue models provide an opportunity for battery storage to pay for itself, activities which come into conflict with the DNOs’ regulated remit. As a by-product of legacy regulations governing the electricity sector, which separate generation, transmission, distribution and supply activities, energy storage is not recognized as an activity or asset class, apart from exceptions in the gas sector.

In the absence of an alternative option, energy storage has been treated as a type of generation asset. In the UK large-scale pumped storage hydro assets hold generation licences, while smaller scale facilities, less than 50MW, can qualify for exemption from the requirement to hold a generation licence. UK Power Network’s Smarter Network Storage project in Bedfordshire, has been important in gaining experience in terms of designing, building and operating a grid battery asset for a provision of multiple benefits and services. The project also supports calls for changes to licensing to overcome current market barriers. A promising option is to identify energy storage as a separate, licensed activity. Such an arrangement already exists for interconnection. This would provide clarity within the regulatory framework for storage, recognizing its distinct characteristics and enable DNO involvement to deploy energy storage as a non-generation activity. For the time-being, however, current regulatory rules in the UK and Europe, ensure that power producer utilities are the only ones that are able to craft business cases for energy storage.


The need for a new type of ancillary grid service has come about as the UK continues to integrate more clean electricity generation. However, resources such as wind and solar power cannot be simply dialled up and down to match demand in the way that traditional thermal power plants can. Meanwhile, more of this dispatchable capacity is disappearing

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as thermal power plants are retired. Within dispatchable thermal power plants every single generator’s system frequency and the speed of rotation is the same. Lots of large rotating turbines used to generate power — synchronous generation — creates inertia in the system to keep the system frequency stable at the optimal level of 50Hz, or as close to it, when there is a mismatch between

supply and demand. Fast-acting energy storage, based on types of batteries like lithium ion, or flywheel technology, are an alternative way to meet some frequency response, instead of running thermal power plants, by providing ‘synthetic inertia’, as they can be ramped up and down rapidly to match the fluctuations, keeping the grid in balance.

FINANCING STORAGE GROWTH The way in which solar is financed has become increasingly innovative. But as the sector marches on developing new asset classes — including the rapidly growing market in solar asset-backed securities — energy storage may not be far behind and may ultimately also benefit.

Securitizing energy storage — ABS to lead high finance charge into the sector As the race to develop ever more efficient forms of renewable energy heats up, so too has the speed with which new methods of financing such projects have been developed. The banks, finance companies and even wealthy individuals have all got in on the act, funding different forms of renewable energy and making a return on either government or statebacked tariffs that exist or the savings on energy or a mixture of both. The pace of innovation has been fast in the world of solar energy particularly photovoltaics, especially in the US where a new asset class seems to be emerging in the form of asset-backed securities (ABS). These are being used as a source of low-cost capital to fund the construction of large solar projects. An asset-backed security is a simple financial instrument. It is the way that a company can issue debt (a bond) that is guaranteed by a revenue stream. This stream could be anything from rents from property owned, receivables from sales to loan repayments. An unusual example of this is the issue of a security — the process is called securitization — by David Bowie, the rock star, in 1997 who raised $55 million on the strength of the royalties he was expected to earn over the next 10 years. At the end of 10 years, investors got their money back and earned interest of 8% over the period. The principle — effectively an upfront loan guaranteed by future revenues — is perfect for a business that would have cashflow problems to expand. Perhaps the best thing about assetbacked securities is that the debt issued is not on the firm’s balance sheet. It is put into a ring-fenced vehicle that is separate from the firm until the debt is repaid. In many ways large solar projects are

“Usually, investors only consider, what are the loans backing a deal and what is the credit risk? With these deals, they must also consider how much power will be produced and factors such as asset level stressing” perfect customers for ABS. Once the project is on-stream, say a solar farm, and a power-purchase agreement — better known as a PPA — has been made with a utility to buy the electricity, then the revenues can be put into an ABS and the project company can move on to new work But as this asset class takes off, parallels are being made with the potential for the use of such methods of financing in the world of energy storage. Some experts expect the first securitizations in this sector to take place in 2016 potentially heralding a boom in the financing available for such projects.

In terms of solar financing, rooftop leasing firm SolarCity has led the way. SolarCity has been a leading provider of residential solar power in California since 2007, its first full year of operation, according to the California Solar Initiative and was the number one residential solar installer in the US in 2013, according to GTM Research. From its original leasing operations in 2008 SolarCity has a reputation as being at the cutting edge of looking at financial engineering to expand its growth. It issued the first solar ABS ever in 2013 and recently completed its fourth such deal, a private placement

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 89

FINANCING STORAGE GROWTH which raised more than $120 million. With serial entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk as its chairman, SolarCity’s deals grabbed the headlines in the US with some predicting a new asset class was set to emerge. There were other deals in 2015, including several firsts, which backed this thesis. Sunrun, another rooftop leasing firm, issued a $111 million ABS while AES Distributed Energy became the first utility company to complete a deal which is backed by a portfolio of 15 projects totalling 43MW of municipal, commercial and residential leases and power-purchase agreements. This latter deal was especially significant in the context of the market’s potential given the fact that the power company boasts some $17 billion in annual revenues and owns operating power generation resources of more than 35GW, including 8GW of renewable generation. In total some $560 million has now been raised using this financing technique.

A market on the brink

Benjamin Cohen, the chief executive of T-REX, a boutique that focuses on securitization for the renewable energy industry, is bullish about the prospects of this sector and is working on a healthy pipeline of deals for different issuers. He stresses the importance of the deals that emerged in 2015 and be-

An unusual example of this is the issue of a security — the process is called securitization — by David Bowie, the rock star, in 1997 who raised $55 million on the strength of the royalties he was expected to earn over the next 10 years. At the end of 10 years, investors got their money back and earned interest of 8% over the period.

lieves the market could have turned a corner. “Last year was important for this asset class in that we saw two new issuers come to market including a utility company raising money in this way as opposed to just issuing corporate debt. It has been very telling in informing us what investors are looking for and what the market is willing to bear,” he says. He adds that the AES deal is also significant because it is largely backed by

commercial installations as opposed to residential ones. Cohen says the development of the market has been driven by a number of factors. First, he praises the work of rating agency Kroll, which, though only formed in 2010 he claims has been a pioneer in developing a cutting edge methodology around how these deals can be rated. “They are quick, progressive and their analysis robust. They have helped develop this market,” he says. Second, Cohen claims that turbulence in other, related, investment markets, have boosted solar ABS. The fall from grace of ‘yieldcos’ — companies formed to own operating assets that produce a predictable cashflow primarily through long term contracts — last year meant investors sought new opportunities and had money to put to work elsewhere. “People were throwing money at those things. But since that bubble has burst, combined with the equity value of some renewable investments also plummeting, it has allowed the securitization of these assets to come back to the fore,” Cohen says. These deals also have many attractions for investors. These include their long-term yielding cashflows and, once the assets are built, little risk around construction. He says investment-grade solar debt yields range from 3.5% to 5%.


According to T-REX research, the solar ABS market has had a number of meaningful developments, including the presence of a variety of tax equity structures. “In SolarCity’s first two transactions,

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the systems were owned by SolarCity. This changed with 20142, which incorporated the inverted lease tax equity structure into the transaction. In an inverted lease structure, the developer owns the

project and enters into a lease with the investor, who then enters into an agreement with an off-taker,” says the research. “Once the lease has completed, the investor exits from the deal, and the developer receives payments directly from the off-taker. SolarCity’s first transaction in 2015, 2015-1, featured the partnership flip tax equity structure in the transaction. In the partnership flip structure, there is the risk that tax equity investors must potentially forego a portion of the tax benefits during the recapture period. “This risk was mitigated through a creative policy in the structure that provided insurance to the tax equity investor. As solar ABS investors become more comfortable with tax equity, we expect to see more creative structuring solutions to mitigate some of the risks posed by complicated tax equity structures.”

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FINANCING STORAGE GROWTH Investors in the deals tend to get their payments primarily from the power purchase agreements with developers for buying electricity generated by solar panels. He admits that these deals have a level of complexity that investors need to grasp which is greater than other forms of ABS they are used to. “Usually, investors only consider, what are the loans backing a deal and what is the credit risk? With these deals, they must also consider how much power will be produced and factors such as asset level stressing. These are more complex than CMBS or student loans, for example.” Yet he believes this is not a big hindrance to the market’s growth, however, because the level of analytics and the sophistication around this market is increasing all the time. He says the analytics T-REX can factor in all the moving parts of such deals to give investors confidence in the product. “From what I have seen, there is little issue around the appetite of investors for these,” Cohen says. “Every investor I have spoken to would take five times the volume they have now if they could. The bigger problem is a lack of issuance.” That could be on the way to changing, however. He says he is working with a number of would-be issuers including a bank with a concentration of solar on its lending book looking to offset some of the risk, and a third rooftop leasing firm, One of these deals, he says, could also include solar renewable credits in US states with a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires power companies to buy a share of their power from solar generators. However, the prices of solar renewable credits can fluctuate and they can also differ markedly between states. But Cohan is bullish. He believes the solar ABS market could reach $1 billion in 2016 but it could be bigger. He says several issuers with the potential to do substantial deals are looking at the market. After that, he believes it will reach $3 billion to $4 billion in 2017 and as much as $10 billion in 2018. Another meaningful development in the solar ABS market is the nature of the underlying collateral. In SolarCity’s most recent transaction this January — this was the first of its kind as there has never been a solar loan ABS securitization — the collateral base is different from that in previous solar securitizations, in that the cashflows

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SolarCity’s project stream, here an Arizona school, show signs of slowing down in 2016 but still growing — after solar growth, energy storage ABS?

“Every investor I have spoken to would take five times the volume they have now if they could. The bigger problem is a lack of issuance” are backed not by solar leases or PPAs, but entirely by SolarCity’s loans. “Not only is this a reflection of financing trends in the industry, but it is also significant because it is the first time that the industry has seen solar loans of any form in an ABS structure,” says Cohan. “As investors become more comfortable with solar loans, we expect to see more deals with loans as the underlying collateral in the structure,” he says. “As a result, the base of issuing companies will diversify to include regional banks lending to solar developers. With the extension of the ITC, it is also likely that tax equity will play a larger role in the capital structure of solar ABS deals.”

The move to storage

But the securitization of solar could pave the way for other forms of renewable energy and energy storage to follow suit. Cohen says that while energy storage is in its infancy in terms of the types of financing available, some packages are emerging that package solar with storage and the natural end game for financing these packages could well ultimately be securitization. “We are working with a few clients looking at finance options for the solar and storage side,” he says. “Initially it will likely be just bank loan finance but the goal is within a year to get to bank loans backing storage plus solar or solar plus storage. I believe

that could happen as a securitization within a year or so. It has already been discussed.” SolarCity could again be at the fore of such deals. Last year, the company unveiled a new package that offers a storage and solar package as part of its Homebuilder Program, a scheme set up in 2011 that offers new build homeowners the opportunity to add a solar power system to their home without increasing the property’s purchase price. SolarCity will begin pairing its solar offering with a storage solution comprising the Tesla Powerwall, advanced hybrid inverter, monitoring and control systems and a warranty and service agreement. SolarCity has also backed a new utility-scale solar project with battery storage will supply power to the island of Kauai, Hawaii, helping to meet peak demand after sunset. SolarCity will construct a 17MW photovoltaic solar array on 50 acres adjacent to an existing power plant owned by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). The installation will include a 52MW/hr battery system. SolarCity will sell power from the project to KIUC under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. With such packages increasingly coming online and with the solar ABS market seemingly set for growth, it may only be a matter of time before the first ABS deals incorporating energy storage also come to market.

MARKET VIEW: GRAPHENE Graphene’s function as a component of advanced batteries for energy storage will become increasingly important in coming years. Batteries International spoke to IDTechEx’s Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, author of the consultancy’s latest report.

Graphene sales to top 3,800 t/y by 2026 with energy storage to account for 40% of the market The latest research from consultancy IDTechEx projects that the graphene market will grow to $220 million in 2026. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, author of the report — Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes: Markets, Technologies and Opportunities 2016-2026 — predicts that average sales prices will decline although revenues will grow. Ghaffarzadeh reckons that volume sales will reach nearly 3,800 tonnes a year in 2026. “This forecast is at the material level and does not count the value of graphene-enabled products,” he says. He reckons that the industry will remain in a state of over-capacity until

2021 after which new capacity will need to be installed. He forecasts that nearly 90% of the market value will go to graphene platelets as opposed to sheets by 2026. Energy storage will emerge as a key area for graphene — and nearly $100 million of graphene will be sold into the energy storage sector in 2026. Graphene as an additive in lithium ion electrodes is the main near-term game in play. There are already products on the market and many battery manufacturers, in Asia and elsewhere, are in the later stages of their qualification periods. Carbon nano-technology in particular is offering large increases in lithium ion battery power.

Here too, graphene will play the role of an additive to improve the performance of carbon-based lithium ion electrodes. “There will also be no winning graphene morphology or type: the winner may vary from one battery manufacturer to another, and will depend on the exact formulations used in each battery,” says Ghaffarzadeh. “Note also that battery electrodes are often coated using slurries or pastes. Silicon anode and lithium sulphur batteries also represent long term opportunities.” Other IDTechEx Research forecasts that silicon anode batteries will become a $4.3 billion market by 2026 and $1.2 billion for lithium sulfur. Other Tires Water filtration Anti corrosion coatings Transistors RFID antenna Permeation protection composites

Graphene platellet

Graphene sheet

Thermal composites Conductive composites Sensors Research Li ion batteries Silicon anode batteries Li sulphur batteries Supercapacitors Functional inks and paints High strength composites




Transparent conducting films

Bar chart: Ten-year market projections split by application. Inset pie chart: market share of graphene platelets versus sheets in 2026 by value.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 93


In 2002, University of Manchester researcher Andre Geim became interested in graphene and challenged a PhD student to polish a hunk of graphite to as few layers as possible. The student was able to reach 1,000 layers, but could not hit Geim’s goal of 10 to 100 layers. Geim tried a different approach: tape. He applied it to graphite and peeled it away to create flakes of layered graphene. More tape peels created thinner and thinner layers, until he had a piece of graphene 10 layers thick. Geim’s team worked at refining their technique and eventually produced a single layer of carbon atoms. They published their findings in October 2004. Pictured here: graphite, a graphene transistor and a tape dispenser. These were donated to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2010.

GRAPHENE: A STUDY IN SUPERLATIVES Graphene is often called a disruptive technology in that it has an as-yet untapped potential in a huge variety of industries. It a thin layer of pure carbon that is one atom thick and exists as a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms bonded in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It has various superlatives to its properties. • It is the thinnest compound known to man — so thin it is often called the first 2D material and is one million times smaller than a sheet of paper. • It is the lightest material known (with 1m2 weight just 0.77 milligrams. • It is the strongest compound discovered. It is between 100-300 times stronger than steel and has a tensile stiffness of 150,000,000 psi. • It is the best conductor of heat at room • It is the best conductor of electricity yet known (studies have shown electron mobility at values of more than 15,000 cm2·V−1·s−1). • It also has unique levels of light absorption at πα ≈ 2.3% of white light, Graphene is the only form of carbon (or solid material) in which every atom is available for chemical reaction from two sides (due to the 2D structure). Atoms at the edges of a graphene

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sheet have special chemical reactivity. Although graphene has been known about for some time creating it has been next to impossible at any commercial price. Graphene was first studied theoretically in the 1940s. At the time, scientists thought it was physically impossible for a two dimensional material to exist, so they did not pursue isolating graphene. Two University of Manchester academics Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov found a way to isolate single layers of graphene in 2004 (they received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 for their work). Since then graphene production has improved at a rapid pace. In 2009, researchers were able to create a film of graphene that measured 30 inches across. Recently, several techniques have been developed to prepare nanostructured graphene. These techniques mainly include electron beam lithography, chemical synthesis, electrochemical preparation, graphene oxide reduction, C60 catalytic transformation, the microwave assisted hydrothermal method, the Soft-Template method, the hydrothermal method and the ultrasonic exfoliation method. — BI staff writers

Graphene may enable this by helping alleviate a key shortcoming: limited cycle life. Early results show that it can do so in silicon anode batteries by absorbing some of volumetric changes experienced by the Si anodes, and in lithium sulfur batteries by entrapping the LiS particles to prevent the polyshuttle process. The market will be segmented across many applications, reflecting the diverse properties of graphene. Initially the research expect functional inks and coatings to make up a large chunk of demand — about 21% of the market by 2018. Ultimately however, the largest sectors will be energy storage, accounting for around 40%, and composites, 25%, of the market by 2026. The graphene industry market is in a state of flux. The latest filings and company statements show that most companies are still operating at substantial losses. The valuations have also tended to decline. This in turn has put some firms off floating on public markets to raise money. However, the industry is experiencing revenue growth across the board. The research suggests that the industry expects to generate $30 million in 2016. Of this research grants make up at least 50% of the overall revenue. “This demonstrates the vital role that funding bodies are playing in sustaining an early stage industry,” says Ghaffarzadeh. The revenue growth will help graphene companies survive the initial commercialization difficulties and outlive the often prolonged qualification periods. The downside however is that the business landscape is populated with too many weakly capitalized and poorly differentiated players that each generate small revenues. “The scene is now ripe for a consoli-

The graphene industry market is in a state of flux. The latest filings and company statements show that most companies are still operating at substantial losses. The valuations have also tended to decline. This in turn has put some firms off floating on public markets to raise money.

MARKET VIEW: GRAPHENE dation since the actual market demand will not sustain all the players,” says Ghaffarzadeh. “This will benefit the whole industry since it will reduce the market fragmentation and creates larger and better consolidated entities able to stand on their own feet.” Graphene commercialization follows a substitution strategy. This creates a long term and severe downward price pressure. This is because even the price of the most expensive carbon that it seeks to replace (carbon nanotubes) is rapidly falling (less than $50/kg for multi-walled carbon nanotubes). Price drops are already happening: some suppliers have already starting quoting prices of below $100/kg for certain types of graphene. “The low single-digit capacity utilization prevents many from depreciating CapEx and reducing prices further, while many in the industry fear that this approach will lead to a premature commoditization of the industry and a further fall in valuations across the board,” says Ghaffarzadeh. These factors, together with the multiplicity of production methods, mean that prices vary by several orders of magnitude in today’s market.

THE SUPERCAP OPPORTUNITY Due to graphene’s high surface area to mass ratio, one potential application is in the conductive plates of supercapacitors. The pace of development has been rapid powered in particular by dedicated university research teams in the US. In February 2013 UCLA researchers announced a new technique to produce graphene supercapacitors. The following year a start-up BlueVine Graphene Industries, a spin-off from Purdue University claimed it could achieve energy density comparable to current lithium-ion batteries. In 2015 the technique was adapted by Rice University researched to produce stacked, 3-D supercapacitors. Laserinduced graphene was produced on both sides of a polymer sheet. The sections were then stacked, separated by solid electrolytes, making multiple microsupercapacitors. The stacked configuration increased the energy density substantially.

The researchers charged and discharged the devices for thousands of cycles with almost no loss of capacitance. The resulting devices were mechanically flexible, surviving 8,000 bending cycles. Also in early 2015 UCLA researchers announced a micro-supercapacitor that is small enough to fit in wearable or implantable devices. The design employed laser-scribed graphene with manganese dioxide and with a capacity six times that of commercially available supercapacitors. In May 2015 Rice University researchers said a boric acidinfused, laser-induced graphene supercapacitor tripled its energy density and increased its volumetric .energy density about eight fold. The new devices proved stable over 12,000 charge-discharge cycles, retaining 90% of their capacitance. In stress tests, they survived 8,000 bending cycles. — BI staff writers

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Welcome to a special section of our magazine, called Conference in Print. Our aim is a simple one. We want to offer you the readers a section where you can highlight your products, technology and skills to our broader audience — rather like going to a conference or an exhibition without the inconvenience of all the travel! We’re putting no restrictions on what you’d like to showcase — this is your section not ours — but hope that this will prove an invaluable and cost-effective way to reach our audience of subscribers and readers.

CONFERENCE IN PRINT Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — G Li, X Lu, JY Kim, KD Meinhardt, HJ Chang, NL Canfield and VL Sprenkle — have come up a new design for a sodium metal halide battery that offers a storage device that is less expensive, more stable, operates at a lower temperature and increases its energy density.

Advanced intermediate temperature sodium–nickel chloride batteries with ultra-high energy density

Despite the relatively simple redox reaction, cell degradation mechanisms of Na–NiCl2 batteries have not been clearly understood in the past. In our recent studies, we have reported detailed correlations between NaCl/Ni particle growth (Ostwald ripening) and battery-operating conditions, such as C-rate, cathode formula and cycling capacity window. The main parameters that lead to faster Ni particle growth are higher current density, state of charge (SOC) at end of charge (EOC) and Ni/NaCl ratio. In the case of NaCl, significant growth has a close correlation with the cycling capacity window. To achieve sustainable battery cycle life, the conventional tubular Na–NiCl2 batteries are loaded with excessive Ni content in the cathode and also are operated with a shallow capacity window. The theoretical specific capacity and energy density of 98 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

Previously we had found that the operating temperature has significant influence on the cell chemistries during the 1,000

(a) –1

Equation1: (charged state) 2Na + NiCl2 <–> 2NaCl + Ni (discharged state) E0 = 2:58V at 300°C

Na–NiCl2 ZEBRA batteries obtained from equation 1 are 305 mAh g−1 (without considering the melt) and 788 Wh kg−1 (open-circuit voltage at 2.58 V). Despite the quite impressive theoretical energy density of Na–NiC2 batteries, general energy density obtained from a conventional tubular Na–NiCl2 battery (operated at ca. 300 °C) is about 95–120 Wh kg−1 due to excessive Ni content and shallow capacity window. Detailed plots of energy density versus Ni content with different cycling windows are shown in Figure 1. Resolving this shortcoming on a material and cost level requires creating new platforms based on innovative scientific and technical approaches. Excited by the magnitude and implications of revisiting Na–NiCl2 ZEBRA battery technology, the research and industrial communities are seeking a revolutionary breakthrough that could enable substantially lower cost for materials and operations, as well as superior battery cycle life and safety.

Energy density, Wh kg

Recently, molten-sodium beta-alumina batteries have been considered as one of the most attractive stationary electric energy storage systems, which are crucial to stimulate the growth of renewable energy resources and to improve the reliability of electric power grids. Sodium–sulfur and sodium-metal halide batteries (ZEBRA) are two typical molten-Na beta-alumina batteries; however, recent fire incidents involving Na–S battery systems have increased general concerns about the application of Na–S batteries as stationary energy storage devices. Although they share some features (for example, moltensodium and ß-alumina solid electrolyte) in common with Na–S batteries, ZEBRA batteries can provide several advantages over Na–S batteries, including superior battery safety, high open-circuit voltage, lower operating temperature and ease of assembly in the discharged state without using metallic sodium in the anode. Among various ZEBRA battery redox chemistries, the sodium–nickel chloride (Na–NiCl2) battery has been most widely investigated in the past. The overall redox reaction of a Na–NiCl2 battery during charging and discharging processes is described as follows:


(b) This work (c)

State of the art Tubular type

0 0.51




Ni/NaCl ratio

Figure 1: Specific energy density. Specific energy densities were calculated on different cycling capacity windows for (a) 100, (b) 60 and (c) 30%. Energy density was calculated without considering the weight of melt required in the cathode.

CONFERENCE IN PRINT PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER been considered as one of the more attractive technologies for stationary electrical energy storage, however, they are not used for broader applications despite their relatively well known redox system. One of the roadblocks hindering market penetration is the highoperating temperature. Here we demonstrate that planar sodium– nickel chloride batteries can be operated at an intermediate temperature of 190 °C with ultra-high energy density. A specific energy density of 350 Wh kg−1, higher than that of

battery cycling. The cell polarization, an important indicator of cell degradation, was found to increase faster at 280°C than at 175°C due to faster grain growth in the cathode ingredients. From a cell-operation point of view, a lower temperature can potentially reduce costs associated with cell packing and reduce heat loss. In a recent report, Gerovasili et al concluded that lower heat transfer losses at 240°C could result in up to 49% reduction in heating energy compared with operation at 275°C. (It should be noted that it is intrinsically difficult for a tubular ZEBRA battery to operate below 240 °C.) Drawing inspiration from the temperature-dependent particle growth, we construct a planar intermediate temperature (IT) Na–NiCl2 ZEBRA battery technology, which allows the cells to be operated at an IT of 190°C with considerable discharge power as high as 75 mW cm−2 (~0.6 C). Extensive investigations of cell performance and fundamental understanding of cathode degradation mechanisms at 190°C are studied, and indicate that this novel planar IT Na–NiCl2 ZEBRA battery technology could have a much higher specific energy density (350 Wh kg−1) and much more stable cycle life than the state-of-the-art ZEBRA battery.

ure 2 (blue). The initial capacity of 140 mAh g−1 was obtained for the battery operated at 280°C. The higher initial capacity obtained at 280°C compared with that at 190°C is likely due to better sodium wetting on the BASE at 280°C. In contrast with IT Na–NiCl2 batteries at 190°C, the capacity of batteries operated at 280°C decreased drastically, to 107mAh g−1 (76% retention) over 200 cycles. The more stable performance of the Na–NiCl2 batteries at 190°C than at 280°C indicates that the lower operation temperature could be the most critical factor for obtaining sustainable cell performance, which has been surprisingly understated in the past. Cells have been also tested with a higher discharge power (75mW cm−2, ~30 mA cm−2, ~0.6 C) at 190°C and 280°C. Similar to results shown in Figure 2, the capacity was more stable for batteries operated at 190°C than at 280°C. The Coulombic efficiencies shown in Figure 2 (red) of all tested batteries are nearly 100%, which is due to the use of BASE as the sodium-ion conducting solid-state electrolyte. To further understand the effect of temperature on cell performance, voltage profiles (1st, 100th and 200th cycles) versus SOC for cells tested at 190 and 280°C are shown 200





150 Capacity, mAh g

Battery performances of planar IT ZEBRA battery We constructed a planar IT ZEBRA battery, using a ß-alumina solid-state electrolyte (BASE; 3 cm2 effective areas), a Ni/NaCl granule cathode (157 mAh, 52.3 mAh cm−2) and NaAlCl4 as a secondary electrolyte. All batteries were charged and discharged between 2.8V (EOC) and 2.0V (end of discharge) to prevent side reactions occurring due to over-charging and over-discharging. Figure 2 shows battery performance for cells operated at two different temperatures (190 and 280 °C) with a constant discharge power of 25mW cm−2 (~10 mA cm−2, ~C/5). An initial capacity of 106 mAh g−1 was observed for IT Na–NiC2 batteries tested at 190°C. Interestingly, IT Na– NiCl2 batteries (Figure 2, black) showed a capacity increase for the first 100 cycles and then stabilized with a capacity of 137 mAh g−1 at the 200th cycle. The specific discharge energy density for IT Na–NiCl2 batteries was 340Wh kg−1 (200th cycle), which is by far the highest energy density demonstrated for Na–NiCl2 batteries to the best of our knowledge. Identical batteries tested at 280°C are also shown in Fig-

conventional tubular sodium– nickel chloride batteries (280°C), is obtained for planar sodium–nickel chloride batteries operated at 190°C over a long-term cell test (1,000 cycles), and this attributed to the slower particle growth of the cathode materials at the lower operating temperature. Results reported here demonstrate that planar sodium–nickel chloride batteries operated at an intermediate temperature could greatly benefit this traditional energy storage technology by improving battery energy density, cycle life and reducing material costs.

(a) 100


190° 280° Coulombic efficiency



Coulomic efficiency, %

We have developed a novel planar Na–NiCl2 battery that can be operated at an IT of 190°C. This planar IT Na–NiCl2 technology was able to deliver an ultra-high energy density (350Wh kg−1) with very long cycle life (over 1,000 cycles) and excellent capacity retention (no decay until the 700th cycle, 0.01% per cycle thereafter). This work accomplished a breakthrough towards making Na–NiCl2 battery technology more competitive for stationary energy storage applications. Sodium-metal halide batteries have

95 0



Cycle number

Figure 2: Capacity retention and coulombic efficiency plots Na–NiCl2 cells were operated at two different temperatures: (a) 190 (black) and (b) 280 °C (blue). Coulombic efficiency is shown in red. Cells were charged with a constant current (7 mA cm−2, ~C/7) and were discharged with a constant power (25 mW cm−2, ~10 mA cm−2, ~C/5). Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 99


3.0 190°C 90% 100% Charge

E, V

2.5 Discharge(25 mW cm



1st 100th



12% 14% 17%



50 SOC, %


3.0 280°C 79%

95% 100%


2.5 E, V

Discharge(25 mW cm



1st 100th




50 SOC, %


Figure 3: Voltage profiles for planar IT Na–NiCl2 batteries. Cells were operated with constant-current charge (7 mA cm−2, ~C/7) and constant-power discharge (25 mW cm−2, 10 mA cm−2, ~C/5). Voltage profiles versus SOC are shown for 1st (black), 100th (green) and 200th (blue) cycles at two different temperatures (a) 190°C and (b) 280°C, respectively.

in Figure 3 (25 mW cm−2). For the cells operated at 190°C (Figure 3a), SOC at the EOC (SOCEOC) and SOC at the end of discharge (SOCEOD) for the 1st cycle were determined to be 90% and 17%, respectively. In further battery cycles, SOCEOC was gradually increased to 100% and SOCEOD was decreased to 12%. These adjustments are responsible for the progressively increasing capacity for the cells operated at 190°C (Figure 2), since the capacity of a battery can be calculated as follows: Equation 2: Capacity = SOCEOC-SOCEOD For instance, capacities of the 1st and 200th cycles for the cells operated at 190 °C were 73% and 88%, respectively, as calculated using equation 2. In contrast with the lowest capacity having been observed in the early stage of tested cycles at 190 °C, the SOCEOC and SOCEOD for the 1st cycle at 280 °C were 100% and 14%, respectively, which resulted in the largest initial capacity of 86% as shown in Figure 3b. The higher initial capacity observed at the operating temperature of 280°C than at 190°C is most likely due to better sodium wetting on the BASE at the higher operating temperature. However, the SOCEOC of cells operated 100 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

Figure 4: SEM images for cathode materials. Cathode materials were retrieved from cells operated for 200 cycles. Ni particles are shown for cells operated at 190°C (25 mW cm−2) at (a) × 7,500 (scale bar, 2 μm), (b) × 1,000 (scale bar, 10 μm) and (c) Ni mapping × 1,000 (scale bar, 10 μm). Ni particles from cells operated at 280°C (25 mW cm−2) are shown at (d) × 3,000 (scale bar, 10μm), (e) × 1,000 (scale bar, 10μm) and (f) Ni mapping × 1,000 (scale bar, 10μm). NaCl particles are shown for cells operated at 190°C (25 mW cm−2) at (g) × 2,000 (scale bar, 10μm) and (h) Na mapping × 2,000 (scale bar, 10μm); (i) × 300 (scale bar, 100μm) and (j) Na mapping × 300 (scale bar, 100μm) for 280°C.

at 280°C rapidly decreased to 79% after the 200th cycle, which results in a capacity of 65% (76% capacity retention). However, a quite stable SOCEOD observed over 200 cycles indicates that degradation on the anode side (sodium wetting) is negligible for 280°C as shown in Figure 3b. The rapid degradation of capacity for the cells operated at 280°C is more likely due to cathode degradation at the higher operating temperature.

Scanning electron microscopy of cathode materials

To investigate the correlation between morphology changes in Ni/NaCl cathodes and cell performance, the cells operated with a constant discharge power of 25 mW cm−2 were disassembled after 200 cycles and the fracture surfaces were examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM)/ energy-dispersive x-ray spectrometry (EDS). For cathodes retrieved from cells tested at 190°C, lighter spots shown in Figure 4a (high resolution) and Figure 4b represent Ni particles and corresponding images of Ni mapping are shown in Figure 4c. Similarly, nickel particles are shown in Figure 4d (high resolution) and Figure 4e,f

PNNL is testing the use of polymer seals in their new battery design. The research team is also scaling up the battery and will next build a five watthour test battery for further research


Precision Pasting Fibers

“The main thing investors are look-

“The main thing investors are looking for is the poing for is the potential market and ulISO 9001:2008 timate usage. The more mature comtential market and ultimate usage. The more mature panies might get a lower valuation companies might get a lower valuation and some of Registration # 10002028 QM08 and some of the newer companies a premium — some are seen as sexier the newer companies a premium — some are seen and more likely to fundamentally as sexier and more likely to fundamentally shake up shake up the market.  Kanecaron “But it really varies by battery type the market. — Michael Lew, NAATBatt(Exclusive Supplier)

 Modacrylic  Acrylic and the specific end usage and potential of that chemistry. It is very diffi Polyester  itPolypropylene unique challenges — is tough to cult to generalize.”

tirely. Look no further than what has hap- generalize about the sector in terms One of the few trends most compened at A123 Systems (bankrupt), of either predicting its future winners mentators can agree on is that lead Exide Technologies (Chapter 11 since or losers. acid is coming back into vogue with July 2013 and still being restrucinvestors. After a period when it was tured), Valence Technology (Chapter A fragmented offering almost disregarded as being an old 11 in July 2012 but emerged after be- Michael Lew, head of communica- and dirty technology and other cheming restructured last November) and tions at the National Alliance for Ad- istries such as lithium ion and nickel Atraverda (administration although vanced Technology Batteries, charac- metal hydride appeared to be set to some of its former executives have terizes the sector as “lumpy” from an rapidly gain market share, investors taken elements of it forward) for investment point of view. “In terms of have become disillusioned with the proof of the problems and risks in- the lead acid side, there are the very slow progress with which that transiherent in the sector — for established established companies such as John- tion has occurred. P.O.asBox 716 • 500 N. Madison • Rockford, IL USAnow better unson Controls and EnerSys and it is a companies as much start-ups. Lew61107 says investors very fragmented offering after that,” Yet each company that has expederstand the extent to which much Tel. 815/964-8619 • FAX 815/964-7949 rienced problems has had its own he says. comes down to the all-in cost when it

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84 • Batteries International • Summer 2014

CONFERENCE IN PRINT This planar IT Na–NiCl2 technology was able to deliver an ultra-high energy density (350Wh kg−1) with very long cycle life — over 1,000 cycles — and excellent capacity retention (Ni mapping) for cells tested at 280°C. Quite different sizes of Ni particles were observed for the cells operated at 190°C compared with those at 280°C. The typical particle size of Ni cathodes for the cells tested at 190 °C was 1–2μm (Figure 4a,b), which is similar to the initial particle size of raw Ni powders. However, significant Ni particle growth, up to 10μm (Figure 4d,e), was observed for the cells tested at 280°C. Particle sizes of NaCl were also determined from SEM images (Figure 4g,i) and corresponding images of Na mapping (Figure 4h,j). NaCl particle sizes in the cells operated at 190°C and 280°C were ~5μm and ~50μm, respectively. SEM/EDS measurements were also performed for the cells operated with a higher discharge power of 75 mW cm−2 at 190°C and 280°C. Similar to the cells tested at a discharge power of 25 mW cm−2, larger NaCl and Ni particles were observed in cells operated at 280°C than in cells operated at 190°C with a discharge power of 75 mW cm−2.

Ni and NaCl particle growth

The sizes of Ni and NaCl particles from tested cells, cell cycling conditions and cell performances are summarized in Table 1 for a better comparison. It is quite clear that the particle sizes of Ni and NaCl for the tested cells show a strong dependence on the cell-operating temperature. For instance, the average Ni particle size at 280°C is around 10μm, which is significantly larger than the average particle size of 1μm–2μm observed at 190°C. Similarly, the NaCl particle size at 280°C was 50μm, which is much larger than an average particle size of 5μm–10μm at 190 °C. Considering the particle size of raw Ni powders (1μm–2μm) and NaCl powders (~5μm), the particle growth at 190°C is much slower than that at 280°C. The morphology evolution of cathode materials has been considered as the most important cause of the degradation of Na–NiCl2 batteries. For the charging process, the main reactions in the cathode side of Na–NiCl2 batteries are the dissolution of NaCl particles into the melt and the forma Discharge (mWcm-1) C-rate Ni (μm) NaCl (μm) EOC (%)† EOD (%)† Capacity window (%) Energy density (Wh g-1) Degradation (%)

tion of NiCl2 layers on the surfaces of Ni particles. Larger particles of active ingredients existing in the cathode will lead to a sluggish dissolution of NaCl and less surface area of Ni particles, which will eventually cause a limited charging capacity. This is in good agreement with the observations shown in Table 1. For example, an IT Na–NiCl2 battery operated at 190°C can still be charged to 100% SOC after 200 cycles due to the minimal morphology changes in the cathode, but identical cells operated at 280°C can be only charged up to 79% SOC after 200 cycles due to the accelerated particle growth in the cathode. The mechanism of particle growth in Na–NiCl2 batteries operated at 280°C has been proposed in our previous study by attributing it to Ostwald ripening. Here we would like to extend the particle growth mechanism by including the operating temperature as an important factor. In the literature, it has been generally understood that the influence of temperature on Ostwald ripening is through its effects on various parameters, such as the equilibrium solubility, the diffusion-influenced growth coefficient, the phase-transition energy and interfacial energy. Here, temperature effects on equilibrium solubility and

From a cell-operation point of view, a lower temperature can potentially reduce costs associated with cell packing and reduce heat loss. A recent report, concluded that lower heat transfer losses at 240°C could result in up to 49% reduction in heating energy compared with operation at 275°C

190 C 25 C/5 1–2 <5 100 12 88 340 19*

280 C 75 0.6 C 1–2 ~10 100 17 83 300 13*

25 C/5 ~10 ~50 79 14 65 258 –24

75 0.6 C ~10 ~50 78 20 58 220 –30

EOC, end of charge; EOD, end of discharge. *Positive degradation is due to the increased capacity of the 200th versus the 1st cycle at 190 C. † EOC and EOD of 200th cycle are shown in the table. Table 1: Grain sizes of Ni and NaCl particles and other battery performance data for cells cycled at different temperatures and discharge powers. 102 • Batteries International • Spring 2016



For stationary energy storage, long-battery lifetime and lower materials cost are two critical factors. As shown in Figure 5, long-term cycling of an IT Na–NiCl2 battery showed an excellent stability over 1,000 cycles, which was a testing period of one year and six months. No battery degradation was observed until the 700th cycle, and the degradation rate thereafter was <0.01% per cycle. The energy density of an IT Na–NiCl2 battery shown in Figure 5 was generally over 330 Wh kg−1. Because of the ultra-high energy density of the IT Na–NiCl2 batteries demonstrated in this work, the materials cost of cathodes (notably the cost of Ni) can be greatly reduced compared with the conventional tubular Na–NiCl2 batteries, which would be considered as a significant saving. One concern with decreasing the operational temperature



400 300 100 200 Energy density Coul. efficiency

100 0

Coulombic efficiency, %

diffusion-influenced growth coefficient are particularly important to understanding the enhanced particle growth in Na–NiCl2 batteries at the higher temperature. For instance, the solubility of cathode materials (NaCl and NiCl2) will drastically decrease with a decrease in the operating temperature. The diffusion coefficients of dissolved NaCl and NiCl2 will decrease as well, due to the increased viscosity of the melt. Since the equilibrium solubility and diffusion-influenced growth coefficient are proportional to the solubility and diffusion coefficient, respectively, particle growth by Ostwald ripening will be greatly suppressed at lower operating temperatures.


Energy density, Wh kg

Planar sodium–nickel chloride batteries operated at an intermediate temperature could greatly benefit this traditional energy storage technology

95 0



Cycle number

Figure 5: Energy density and Coulombic efficiency. Planar IT Na–NiCl2 cells were operated at 190°C over 1,000 cycles in a period of 1 year and 6 months. No degradation was observed for the first 700 cycles. A degradation rate of <0.01% per cycle was obtained for the test after the 700th cycle.

from 280°C to an IT of 190°C is the inevitable loss in energy efficiency of a Na–NiCl2 battery. Cells operated at the lower temperature showed generally larger overpotentials than cells operated at the higher temperature as shown in Figure 3. Typical overall energy efficiencies at the 200th cycle are 91.6% (190°C, 25 mW cm−2), 86.5% (190°C, 75 mW cm−2), 92.3% (280°C, 25 mW cm−2) and 88.4% (280°C, 75 mW cm−2). The energy efficiencies of cells operated at 190°C show about a 1% decrease in overall efficiencies versus those operated at 280°C; this is due to the close relationship between the operating temperature, interfacial resistance and sodium-ion conductivity in the cell. However, the decrease in energy efficiency is trivial compared with the advantages of the lower operating temperature.

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 103

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EVENT PREVIEW: THE BATTERY SHOW The Battery Show, probably the biggest event of its kind in North America, is coming to Europe next spring. It could become the next major European show. Philip Moorcroft reports.

The Battery Show moves to Europe for spring 2017 Smarter Shows — the conference organizers that built the annual Battery Show to be one of the largest events of its kind in the US — is preparing to launch a European version of the show from April 4-6 next year. Known only as The Battery Show Europe, the event will be held at the Sindelfingen Conference Centre, about 15 minutes from Stuttgart in central Germany. The choice of venue was an interesting one given the whole of Europe was open to the organizers. “Part of the success of its US counterpart was that we positioned ourselves near the automotive hub of America where much of the pioneering energy storage work was going on,” says Steve Bryan, who is in charge of organizing both events. “Given the proximity of so many automotive development centers and production facilities including Daimler, Porsche, Bosch and Audi, we feel we are well positioned to experience significant numbers attending from within a few minutes’ drive of the venue.”

The choice of Germany is fortunate given the storage boom that is riding the back of the government’s decision to scrap its nuclear plants in May 2011 (with the aim of them all being out of service by 2022) and embark on using renewables for the country’s power supply. With the North American event achieving continuous growth since its launch in 2010, expanding the portfolio into Europe — also co-located with Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo — was the next logical step, says Bryan. “We started in 2013 and 2014 mulling the idea about doing the show but the timing never seemed right. But with the two events now established brands, and growing demand from our existing exhibitors to expand into the European market, we are in a strong position to deliver a successful first show.” Launching a conference into a market that is already full with such meetings is a difficult one given the competition already in place.

“It’s a question of what the exhibition and conference can offer,” says Bryan. “Our approach in the US has always been to position the show as close to the visitor community as possible. We’ve looked at the practical issues of what people want to see and know — and that’s what we aim to deliver.” The Smarter Show business model is worth inspection in that it sees its revenue streams coming from its ability to showcase what the industry want to learn about from its exhibitors — entrance is free to visitors — and only part of the event is charged to those attendees that want to listen to the speakers. In the US conference, which is held in a suburb of Detroit, the exhibition hall is packed while typically about 600 delegates pay the more typical conference rate to listen to the speakers in a separate area. Given that many of the visitors will be interested in the content of some of the exhibitors, space in the main hall is given to free short presentations. The timing for the move, in any

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 105

EVENT PREVIEW: THE BATTERY SHOW event, is probably right. The Battery Show in the US has grown steadily through tumultuous times for a sector which has seen the arrival and wipeout of large, emerging players. In Europe, however, the market has reached a size and maturity where an event like this can be successfully hosted. Bryan says the plans are to hit the road running and anticipates that some 3,000 people will attend with some 300 exhibitors. Some of the major US players such as East Penn, the UltraBattery manufacturer — and one of the more interesting lead acid battery players — as well as Arbin, the US testing firm have already committed themselves as has Maccor, another long-term supporter of the US event. When Batteries International went to press in April — and a year ahead of the event, the following firms were committed as exhibitors: Aradex, Arbin Instruments, ATS Automation, Autoliv, AVL List, the Baumann Group, Bühler, Current Ways, DEWESoft, East Penn Manufacturing, Exponent, Fiamm, Grenzebach Maschinenbau, HBM, Jonas & Redmann Automation Company, Johnson Matthey Battery Systems, Kienle + Spiess, Kolektor, Lord Corporation, Maccor, Materion Technical Materials, Outlast Technologies, Nilar, Paraclete Energy, PPG, Scherdel, Shmuel De-Leon Energy, Sovema, Telsonic, Thermal Hazard Technology, Transfluid, Wildcat Discovery Technologies, and Zes Zimmer Electronic Systems, Many of the firms such as Paraclete Energy, which is the lead sponsor of the event, sees the show as a natural platform to display its products. Paraclete, for example, produces an additive which increases energy density in lithium cells by up to 400%. “This is good news for the industry,” said the firm. “And the show will be a natural place for us to showcase the fact.” The move of the show to Europe also signals further changes to the industry sector. “The battery market has always been an international market but what we’re seeing now is the way that key players are drilling down to establish themselves deeper in regions around the world,” said one industry commentator. “Events like these fit the profile of the firms that they serve, Texas-based Arbin, for example is in the process of setting up operations in Munich.” The choice of April for the launch of The Battery Show Europe was made for a couple of reasons. The first was that there was no clear clash between

106 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

the event and others at around that time. It was also, said Bryan, sufficiently distant from the mid-September US meetings to have clear water between the two of them. Although the first meetings of the Battery Show, had a pronounced lithium-only bias, over time a more balanced approach has prevailed. “This is

very important to us,” says Bryan. “We are chemistry neutral, our purpose is to showcase what’s happening in the battery sector not to pick and choose technologies or chemistries.” The Battery Show Europe, April 4-6, 2017, at Messe Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, Germany.

EVENT REVIEW: NAATBATT 2016 NAATBatt 2016 Annual Meeting & Conference February 29-March 3, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, California, USA

‘An industry on the move’

The annual NAATBatt conference has always been the hardest of conferences to nail down. At one level, the focus — as per its remit at the beginning — was North America. But the interest in the organization has always been international. Likewise it gives the impression of being laid back. And it is. Think fine golf courses, great locations and easily the best dining at a conference. But the logic behind it is remorseless — how to get top tier battery management to network in an uncomplicated way. These seeming contradictions are part of its appeal. And particularly so given there’s nothing quite like it in a conference circuit which, in general, is more attuned to seeking volume rather than quality. It’s also managed without show or fuss to have moved with the times. NAATBatt was founded in 2007 as a manufacturing cooperative at the suggestion of then-US senator Barrack

Obama. NAATBatt’s original mission was to ensure that the lithium-ion batteries that would one day power electric vehicles would be made in the United States. The concept was based on Sematech, a successful public-private effort in the 1980s that helped US headquartered firms dominate the international semiconductor market. By 2009, however, the US government’s view on how to promote vehicle electrification had changed. In response to this, NAATBatt reorganized itself as a not-for-profit trade association and added the word “International” to its name. Today, NAATBatt International’s mission is to promote the commercial interests of its members without prejudice as to national origin and to encourage the commercialization of advanced battery technology in the

Detchko Pavlov, Ralph Brodd

Bob Galyen, Pavlov, Steve Vechy

United States and around the world. NAATBatt has an international membership of about 90 corporate members. NAATBatt has also expanded its focus beyond its original focus on automotive traction batteries. NAATBatt programmes focus on a variety of business applications enabled by new battery technologies, including stationary energy storage, high energy weapons, consumer electronics, medical devices, robotics, maritime power hybridization, and powering the “Internet of Things”. NAATBatt’s focus today also extends well beyond lithium-ion technology. NAATBatt’s board of directors includes two solid firms embedded in the lead battery industry. Members include firms working in super capacitors, flow battery technologies, and a variety of other battery chemistries. This is hugely positive for the whole of the energy storage industry which so often seems over-dismissive of any battery technology that isn’t its own. So from the lead side of the business NAATBatt International’s board includes Jaime Navarrete from Crown Battery and Steve Clarke from Aqua Metals. The board also includes people such as Steve Vechy from EnerSys, a firm happy to work in almost all chemistries, as well as Pierre-Jean Anvers from Digatron which is also chemistry agnostic with its testing equipment. One indication of this greater welcome to the world of lead was the unusual awards ceremony where two leading figures were honoured. The first was professor Detchko Pavlov — now in his 85th year and who is rightfully acclaimed as perhaps the greatest expert alive on the

Detchko Pavlov and Imre Gyuk

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 107

EVENT REVIEW: NAATBATT 2016 lead acid battery. Some of his recent research on carbon additives continues to prove a fertile ground for better batteries. John Devitt, the inventor of the VRLA battery (and no intellectual slouch himself) once told this commentator that Detchko while still the foremost authority on lead had probably forgotten more about lead than he [Devitt] had ever known! The second person honoured was Imre Gyuk whose full title as energy storage program manager at the office of electricity delivery and energy reliability, hides the enormous influence of the man at the cutting edge of the development of energy storage in the US. He is rightfully credited with being the prime mover behind the US Department of Energy’s initiatives into advanced battery deployment and associated research, particularly at the grid level. As part of his work encouraging grid storage initiatives he once described how he listed the first storage projects on the fingers of one hand, then both hands and then his toes before giving up and setting up the DOE’s formidable date base of project work! The combination of awards for Pavlov and Gyuk was a clear signal that NAATBatt didn’t see itself as beholden to the needs of any one particular chemistry, geography or market segment. This year’s conference showed again this flexibility of approach as the focus of the meetings continues to shift towards energy storage at the grid level. This is where the advanced battery markets are starting to get truly excited and the sessions and related conversations over coffee admirably captured the mood, that this rapidly growing sector will offer. There were two particular sessions in this year’s meetings — both expanded from the last event — that were particularly interesting. The first was the member update presentations which started on the Tuesday and continued for the next two days. The format was simple — each member had about 10 minutes to say what was new in their organization. Although a couple were less than inspired — who cares about when the firm was founded, and its corporate milestones a generation ago, rather what’s it been doing? — the mainstream presentations had an almost evangelical fervour to their enthusiasm for the prospects ahead.

108 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

“This feels like an industry on the move,” one delegate told Batteries International. “As an industry we tend to work in isolation of our competition and even our collaborators, this is always encouraging.” Also of great interest was the Energy Storage Innovation Summit held on the second day of the conference. The purpose of the summit was to provide NAATBatt members with what Greenberger called a “first look” at new technology that had the potential to be relevant to their businesses and that could be bought or licensed, there and then. The diversity of innovation was huge again signalling the rapid pace of change going on within the industry. At least eight of the 20 presentations signalled huge potential avenues of business that delegates either needed to be aware of — or should be acting on.

The NAATBatt business

As part of the business programme which coincides with the meetings, Bob Galyen, was elected as president for the year ahead. Digatron’s PierreJean Anvers was elected as the President-Elect. Typically the PresidentElect succeeds the President in the following year. Galyen, a well known figure in the industry has an extensive background in the automotive business. He was a significant figure in GM’s push into electric vehicles, first with the lead acid battery driven EV1 and then later with other firms in lithium ion battery design and manufacture for the first generation of EVs in the late 2000s onwards. Galyen, who is chief technology officer for Chinese battery giant ATL/ CATL and has worked in Ningde, south of Shanghai, for the past three years, told Batteries International that he wanted to create “a deeper international dimension to the work of NAATBatt and introduce Asian participation and expertise into the equation”. Clearly if he can truly bring China in a meaningful way to the organization, that will be an immense plus in strengthening an international dimension to an industry that is frequently fragmented and often isolated by country location. Pierre-Jean Anvers said that he hoped in the following year that Digatron’s extensive European connections would also prove helpful in consolidating NAATBatt’s connections in the continent.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2016 HITS) is to bring together engineers, researchers and practitioners interested in the advances and applications in the field of vehicle technology and intelligent transport systems. This conference focuses on innovative applications, tools and platforms in all technology areas such as signal processing, wireless communications, informatics and electronics, related to different kinds of vehicles, including cars, EVs, off-road vehicles, trains, ships, underwater vehicles, or flying machines, and the intelligent transportation systems that connect and manage large numbers of vehicles, not only in the context of smart cities but in many other application domains. VEHITS 2016 will be held in conjunction with CSEDU 2016,  SMARTGREENS 2016, WEBIST 2016, CLOSER 2016 and IoTBD 2016.  Registration to VEHITS allows free access to the CSEDU, SMARTGREENS, WEBIST, CLOSER and IoTBD conferences. 34th Space Power Workshop, Manhattan Beach, California

Next Generation Energy Storage 2016 San Diego California, USA April 18-20 What’s next for battery power? Breakthroughs in new battery chemistries, novel electrode and electrolyte materials, system integration for mobile, and portable and stationary applications have paved the road toward an emerging market with unlimited potential. Will lithium-ion and alternativechemistry batteries deliver on the promise of power, energy, cost and safety in commercially available energy storage systems? The Knowledge Foundation’s 6th Annual Next-Generation Energy Storage 2016 convenes leading experts in the fields of battery materials, systems design and integration, manufacturing and commercial applications who address emerging issues driving this pivotal time in the battery industry. Contact, Tel: +1:617 232 7400 Fax: +1 617 232 9171

34th Space Power Workshop Manhattan Beach, California, USA April 18-21 Welcome to the 34th annual Space Power Workshop! This workshop provides an informal, unclassified, international forum for the exchange of ideas and information on space power. Space power workshop sessions include program experience, power systems architecture,

power management and distribution (PMAD), energy generation, energy storage, and advanced concepts. The Space Power Workshop covers topics of interest to professionals with all levels of expertise. The workshop also provides many industry networking opportunities with both domestic and international attendees, including a hosted welcome reception on April 18 in the evening and a hosted luncheon on April 20. University students are welcome. All activities are informal and unclassified. Contact Nathalie Fujino, workshop administrator  Tel: +1 310 336 1202

2nd International Conference on Vehicle Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems Rome, Italy April 23-24 The purpose of the 2nd International Conference on Vehicle Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems (VE-

Contact Tel: +351 265 520 184

ESA 28th Annual Conference and Expo Charlotte, North Carolina USA April 25-27 Contact

2016 Energy Harvesting & Storage Berlin, Germany April 27-28, 2016 The seventh annual IDTechEx event provides insight into energy harvesting technologies and their applications. Hear end user insights, see the latest products and learn about the emerging technologies. Attendees to this event will learn: • Who needs energy harvesting, the ROI and sectors close to adoption. • End user and integrators from a diverse range of markets present their needs and experiences. • All the technology options — from energy harvester choices, energy storage options, through to the latest in low power electronics and wireless sensors. • The current state of the technology at the event tradeshow... And all with an analytical, commercial outlook, taking into account market requirements, competitive technologies and development roadmaps. Contact Corinne Jennings +44 (0)1223 812300

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 109


4 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 6 April, 2017 // Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, Germany


Co-located with

europe 2017

FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2016 BCI 128th Convention & Power Mart

EDTA Conference and Exposition 2016+ Act

San Antonio, Texas, USA • May 1 May- 3

Long Beach, California May 2-5

Members of the battery industry will meet at the Battery Council International’s 128th Convention and Power Mart Expo. The convention will take place at Marriot Rivercentre Hotel in San Antonio. Discussion topics include the foreground of energy storage today. Contact Tel: +1 312 644 6610 Fax: +1 312 527 6640

BATTCON 2016 Boca Raton, Florida, USA • May 10-12 BATTCON 2016 will be held at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida. The event will feature leading stationary battery experts, papers by users and manufacturers that relate to everyday battery applications, technical advances, and the diverse concerns of the battery industry. Those who attend will learn about manufacturing, maintenance trends, testing issues, and safety. Each group of papers is followed by direct audience interaction with the presenters. Panel discussions at the event will consist of experts discussing specific concerns or areas of interest. After the panel discussion, you will have the opportunity to share relevant knowledge and experiences, offer comments, and ask questions. Throughout the conference you are encouraged to ask questions, exchange ideas, and interact with the authors of the papers, members of top-specialized panels, and other attendees. Contact Tel: +1 312 644 6610 Fax: +1 312 527 6640

Africa Utility Week — Clean Power, Africa Cape Town, South Africa • May 17-19 African Utility Week, co-located with Clean Power Africa, has enabled global suppliers and investors to build long-lasting partnerships within the African utility sector and has also played a significant role in providing the industry with valuable knowledge and case studies to help develop the sector and close the funding gap to support Africa’s economic growth. Contact Spintelligent (Pty) Ltd Tel: +27 21 700 3500 Fax: +27 21 700 3501

As the world’s largest display of alternative fuels and clean vehicle technologies, ACT Expo’s show floor provides a one-stop shop for attendees to learn about the wide-range of clean transportation solutions available. This is the perfect environment to have in-depth discussions with the industry’s leading technology, fuel, infrastructure, and funding providers. All alternative fuel types are represented—electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas, and renewable fuels. Contact Tel: +1 888 993 0302 E-mail:

Shmuel De-Leon Batteries and Fuel Cells Seminar Le Bourget du Lac, France May 17-18 The seminar programme is centred on present and future needs of portable and stationary electrochemical energy sources, and highlights the latest technological developments designed to satisfy application requirements. The programme reviews primary, rechargeable, reserve batteries, fuel cells, ultra-capacitors systems and their accessories. Special focus is given to battery design and testing aspects which are vital tools for battery solution. The programme trains attendees on safety issues along the energy source solution cycle life. The program focuses on electric vehicle and batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells and metal air systems for EVs. • Training on cells selection, design, testing and transportation and disposal aspects of energy sources. • Basic knowledge for new industry members entering the field. • Expands the knowledge of industry members already working in the field. • Training on Energy Sources Database Software.

Battery Congress of the Global Automotive Management Council Troy, Michigan, USA May 17-18 The aim is to provide a forum for, engineers, managers, scientists, academic researchers, and industry executives to exchange advances in battery technology and applications and management systems. This forum will address key topics and issues related to OEMs, suppliers (all tiers), component manufacturers,

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 111







FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2016 Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition

12th China International Battery Fair Shenzhen, China • May 24-26

Sydney, Australia June 1-2

Energy Storage is emerging as an essential element in driving the change to a cleaner energy future. It is key to areas such as on-grid and off-grid energy management, micro grids for remote and mining communities, as well as electric vehicles and advanced systems for managing the energy of buildings. Contact Australian Energy Storage Tel:: +61 2 9556 8847 Fax: +61 2 9556 7979 Email: info@australianenergystorage. governmental and non-governmental agencies. It also will provide a network to support educational research and publish technical findings in conference proceedings and technical magazines. This forum will provide a conference, exposition, and publication dedicated to the research integration of new battery technologies in vehicular and other energy system applications. Contact Tel: +1 734 997 9249 Fax: +1 734 786 2242 Email:

The technical conference of CIBF 2016 will be call “China International Conference on the Frontier Technology of Advanced Batteries, CIBF2016” and will mainly focus on the latest progress on R&D and applications of advanced batteries for electric vehicle and energy storage, in particularly advanced materials for next generation xEV battery and energy storage. Among those, main contents cover incentive policies and new development plans from different countries to promote and support R&D and applications of advanced batteries for EV & BESS; the current and future markets of advanced batteries for EV and BESS; R&D progress of advanced batteries and key materials; advancement of battery manufacturing and evaluation as well as battery safety and battery management systems. There will be six sessions. Session 1: Comprehensive session: Government supported policies and R&D plans as well as market/application evaluation of xEV & BESS batteries; Session 2: xEV advanced battery session: Latest progress on R&D and practical running of various advanced batteries for start/stop system, HEV, PHEV and EVs. Session 3: BESS advanced battery session: Latest progress on R&D and practical running of various advanced batteries for micro and smart grids. Session 4: New generation battery material session: Latest progress on R&D and practical application of various anode, cathode, electrolyte and separator materials. Session 5: New type battery chemistry session: Latest progress on R&D and application evaluation of new

generation Li ion chemistry, sodium ion chemistry, pure lithium and other light metal chemistry, including all solid systems. Session 6: Battery module, pack and life and reliability evaluation session: Safety issues for lithium ion batteries in EV and energy storage applications, R&D on cell, module, system design; evaluation via simulation and road testing; New standards and regulations for cells, modules and system evaluation. CIBF2016 will set parallel sessions for “Energy Storage”, which not only cover battery energy storage (BES-Chemical Energy Storage), but also cover physical energy storage. In this case, such a session will be named as “BESS session of China International Conference on the Frontier Technology of Advanced Batteries, CIBF2016, jointly with the 6th China International Energy Storage Application Congress.” All arrangements will be shown in the Program of CIBF 2016, but this part will be jointly organized by CIAPS and China Energy Storage Network. It is estimated that more than 800 people from 50 countries will attend the conference to share the latest development on batteries, battery materials and integrated power systems for electric vehicles, micro-grids and smart-grids. There will be also more than 20 business seminars held by the national and international suppliers during the conference. Contact CIBF2016 office Tel: +86 22-2395 9049 Tel: +86 22 2395 9269 Lu Hui or Liu Yihan Email: Email:

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 113


15 European Lead Battery Conference and Exhibition th

Valletta I Malta I September 2016

The International Lead Association is pleased to announce that the 15th European Lead Battery Conference (15ELBC) and Exhibition will be held in Valletta, the captial city of Malta on 13-16 September 2016. 15ELBC will provide an ideal opportunity for those involved with the lead battery industry worldwide to review and discuss the most recent technical advances associated with lead-based batteries, especially for automotive and renewable energy storage applications. Technical presentations will bring delegates fully up-to-date with the latest research and development information from around the globe. An extensive Exhibition â&#x20AC;&#x201C; expected to involve over 100 stands â&#x20AC;&#x201C;

by suppliers to the industry of equipment, materials and technology, will also take place. Since the first meeting in Paris in 1988, the European Lead Battery Conferences have developed a reputation for high quality presentations on the design, manufacture, performance and use of lead-acid batteries. Over 700 delegates and 100 exhibitors attended 14ELBC in Edinburgh 2014 and similar numbers are confidently expected in Malta.

15ELBC Conference Secretariat: Maura McDermott International Lead Association, Bravington House, 2 Bravingtons Walk, London N1 9AF United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 8090 | Fax : +44 (0) 20 7833 1611 | E-mail:

FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2016 2015 2016 International Flow Battery Forum

229th Meeting of the Electrochemical Society San Diego, California, USA May 29-June 3 2016 Contact

Advanced Automotive & Industrial Battery Conference — AABC Detroit, Michigan, USA June 14-17

Karlsruhe, Germany • June 7-9 We invite you to join us at the seventh International Flow Battery Forum at Karlsruhe, Germany, bringing together all those interested in research, development, commercialisation and deployment of flow batteries. The 2016 meeting will also include an industry day for manufacturers, developers, users and investors to address the specific issues relating to the market opportunities for flow batteries in the increasingly competitive energy storage market place, and an industry visit. There will be an exhibitor area, inside and outside the conference area for suppliers, manufacturers and developers to display their products and services. Our introductory session will be of interest to newcomers to the industry. We welcome exhibitors and sponsors. Working together in partnership not only allows us to achieve a successful conference, but allows us all to achieve greater visibility within market place, and create new busi-

ness opportunities and ventures. We are delighted to announce that our host for 2016 will be Fraunhofer ICT and we will visit their flow battery installation on the hills at the edge of the Black Forest during IFBF. Schedule June 6 (optional introductory seminar on flow battery essentials). June 7: Industry day commercialization, marketing, financing and operational experience for flow battery? evelopment with invited presentations and discussion sessions, with evening reception and visit to the new flow battery installation at Fraunhofer ICT. June 8 and 9: Scientific, technical and commercial papers on flow battery research, development, demonstration and deployment Contact Aud Heyden Email:

Berlin, Germany • June 16, 17

Contact Tel: +1 781 972 5400 Fax: +1 781 972 5425

18th International meeting on lithium batteries Chicago, USA June 19-24

EUROBAT AGM & Forum 2016

The great and the good of the European battery and energy storage scene meet for the annual general meeting, networking dinner and forum.

Mark your calendar for the 2016 Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, the premier international battery conference, unrivalled in its high standard of presentations and outstanding networking opportunities! Top energy storage technologists from leading car companies from the US, Asia, and Europe, as well as their international suppliers, will convene to discuss the advances in technology and market for the advanced automotive battery industry Our expanded program for 2016 spans five days, offering a dedicated pre-conference workshop day followed by two R&D symposia focused on recent advances in battery chemistries and engineering to support the next generation of commercially viable automotive batteries, as well as three parallel tracks exploring the applications and opportunities for xEVs, lead-based batteries, and fuel cell systems. This year’s event will also provide ample time outside of the session room to have dynamic discussions with technical poster presenters, meet with exhibitors to explore the latest developments, and network with speakers and other attendees.

Contact Rene Schroeder, EU Affairs Manager Tel: +32 2 761 16 53 Email:

IMLB 2016 is the premier international conference on the state of lithium battery science and technology, as well as current and future applications in transportation, commercial, aerospace, biomedical, and other promising sectors. Convening in the heart of downtown Chicago, the conference is expected to draw 2,000 experts, researchers, and company representatives involved in the lithium battery field. On behalf of the International Organizing Committee, we invite you to participate in IMLB 2016. This international meeting will provide an exciting forum to discuss recent progress in advanced lithium batteries for energy storage and conversion. The meeting will focus on both basic and applied

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 115

FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2016 research findings that have led to improved Li battery materials, and to the understanding of the fundamental processes that determine and control electrochemical performance. A major (but not exclusive) theme of the meeting will address recent advances in beyond lithium-ion technologies. The meeting will cover a wide range of topics relating to lithium battery science and technology including, but not limited to: • General and national projects • Anodes and cathodes • Nanostructured materials for lithium batteries • Liquid electrolytes and ionic liquids • Polymer, gel, and solid electrolytes • Issues related to sources and availability of materials for Li batteries • Li battery recycling • Electrode/electrolyte interface phenomena • Safety, reliability, cell design and engineering • Monitoring, control and validation systems • Manufacturing and formation techniques • Primary and rechargeable Li cells • Industrial production and development for HEVs, PHEVs, and EVs • Latest developments in Li battery technology Contact The Electrochemical Society Tel: +1 609 737 1902 ext 121 Email:

6th Annual New Energy Forum Kintex, Goyang-si, South Korea June 30-July 3 With the reduction of traditional fossil fuels and increasingly serious global environmental degradation and health dangers, we are ready to meet a new age of energy production. While human demands for energy will not decrease, the largest shifts are the increase in the renewable energy share and the decline in the traditional energy share. New energy occupies an increasingly important position in the whole energy system. New sources of energy, aided by im-


Montreal, Quebec, Canada • June 19-22 The 29th World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS29), the world’s largest international electric vehicle conference, returns to North America this summer. EVS has been assembling global leaders from industry, government and academia to address technical, policy and market topics in the electrification of vehicle fleets since 1969. Key Features of EVS29: • A major trade show with a diverse exhibit floor featuring products, services and organizations. • Cutting-edge presentations on electric mobility products and technologies from experts and industry leaders. • Academic track showcasing world-renowned researchers and breakthrough findings • Frequent networking opportunities, including formal gatherings proved technology and productivity, underpinned by large-scale investments make a significant contribution to supply growth. Entering its 6th year, New Energy Forum has been grown substantially, NEF-2016 will provide a perfect opportunity to researchers from academia and professionals from industry, as well as government regulators to tackle

6th Annual New Energy Forum, South Korea

and customizable meetings • Ride, Drive & Charge • Technical tours Since 1969, the EVS series has been held every 12 to 18 months, rotating between venues in North America, Europe and Asia. With a history spanning five decades, the EV symposium and exhibition has become the premier academic forum for sharing research, best practices, technologies and global networking. A s electric drive has moved from the classroom and laboratory to the mainstream market, EVS has become the leading showcase for the latest innovations in electrified mobility. EVS is the most highly acclaimed symposium in the electric drive industry. Contact Aud Heyden Email: energy challenges, and exchange best practices about improved new energy technology and cooperation. The forum has been successfully held in the past five years. This year we have selected the best programme yet which involves six professional parallel forums. We believe it will set off a new upsurge of cleanness and sustainability energy again. This conference is a perfect opportunity to researchers from academia and professionals from industry, as well as government regulators to tackle energy challenges, and exchange best practices about clean energy utilization and expanding. Most of important and key personnel in the new energy industry have participated at this event; as have most leading companies in this sector. Contact Ms Lynn (BIT Group Global) Tel: +86 411 8479 9609-801 Fax: +86 411-8479 6897 Email:

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 117

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15th European Lead Battery Conference (15ELBC) and Exhibition Valletta, Malta September 13-16

Munich, Germany Exhibition: June 22–24 • Conference: June 21–22 This is the most-attended of all the renewable energy events in Europe. Over 40,000 visitors are expected to see EES Europe and Intersolar Europe. The areas of focus are rechargeable batteries, energy storage systems, charging technologies and battery production equipment and related materials as well as battery production equipment and materials The visitor profile consists of: manufacturers and systems providers of the batteries and energy storage sector; manufacturers and systems providers of the renewable energies sector ; systems integrators for batteries, energy storage systems and E-mobility; utility companies; grid operators; municipalities and pub-

lic Institutions; energy trading firms; RE power plants operators; planners and installers; equipment and materials manufacturers; planners and operators of UPS and back-up power systems; manufacturers of specialpurpose vehicles; OEMs in the automotive industry, and researchers The exhibitor profile consists of manufacturers; suppliers; distributors; service providers; project developers/EPCs; system integrators; research institutes; and, battery production equipment and materials professionals Contact Solar Promotion Tel: +49 7231 58598-0 Fax: +49 7231 58598-28

15ELBC will provide an ideal opportunity for those involved with the lead battery industry worldwide to review and discuss the most recent technical advances associated with lead-based batteries, especially for automotive and renewable energy storage applications. Technical presentations will bring delegates fully up-to-date with the latest research and development information from around the globe. An extensive Exhibition – expected to involve over 100 stands - by suppliers to the industry of equipment, materials and technology, will also take place. Since the first meeting in Paris in 1988, the European Lead Battery Conferences have developed a reputation for high quality presentations on the design, manufacture, performance and use of lead-acid batteries. Over 700 delegates and 100 exhibitors attended 14ELBC in Edinburgh 2014 and similar numbers are confidently expected in Malta. Contact International Lead Association Tel: +44 20 7833 8090 Fax: +44 20 7833 1611 Email:

Valletta, Malta. Home to 15th European Lead Battery Conference (15ELBC) and Exhibition in September

Batteries International • Spring 2016 • 119

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PROFILE: SUPERIOR BATTERY While US battery manufacturers were retrenching or consolidating in the early 1980s, Randy Hart decided that it was time to launch Superior Battery. Kevin Desmond, battery historian, takes up the story.

Swimming against the stream It wasn’t the greatest of times to set up a new business. It was 1983, the United States was just about to come out of three years of recession. Inflation had spiralled seemingly out of control, interest rates were even higher. Across the US the automotive industry was fighting for its life. Car sales — each of which required a starter battery — had slumped from an average of 11 million a year in the late 1970s to 8 million in 1982. The battery business was in the grip of consolidation to cut costs. But where others saw difficulties, Randy Hart saw an opportunity. And his creation Superior Battery is now a major US battery manufacturer, an award winning exporter and em-

ploys some 200 staff in its Kentuckybased headquarters in Russell Springs. The story starts in August 1956. Randolph Scott Hart was born in Somerset, a city in Pulaski County, Kentucky — about half an hour’s drive from where he was to grow up in Russell Springs. Two things were in his blood from the beginning — engineering and his Christian faith. His father, who once worked as a machinist for Fisher Body in Cincinnati, Ohio moved back to Russell Springs where he was a parttime farmer and also an evangelical Baptist minister. “Growing up on a farm there is always something to work with, repair, or rework in regards to farm equip-

“I chose the name Superior to make me always strive to be better. There’s an old saying: “In a pack of dogs if you’re not the lead dog then the view is always the same!”

In 1983 — aged just 27 — he looked to diversify and he set up the Superior Battery Manufacturing Company, in Russell Springs. He had just a handful of employees — mostly relatives — and his empire was located in a small building on the family farm in the Salem community.

122 • Batteries International • Spring 2016

ment and machinery,” says Randy. “I’m not sure what age I was when I started playing around with equipment because it seems that I’ve always been around it.” Graduating from the Somerset Technical School, he then studied at Machine School of Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He then enlisted in the US Air Force where his machining skills were built on further — he reached Status Level 5 (Craftsman) — and worked for a while in the Machine Tool and Die section at Kirtland, New Mexico. This turned out to be highly technical and top secret work. “Our shop at the air force base primarily worked for the Sandia Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” he says. “We did machine work according to their specifications and supported them, whether it was manufacturing a part or just a prototype. “Everything was classified. We may be working on a particular part of a prototype one day and another part of it a month later. You had to have a secret security clearance to even work in our shop! I later learned that one of the prototypes was for laserguided bombs. It was during this time I worked on achieving my levels of education in the machining field. This included classroom study, tests, and field work to advance in skill certification.” Having received an Honourable Discharge from the USAF and the Air National Guard, he started the H&B Tyre and Battery Company. He later bought out his partner, changed his partner’s initial B to an H, dropped the tyre work, and continued with the battery business in the wholesale and retail market. In 1983 — aged just 27 — he looked to diversify and he set up the Superior Battery Manufacturing Company, in Russell Springs. He had just a handful of employees — mostly relatives

PROFILE: SUPERIOR BATTERY — and his empire was located in a small building on the family farm in the Salem community. “I chose the name Superior to make me always strive to be better. There’s an old saying: “In a pack of dogs if you’re not the lead dog then the view is always the same!” Batteries were delivered in a 1952 Chevrolet truck. “We bought all the components and basically just put batteries together,” he says. “During the H&H era I’d already started reconditioning batteries in a small building that my dad used for work when I was growing up,” he says. “When I started Superior I built a larger building — though it wasn’t much larger — about 1,600 square feet in size. We continued to assemble batteries for two years and then began to manufacture more of the components of the batteries. By 1985 we’d already had two expansions and continued to increase our capacity and continued to make more of the components.” At the time, the SLI (starting, lighting, ignition) side of the battery industry was struggling and the number of battery manufacturers collapsed from 170 to fewer than 20 today. But all was going well for Superior. In 1986 it carried out its third expansion, adding more modern equipment and upgrades to the existing facility. “By the end of 1991 we had approximately 17,000 square feet and were producing about 1,200 batteries per day,” he says. But then disaster struck. At three in the morning on April 2, 1992 a fire broke out in the battery formation room. The fire raged for hours. And when dawn came at seven o’clock — it would take another hour to put it out — it was clear the factory was completely destroyed. Then the community spirit that often is at the heart of family businesses kicked in. “When we began to rebuild the plant after the fire everyone pitched in. It was quite some thing. There was family, friends, and employees and we all chipped in to get the new factory built,” he says. My wife Lisha helped in all kinds of capacities — including keeping me straight! — and was hugely supportive of the endeavour. Her father owned a concrete construction company, and they did all the concrete work on the new plant. Between the construction crews, family, friends, and some employees of the company, we had quite the crowd working to build the new

Superior Battery early 1990s, pre-fire

The fire put Superior out of business from April 1992 until July 1993. To go from ashes to a working production line in just 15 months is a major accomplishment. facility.” The fire put Superior out of business from April 1992 until July 1993. To go from ashes to a working production line in just 15 months is a major accomplishment. Oddly enough starting afresh had some benefits too. “I often tell people that the fire burned up all my previous mistakes. I knew it would be difficult because we basically had to start over. At the same time — you’ve a clean sheet to work with,” he says. “When the new plant was designed, I was able to engineer more environmental upgrades and production

flow capacity into the building. This made the new plant more efficient and productive than the old one. I also incorporated more modern and capacity efficient equipment. We not only built back but actually expanded in the process. This would have also been our fifth expansion in 10 years of business.” Moreover, the new plant was over 3½ times larger than the old plant and designed to give Superior the room to grow capacity, if needed. On that July re-opening, the first Superlex Premium Power Batteries rolled out of the brand new production line.

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Contemporary shot of Superior, still on the farm in Russell Springs that Randy Hart grew up in

“It was a name that we could trademark and have full authority over it. We were able to use Super from Superior to keep a closer identity,” he says. “Some people have thought that the ‘lex’ was derived from Lexington, Kentucky. But we needed a work for the patent office and ‘lex’ sounded a good suffix! But most importantly this also gave us the ability to offer our customers a complete battery program with a fully-labelled product.”

BACK TO SCHOOL WITH SUPERIOR Superior’s Battery University was established in 2009 as a way to empower battery specialists with education not available from other manufacturers. This day-long seminar includes an extensive factory tour plus an educational component that highlights battery history and technology, chemical make-up, testing methods and troubleshooting charging problems. Participants also receive a variety of sales tools to effectively help communicate the value of Superlex batteries.

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The logo of the red galloping horse, a symbol of power, resonates to the many race horse studs in Kentucky State and the legendary Derby and Oaks that is held annually at Churchill Downs, Louisville. In 2010, the company received the Kentucky World Trade Center Governor’s Award for International Trade Excellence and was named Exporter of the Year in 2011 by ThinkGlobal, publisher of Commercial News US. In 2013, Superior became one of three Kentucky companies to receive an Export Achievement Certificate from the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration. Superior’s exports have grown from less than 3% five years ago to 30% of total revenue today. In 2012, the company exported to 26 countries and added jobs because of the increase in trade. Superior owns several trade mark registrations for: Superlex & Design; Advanced GridLoc Technology & Design; and for PFX Technology & Design.

Superior says it is also leading the industry in use of robotics. “Our most significant achievements, however, have been in pioneering revolutionary flooded cell battery technology — specifically, in the creation of PFX, which was introduced in 2012 and delivers extended life, enhanced  cyclability and better heat endurance at a competitive cost,” says Hart. PFX was originally an acronym for Primary (lead) Formed (lead strip) and eXpanded (metal) design. It involves extremely clean, highly refined lead and continuous paste mixing technology work with other elements — including expanded grids, micro-process controlled curing, high-performance separators and polyfibre mats — to deliver maximum performance. Superior refines, in-house, the lead alloy used in its batteries, establishing the right chemical composition to increase battery life. Superior has earned ISO 9001-2002 and TS16949 certifications from the International Automotive Task Force, “In the next generation of products

“I often tell people that the fire burned up all my previous mistakes. I knew it would be difficult because we basically had to start over”


Group shot including some of the named and unnamed team behind PFX. Working alongside Randy Hart on the system: Tony Wilson: chief design and process engineer, Preston Richardson: plate operations superintendent, Jeff Roy: specialty equipment and process engineer, Jeff Meeks: supervisor of plate production and processing, and Joe Gosser: director of quality assurance. Then for manufacture Craig Jasper: plant manager, Don Phelps: plant engineer, and Robby Stapp: assistant plant manager.

it will finally reach its final intended meaning: Proprietary (lead alloy) Cold Formed-extruded (lead strip) and eXpanded (metal) design.” Now approaching 60, Randy Hart is still working to make Superior ever better and ever larger. “Lisha and I have no children, but I am richly blessed with a close family and great employees. I’ve had numerous hobbies and interests over the past few years but as of today I spend most of my spare time working in my mancave and accessorizing automobiles!” Here he has a show-winning 2002 Ford Lightning truck that he says he likes ‘tinkering’ with — the 5.5 litre engine would put the Tesla Model S to shame coming in with some 700 horsepower. Two common themes seem to be commonplace in the battery world — faith and music, though not always together. However, Randy has combined the two and over the decades he has also travelled and sung with three southern Gospel quartets: first the Spirits Quartet, then the Joymakers Quartet and One Accorde. I’m not sure how I worked that in but I was

much younger when I worked in the battery business all week and travelled the weekends touring with my group,” he says. “I plan on staying around a while especially since we are nearing goals

we have worked toward for the last few years. Lisha tells me that I won’t ever be able to completely retire since I have always had a passion for this industry and always trying to make something better.”

With Lisha, his wife and business mainstay. Publicity material for the other side of Randy Hart, highly professional gospel singing (inset)

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“Our tooling operation is completely flexible so I can assure you that we can meet any reasonable delivery requirement. Our quality control and certification guarantees that your tool will meet your specifications”. Jason Wirtz, Vice President Tooling Division

WIRTZ TOOLING: 98% ON-TIME COMPLETION AND SHORT LEAD TIMES Over the last five years, Wirtz has installed 10 new CNC tooling machining centers. These new tooling machining centers are not only capable of producing the closest tolerance tooling, but also feature increased capacity. As a result, Wirtz now is meeting on-time delivery commitments on 98% of all tooling orders. Wirtz standard lead time is also the shortest in the industry. We can now produce automotive grid molds, paster tooling, and cutter tooling in only four weeks. Our continuous cast wheels and industrial grid molds can be delivered in just eight weeks. To get the tooling with the closest tolerances and the fastest delivery time visit or call us at 1-810-987-7600.


d r o w t s a l e Th ‘Lead ain’t good enough’ Power steering is for wimps, but lithium’s the real deal.  That’s what Bill Ellis, proud owner of a 1977 Bedford Van tells Batteries International. The highly collectible van, one of only 10 still driving the UK roads, comes with every mod con, electric powered headlights, indicators (for turning both right and left) and cigarette lighter.

And underneath the hood, one bright yellow lithium 12V battery, “lead ain’t good enough for this baby” says Bill. “This’ll keep my 1300cc beast going for years to come.’

Standing room only, please The 200 metre exclusion zone — now an integral part of the most fashionable energy storage events in the US — has arrived in Europe. Both this winter’s meetings for EES in Dusseldorf and ABC in Mainz proved seating-free zones inside and outside the exhibition hall. “All the best conferences have removed the chairs,” said one veteran exhibitor. “The craze started in the US — in California of course — and spread to Europe. In the States we hear that they’re wanting to take them out of the main hall. It’d keep delegates on their

toes and stop ’em falling asleep during the presentations.” But why? “If you can’t give them golf, they’ve got to get some kind of exercise anyway,“ says one US organizer. “It’s for their own good — and what could be nicer than visiting all my lovely paid-for exhibitor booths rather than trudging all over the place and doing themselves a mischief in the heat?”

Dark powers over BCI meetings dispelled The curse of BCI has lifted. Or that’s what seems to have happened. Lead acid North America has always known that where BCI goes, tragedies follow. Just think of the terrible events that have fallen on Miami, Scottsdale, San Diego and Baltimore postconvention. But it seems last year’s blow-out

in Savannah left it unscathed. “We had a couple of dozen driveby shootings immediately after BCI left,” said a local sheriff. “But since then — race riots aside and the burning of the town hall— it’s been pretty calm.” But this year, the inhabitants of San Antonio didn’t taking anything for granted. “We’ve prepared an emergency escape route on IS-

35 to Mexico — thank heavens they’ve not built that wall yet — and a toll free share-a-ride scheme up to Austin,” says a city official. “Meanwhile, we’ve advised everyone to shutter up their homes, store food in the cellar and stay tuned to the local radio for alerts.” BCI descended on San Antonio on May 2.

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d r o w t s a l e Th Something for the bookcase

An often neglected part of the history of the energy storage industry is the way that the focus has remorselessly been on the battery rather than the way that battery pioneers were also intimately involved with their applications.

Our very own battery historian Kevin Desmond has sought to redress the balance with a history of Gustave Trouvé, a 19th century Parisian electrical engineer — a life-long friend of Gaston Planté, the lead acid battery inventor — who invented much and put the new world of batteries through its paces. Trouvé was responsible for some 75 inventions — such as a much improved electric motor — and improvements that might incorporate the batteries into a larger sphere of operation. Everything from the first battery powered boat, to the first electric piano and an electric tricycle were just some of his creations.

This, the first published account of Trouvé’s achievements written in the past 100 years and hopefully Desmond’s well crafted book should restore his name to the pantheon of fame. Gustave Trouvé, French Electrical Genius, Kevin Desmond published by McFarland.

The shape of things to come The next generation of wireless charging is underway. But this time in scale. Cavotec and Wärtsilä are working on a new wireless charging project for battery-powered car ferries! The new project’s integrated system is capable of transferring more than 1MW of electrical energy. How long will it be till we see electric-powered 747s powered by ray guns from the ground?

ELBC: where to next? The secret location of the next ELBC may not be released until Gala Night this September in Valletta but already an impressive book is building as bets mount on where it’ll be held. “The ILA are a cunning lot but we’ve a fair idea of what they may be planning,” said our mole at PaddyPower, the Irish bookmaking firm. “At 10-1 the current favourites are Paris (it’s so unlikely that they’d repeat it, they probably will), Rome (Maura likes to go shopping there) and Spain’s Jerez (because of the sherry —they all quaff the stuff like there’s no tomorrow).” Batteries International’s one to watch, Southend-on-Sea, is still at a 1000-1.

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Batteries International Spring 2016  
Batteries International Spring 2016  

Trade magazine for the Battery Industry