Tag Archives: energy

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

World’s biggest battery installation

JAMESTOWN, Australia—Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk may have overpromised on production of the company’s latest electric car, but he is delivering on his audacious Australian battery bet.

An enormous Tesla-built battery system—storing electricity from a new wind farm and capable of supplying 30,000 homes for more than an hour—will be powered up over the coming days, the government of South Australia state said Thursday. Final tests are set to be followed by a street party that Mr. Musk, founder of both Tesla and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, was expected to attend.

Success would fulfill the risky pledge Mr. Musk made in March, to deliver a working system in “100 days from contract signature or it is free.” He was answering a Twitter challenge from Australian IT billionaire and environmentalist Mike Cannon-Brookes to help fix electricity problems in South Australia—which relies heavily on renewable energy—after crippling summer blackouts left 1.7 million people without power, some for weeks.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes then brokered talks between Mr. Musk and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has faced criticism from climate groups for winding back renewable-energy policies in favor of coal. South Australia notwithstanding, the country’s per-person greenhouse emissions are among the world’s highest.

South Australia’s government has yet to say how much the battery will cost taxpayers, although renewable-energy experts estimate it at US$50 million. Tesla says the system’s 100-megawatt capacity makes it the world’s largest, tripling the previous record array at Mira Loma in Ontario, Calif., also built by Tesla and U.S. power company Edison.

GRID

Bill Gates recommended GRID as one of his five favorite books in 2016. Here is what Business Insider said:

“‘The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future’ by Gretchen Bakke

“The Grid” is a perfect example of how Bill Gates thinks about book genres the way Netflix thinks about TV and movies.

“This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: ‘Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating,'” he writes.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Gates’ first job was writing software for a company that provided energy to the Pacific Northwest. He learned just how vital power grids are to everyday life, and “The Grid” serves as an important reminder that they really are engineering marvels.

“I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex,” he writes, “and so critical for building our clean-energy future.”

My son received it as a Christmas gift, and stayed up all night finishing it. I ordered it the same day he told me.

Finally, a readable history of energy. Why does our grid look as it does?

The incredible role that Jimmy Carter played in the creation of the Department of Energy, the passage of two major pieces of legislation.
1. National Energy Act
2. PURPA

GRID traces the emergence of the California wind energy industry. According to the author, the industry emerged in spite of bad technology. The growth traced instead to enormous tax credits. The Federal tax credit was 25%, and California doubled it to 50%. Today Texas and California are by far the largest producers of wind energy in the US>

GRID traces energy from Thomas Edison to Thomas Unsall, who was his personal secretary. It was Unsall that formulated, and then implemented, an ambitious plan to centralize the nations power grid. Until he took over in Chicago, no one could figure out how to create, through government regulation and clever pricing, what today is an effective monopoly. What makes this even more remarkable: the monopolies are largely for-profit.

GRID traces the emergence of energy policy, beginning with President Jimmy Carter.

It includes the Energy Policy Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1982.

Postscript: I just read the book a second time, and was stuck by its notes at the end, its index, and its general comprehensiveness.

I guess, for me, the big ideas in this book can be boiled down as follows:

LOAD IS DOWN: the planet is rife with innovations that are saving electricity – and most of them are coming without burden to the consumer (like turning thermostats down, wearing sweaters, etc.). So the demand for electricity peaked in 2007, and is unlikely to go higher until at least 2040.

GENERATION IS UP: At the same time, the ways to generate power better are increasing. Solar panels have dropped at least 50% in cost in a decade, while getting more effective. Wind turbines are excellent, and are continuing to improve. Coal generators are being slowly replaced by natural gas. Natural gas plants have desirable properties beyond generation, e.g. they can start up quickly and can come down quickly.

GENERATION IS BECOMING MORE RESILIENT AND MORE DISTRIBUTED. . After a decade of blackouts largely traceable to storms and poor line maintenance, the push is on for resilience, and it is working. The means to resilience is distributed generation (DG), which ultimately will prove to be very beneficial. However, because of regulatory roadblocks, perverse incentives, and a host of other complexities, it will be some time before the benefits of resilient DG are fully realized.

PREDICTING LOAD IS IMPROVING: Predicting load by five minute increments is improving. Smart meters and smart algorithms make it entirely plausible to predict load well 24 hours ahead, and extremely well 4 hours ahead.

PREDICTING GENERATION IS IMPROVING: the book tells horror stories about DG increasing instability and unpredictability. How can a utility plan for a surge due to a scorching sun? A big breeze? I find these horror stories to be suggestive of where this dysfunction will all end up, namely: prediction will improve dramatically through better weather forecasting, better detailed knowledge of all contributing generators.

A NEW MATCHING OF LOAD TO GENERATION IS VISIBLE. For all the horror stories, I think the future looks bright because matching predictable load to predictable generation is doable today, and will become a norm in the future once all the roadblocks are removed.

ASYNCHRONOUS POWER IS ALMOST HERE. Just as emails are asynchronous, while telephony is synchronous, in that same way, electricity has always been a synchronous technology – because there has never been a way of storing electricity. The world is moving fast toward asynchronous power because of batteries. When this happens, the world is going to change very fast.

TIME OF DAY PRICING WILL ACCELERATE ALL CHANGES. I am shocked at how pathetic time of day pricing is. Its ubiquitous – but pathetic. Once time of day pricing sends market signals about that discourage peak power use, so managers will take increasing advantage of using power (load) when it is cheapest, and avoiding power use (avoiding load) when it is most expensive, then we will begin to see thousands of innovative solutions for accomplishing this very simple goal.

Smart Meters Globally

Energy companies are using the ‘Internet of Things’ to increase efficiency and save billions

JOHN GREENOUGH

Aug. 26, 2015, 10:20 AM
BI Intelligence

The lowly energy meter is becoming a leading device in the transition to the Internet of Things.

Government officials and utility executives are creating smart energy grids that will help make energy use more efficient, provide real-time billing information, and reduce the number of workers needed to check meters.

In a recent report from BI Intelligence, we size the smart meter market globally and in regions and countries through the world. We look at how smart meter installations will create smart energy grids that have a significant impact on energy usage and cost saving. Additionally, we conduct a cost-benefit analysis looking at how much it will cost to install smart meters and weigh it against the monetary and non monetary benefits the devices can provide.

Access The Full Report By Signing Up For A Full-Access Trial>>

Here are a few of the key findings from the BI Intelligence report:

Globally, we estimate the smart meter installed base will reach 454 million this year and more than double by 2020, making it a leading IoT device.
Asia will lead the transition to smart energy grids, followed by Europe, North America, South America, and Africa.
China has aggressive smart meter plans. Beijing is expected to have 100% of its residential homes equipped with smart meters by the end of this year.
The cost of installing these smart meters will be over $100 billion. But the financial benefits will reach nearly $160 billion.
There are three primary security risks associated with smart meters: physical risks, electrical risks, and software risks.
In full, the report:

Provides a regional breakdown of the smart meter market and includes forecasts from the major smart meter countries within that region.
Includes an analysis of the savings generated from smart grids
Provides an average cost of installing a smart meter over the next five years.
Assesses the other benefits to IoT-based meters and grids beyond revenue gains.
Discusses the security risks of smart meters and provides solutions from leading tech firms.
To access the full report from BI Intelligence, sign up for a 14-day full-access trial here. Full-access members also gain access to new in-depth reports, hundreds of charts, as well as daily newsletters on the digital industry.

NOW WATCH: This small landfill in New York turns trash into electricity for 400 homes

More: Internet of Things Energy Costs Energy Report Smart Grid

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/companies-utilities-save-with-iot-2015-5#ixzz3jxXhMpjJ

How Tesla will Change Your Life

This is an extraordinary article: in length (it is very long) and in breadth (it covers the universe, beginning with first principles), and in quality (it is lay person readable).

How Tesla Will Change Your Life

The article is actually one article of four. Here is the first, all about Elon Musk: