Tag Archives: batteries

Batteries

CREDIT: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/business/energy-environment/electric-car-batteries-investment.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Key points:

Demand for batteries will explode.

Global race to dominate the field.

China currently dominate.

Europe (EU) investing heavily.

The mother lode: a commercial-grade solid state battery, replacing liquid.

Needed: cheaper, longer-lasting.

Article below:

Batteries

Feb. 16, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

As automakers like General MotorsVolkswagen and Ford Motor make bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future, one thing is becoming obvious: They will need a lot of batteries.

Demand for this indispensable component already outstrips supply, prompting a global gold rush that has investors, established companies and start-ups racing to develop the technology and build the factories needed to churn out millions of electric cars.

Long considered one of the least interesting car components, batteries may now be one of the most exciting parts of the auto industry. Car manufacturing hasn’t fundamentally changed in 50 years and is barely profitable, but the battery industry is still ripe for innovation. Technology is evolving at a pace that is reminiscent of the early days of personal computers, mobile phones or even automobiles and an influx of capital has the potential to mint the next Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm, estimates that electric vehicles will make up about 18 percent of new car sales by 2030. That would increase the demand for batteries by about eight times as much as factories can currently produce. And that is a conservative estimate. Some analysts expect electric vehicle sales to grow much faster.

Carmakers are engaged in an intense race to acquire the chemical recipe that will deliver the most energy at the lowest price and in the smallest package. G.M.’s announcement last month that it would go all electric by 2035was widely considered a landmark moment by policymakers and environmentalists. But to many people in the battery industry, the company was stating the obvious.

“This was the last in a wave of big announcements that very clearly signaled that electric vehicles are here,” said Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who researches battery technology.

Battery manufacturing is dominated by companies like Tesla, Panasonic, LG Chem, BYD China and SK Innovation — nearly all of them based in China, Japan or South Korea. But there are also many new players getting into the game. And investors, sensing the vast profits at stake, are hurling money at start-ups that they believe are close to breakthroughs.

“I think we’re in the infancy stage,” said Andy Palmer, the former chief executive of Aston Martin and now the nonexecutive vice chairman of InoBat Auto, a battery start-up. “There is more money than there are ideas.”

QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley start-up whose investors include Volkswagen and Bill Gates, is working on a technology that could make batteries cheaper, more reliable and quicker to recharge. But it has no substantial sales and it could fail to produce and sell batteries. Yet, stock market investors consider the company to be more valuable than the French carmaker.

China and the European Union are injecting government funds into battery technology. China sees batteries as crucial to its ambition to dominate the electric vehicle industry. In response, the Chinese government helped Contemporary Amperex Technology, which is partly state-owned, become one of the world’s biggest battery suppliers seemingly overnight.

The European Union is subsidizing battery production to avoid becoming dependent on Asian suppliers and to preserve auto industry jobs. Last month, the European Commission, the bloc’s administrative arm, announced a 2.9 billion euro, or $3.5 billion, fund to support battery manufacturing and research. That was on top of the more than €60 billion that European governments and automakers had already committed to electric vehicles and batteries, according to the consulting firm Accenture. Some of the government money will go to Tesla as a reward for the company’s decision to build a factory near Berlin.

The United States is also expected to promote the industry in accordance with President Biden’s focus on climate change and his embrace of electric cars. In a campaign ad last year, Mr. Biden, who owns a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette, said he was looking forward to driving an electric version of the sports car if G.M. decides to make one.

Several battery factories are in the planning or construction phase in the United States, including a factory G.M. is building in Ohio with LG, but analysts said federal incentives for electric car and battery production would be crucial to creating a thriving industry in the United States. So will technological advances by government-funded researchers and domestic companies like QuantumScape and Tesla, which last fall outlined its plans to lower the cost and improve the performance of batteries.

“There’s no secret that China strongly promotes manufacturing and new development,” said Margaret Mann, a group manager in the Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a unit of the U.S. Energy Department. “I am not pessimistic,” she said of the United States’ ability to gain ground in battery production. “But I don’t think all of the problems have been solved yet.”

Entrepreneurs working in this area said these were early days and U.S. companies could still leapfrog the Asian producers that dominate the industry.

“Today’s batteries are not competitive,” said Jagdeep Singh, chief executive of QuantumScape, which is based in San Jose, Calif. “Batteries have enormous potential and are critical for a renewable energy economy, but they have to get better.”

For the most part, all of the money pouring into battery technology is good news. It puts capitalism to work on solving a global problem. But this reordering of the auto industry will also claim some victims, like the companies that build parts for internal combustion engine cars and trucks, or automakers and investors that bet on the wrong technology.

“Battery innovations are not overnight,” said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne National Laboratory’s Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. “It can take you many years. All sorts of things can happen.”

Most experts are certain that demand for batteries will empower China, which refines most of the metals used in batteries and produces more than 70 percent of all battery cells. And China’s grip on battery production will slip only marginally during the next decade despite ambitious plans to expand production in Europe and the United States, according to projections by Roland Berger, a German management consulting firm.

Battery production has “deep geopolitical ramifications,” said Tom Einar Jensen, the chief executive of Freyr, which is building a battery factory in northern Norway to take advantage of the region’s abundant wind and hydropower. “The European auto industry doesn’t want to rely too much on imports from Asia in general and China in particular,” he added.

Freyr plans to raise $850 million as part of a proposed merger with Alussa Energy Acquisition Corporation, a shell company that sold shares before it had any assets. The deal, announced in January, would give Freyr a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company plans to make batteries using technology developed by 24M Technologies in Cambridge, Mass.

The first priority for the industry is to make batteries cheaper. Electric car batteries for a midsize vehicle cost about $15,000, or roughly double the price they need to be for electric cars to achieve mass acceptance, Mr. Srinivasan said.

Those savings can be achieved by making dozens of small improvements — like producing batteries close to car factories to avoid shipping costs — and by reducing waste, according to Roland Berger. About 10 percent of the materials that go into making a battery are wasted because of inefficient production methods.

But, in a recent study, Roland Berger also warned that growing demand could push up prices for raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel and cancel out some of those efficiency gains. The auto industry is competing for batteries with electric utilities and other energy companies that need them to store intermittent wind and solar power, further driving up demand.

“We are getting rumbles there may be a supply crunch this year,” said Jason Burwen, interim chief executive for the United States Energy Storage Association.

An entire genre of companies has sprung up to replace expensive minerals used in batteries with materials that are cheaper and more common. OneD Material, based in San Jose, Calif., makes a substance that looks like used coffee grounds for use in anodes, the electrode through which power leaves batteries when a vehicle is underway. The material is made from silicon, which is abundant and inexpensive, to reduce the need for graphite, which is scarcer and more expensive.

Longer term, the industry holy grail is solid state batteries, which will replace the liquid lithium solution at the core of most batteries with solid layers of a lithium compound. Solid state batteries would be more stable and less prone to overheating, allowing faster charging times. They would also weigh less.

Toyota Motor and other companies have invested heavily in the technology, and have already succeeded in building some solid state batteries. The hard part is mass producing them at a reasonable cost. Much of the excitement around QuantumScape stems from the company’s assertion that it has found a material that solves one of the main impediments to mass production of solid state batteries, namely their tendency to short circuit if there are any imperfections.

Still, most people in the industry don’t expect solid state batteries to be widely available until around 2030. Mass producing batteries is “the hardest thing in the world,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said on a recent conference call with analysts. “Prototypes are easy. Scaling production is very hard.”

One thing is certain: It’s a great time to have a degree in electrochemistry. Those who understand the properties of lithium, nickel, cobalt and other materials are to batteries what software coders are to computers. Jakub Reiter, for example, has been fascinated with battery chemistry since he was a teenager growing up in the 1990s in Prague, long before that seemed like a hot career choice.

Mr. Reiter was doing graduate research in Germany in 2011 when a headhunter recruited him to work at BMW, which wanted to understand the underlying science of batteries. Last year, InoBat poached him to help set up a factory in Slovakia, where Volkswagen, Kia, Peugeot and Jaguar Land Rover produce cars.

Mr. Reiter is now head of science at InoBat, whose technology allows customers to quickly develop batteries for different uses, like a low-cost battery for a commuter car or a high-performance version for a roadster.

“Twenty years ago, nobody cared much about batteries,” Mr. Reiter said. Now, he said, there is intense competition and “it’s a big fight.”

The Electric Car Race

Remaking the auto industry

G.M. Announcement Shakes Up U.S. Automakers’ Transition to Electric Cars

Jan. 29, 2021

G.M.’s Electric Car Push Could Put China in the Driver’s Seat

Jan. 29, 2021

California Is Trying to Jump-Start the Hydrogen Economy

Nov. 11, 2020

The Age of Electric Cars Is Dawning Ahead of Schedule

Sept. 20, 2020

Jack Ewing writes about business, banking, economics and monetary policy from Frankfurt, and contributes to breaking news coverage. Previously he worked for a decade at BusinessWeek magazine in Frankfurt, where he was European regional editor. @JackEwingNYT • Facebook

Ivan Penn is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering alternative energy. Before coming to The Times in 2018 he covered utility and energy issues at The Tampa Bay Times and The Los Angeles Times. @ivanlpenn

Tesla and Energy Storage

CREDIT: Guardian Story on Tesla and Energy Storage

Tesla moves beyond electric cars with new California battery farm

From the road, the close to 400 white industrial boxes packed into 1.5 acres of barren land in Ontario, California, a little more than 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, look like standard electrical equipment. They’re surrounded by a metal fence, stand on concrete pads and sit under long electrical lines.

But take a closer look and you’ll notice the bright red coloring and gray logo of electric car company Tesla on the sides. And inside the boxes are thousands of battery cells – the same ones that are used in Tesla’s electric cars – made by the company in its massive $5bn Tesla Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada.

This spot, located at the Mira Loma substation of Southern California Edison, hosts the biggest battery farm Tesla has built for a power company. Southern California Edison will use the battery farm, which has been operating since December and is one of the biggest in the world, to store energy and meet spikes in demand – like on hot summer afternoons when buildings start to crank up the air conditioning.

Tesla’s project has a capacity of 20 megawatts and is designed to discharge 80-megawatt hours of electricity in four-hour periods. It contains enough batteries to run about 1,000 Tesla cars, and the equivalent energy to supply power to 15,000 homes for four hours. The company declined to disclose the project’s cost.

The project marks an important point in Tesla’s strategy to expand beyond the electric car business. Developing battery packs is a core expertise for the company, which is designing packs for homes, businesses and utilities. It markets them partly as a way to store solar electricity for use after sundown, a pitch that works well for states with a booming solar energy market such as California.

Battery systems built for power companies can serve more than one purpose. A utility can avoid blackouts by charging them up when its natural gas power plants, or solar and wind farms, produce more electricity than needed, and draw from them when the power plants aren’t able to keep up with demand.

Edison and other California utilities hired Tesla and a few other battery farm builders after an important natural gas reservoir near Los Angeles, called Aliso Canyon, closed following a huge leak and massive environmental disaster in late 2015. The leak forced thousands of people in nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. It also left utilities worried about how they’d meet the peak electricity demands of coming summers if they weren’t able to dip into the natural gas storage whenever they need fuel to produce power. They couldn’t always get natural gas shipment from other suppliers quick enough to meet a sharp rise in electricity consumption.

As a result, the California Public Utilities Commission approved 100 megawatts of energy storage projects for both Southern California Edison and also San Diego Gas & Electric. The commission also asked for the projects to be built quickly, before the end of 2016.

Other energy storage projects that have been built since include a 37.5-megawatt project in San Diego County by AES Energy Storage, which used lithium-ion batteries from Samsung. AES has completed the project, which is going through the commissioning phase. AES also plans to build a 100-megawatt project for Southern California Edison in Long Beach in 2020.
Even before the Aliso Canyon disaster, the commission had already recognized the benefit of using energy storage to manage supply and demand and expected it to become an important component in the state’s plan to replace fossil fuel energy with renewables. The commission, which requires the state’s three big utilities to add more wind and solar energy to their supplies over time, also set a statement energy storage target of 1,325 megawatts by 2020.
Surrounded by rows of batteries at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the project on Monday, Southern California Edison’s CEO Kevin Payne said the Tesla project is important because “it validates that energy storage can be part of the energy mix now” and is “a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry”.

This latest crop of energy storage projects use a new generation of lithium-ion batteries. Historically, batteries were too expensive for energy storage, but their prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks to their mass production by companies such as Panasonic, Tesla and Samsung.
Companies that buy lithium-ion batteries have been reporting drops in prices of 70% over the past two years. Tesla has said it plans to lower its battery prices by 30% by expanding production inside its Gigafactory.
At the event on Monday, Tesla’s co-founder and chief technology officer JB Straubel said: “Storage has been missing on the grid since it was invented.”

Tesla is counting on the energy storage market as an important source of revenue and built its giant factory with that in mind.
The company believes its expertise in engineering and building electric cars sets itself apart from other battery farm developers. Tesla has been developing battery packs for a decade and improved the technology that manages the batteries temperatures, which can be high enough to pose a fire risk.
Overheating is a well known problem for lithium-ion batteries, which require insulating materials and software to keep them running cool. A battery farm built next to a wind farm in Hawaii by a now-bankrupt company caught fire in 2012 and temporarily put a dampener on the energy storage market.
Tesla has been building another battery farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and has projects in Connecticut, North Carolina, New Zealand and the UK.
The company is looking for opportunities to build battery farms outside of California, including the East Coast and countries such as Germany, Australia and Japan. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has said in the past that the company’s energy storage business could one day be bigger than its car business.

Fixed Costs of the Grid … 55%?

CREDIT: http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/Documents/IEE_ValueofGridtoDGCustomers_Sept2013.pdf

“Distributed generation” (DG) is what the electric utility industry calls solar panels, wind turbines, etc.

The article points out what is well-known: even with aggressive use of solar, any DG customer still needs the grid ….. at least this is true until a reasonable cost methodology for storing electricity at the point of generation comes on-line (at which time perhaps a true “off-grid” location is possible.

So …. for a DG customer …. the grid becomes a back-up, a source of power when the sun does not shine, the wind does not blow, etc.

So the fairness question is: should a DG customer pay for their fair share of the grid? Asked this way, the answer is obvious: yes. Just like people pay for insurance, in that same way should people be asked to pay for the cost of the grid.

Unfortunately, these costs are astronomical. This paper claims that they are 55% of total costs!

“In this example, the typical residential customer consumes, on average, about 1000 kWh per month and pays an average monthly bill of about $110 (based on EIA data). About half of that bill (i.e., $60 per month) covers charges related to the non-energy services provided by the grid….”

Batteries Update

New York Times article on big batteriesP

Notes from the article: Susan Kennedy is the former state utility regulator knows a lot about this. She now runs and energy stored start up.

AES has the contract. This is one of three major installations in Southern California.

This one is 130 miles south east of Aliso Canyon, the site of the major gas leak in 2015.

The second is installation is in Escondido, California, 30 miles north of San Diego. It will be the largest of its kind in the world.

The third is being built by Tesla – for southern California Edison – near Chino, California.

AES has two executives that drove the project since 12 2006. Chris Shelton and John Zahurancik. Their inspiration came from a purse festers paper the predicted the future dominated by electric cars. When Park, they could be connected to the grid so that their batteries could act as storage devices to help balance electricity demand.

They are buying the batteries that they are installing from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Panasonic.

Future Watch: Home Electricity Power Shaping

Like the quantified self movement (my Nike Fuel Band and my Apple Watch), and like the quantified car movement (my Tesla and my Ford Escape Titanium), I am ready for the quantified home movement.

I have a specific interest – but it falls under the general class of the “smart home” or the “internet of things”. For the latest on these trends, check out:
Business Insider on Smart Home

Specifically, I am ready for “power shaping”. Here is how it will work:

The subject is: can you take greater control of the power you consume in your home? Can you shape it to who you are and what you need?

For example:

– If I leave home for a week, can I turn the water heater down to lukewarm, and turn it back up a hour before I project I will arrive back into the home?

– If I leave home for an evening, can I turn the lights off except for three that I choose, and then turn the lights back on when my smart phone detects that I am a mile from the house?

– if peak power pricing starts at 4 and ends at 7, can I turn off my draw from the grid and turn on my draw from the PowerWall battery in my garage? And can that then trigger a recharge of the PowerWall when prices are cheapest, between midnight and 6 am?

– if the US Weather Service predicts, three days before, that the sun will be bright and hot from 9 am to 6 pm, can I plan to use solar power to the maximum? I choose to draw all of my electricity from solar during that time period, and then to add any left over to recharge my PowerWall (or sell back to the grid). In fact, I will set s goal for myself that I will be 100% solar 50 days this year, 70%+ solar 100 days, and 50%+ solar 150 days – without any inconvenience to myself or my family. Also, my goal is to be 100% “off peak draw” (only draw from the grid during off peak periods) 300 days this year.

– my goal is to reduce electricity draw by 30% and cost by 40% (by shaping my draw to off peak). This saves $1000 per year.

Process is entirely driven by default choices. The most basic default is “keep on keeping on”.

But there are other defaults – that I can buy or download.

For example, my power consumption can be driven by “expert user algorithms” that others say are awesome. I take advantage of what some geek has figured out about electricity usage.

Then, I “opt in” over time, and I learn about algorithmic capabilities, assets that I own (like solar panels), and needs that I have.

Apps are evolving to support this future. Take “COMFY”, for example.This is from NYT:

A couple of computer scientists have developed a smartphone app that proposes to solve that problem by making people the thermostats. Users can tell the app, called Comfy, whether they are hot, cold or just right. Over time, it learns trends and preferences and tells the air-conditioning system when and where to throttle up or throttle back the cooling. So far it’s used in a dozen buildings, including some of Google’s offices and some government-owned buildings, for a total of three million square feet. The developers claim Comfy-equipped buildings realize savings of up to 25 percent in cooling costs.
“We have a lot of data that people are most comfortable if they have some measure of control,” said Gwelen Paliaga, a building systems engineer in Arcata, Calif., and chairman of a committee that develops standards for human thermal comfort for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, or Ashrae.