New Chemistries, Defense Contracts, Safety Advances

By Battery Power Online Staff

April 6, 2022 | Research and funding updates from around the battery industry including cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries, new technology protecting against thermal runaway, US Department of Defense battery contracts, and more.

InoBat, the European pioneer of premium electric vehicle battery R&D, engineering, production and recycling, and Gigamine, the technology-focused battery recycling venture, have joined forces to create a state-of-the-art process and supporting infrastructure to deliver cost-effective collection, processing, and re-utilization of materials from battery manufacturing and used batteries. InoBat recently announced that, given the visibility of its orderbook, it intends to develop its third gigafactory in Western Europe. Candidate sites include those in EU and the UK. InoBat has assessed a number of suitable sites and will make its final selection and investment decision in 2022. Recycling and active material reprocessing to minimize waste and maximize circularity is integral in determining InoBat’s choice of site for the gigafactory. The collaboration between InoBat and Gigamine follows investments made in 2021 from four strategic cornerstone investors and co-developers, Rio Tinto; Ideanomics; Amara Raja; and International Finance Corporation, the private arm of the World Bank. These investors support the development of InoBat’s R&D center, plant and gigafactory in Slovakia which enable both InoBat and Gigamine’s pilots in recycling and active materials benchmarking. Press release.

Solid state battery company, Blue Current, has named a new CEO, Ben Eiref, former Worldwide Head of Automotive Solutions at Amazon Web Services (AWS), and also announced that Koch Strategic Platforms (KSP) has invested $30 million to accelerate commercialization of the company’s technology and build its first megawatt-scale factory in California. The company is in early-stage testing with automotive customers and will expand to consumer electronics and other market segments. In Hayward, California, Blue Current is utilizing a 22,000-square-foot production-ready facility with state-of-the-art wet and dry labs, battery cycling and high-bay logistics space. In 2016, Blue Current imagined the possibility of combining the mechanical elasticity and adhesive capabilities of polymers with the ionic conductivity of glass ceramics to maximize safety, temperature, performance, and scalability. In 2018 the company used this approach to create a fully dry solid-state battery with a high silicon content anode to increase energy density. The company refers to this combination of properties together as a “silicon elastic composite” battery. Press release.

Gridtential Energy, the inventor of Silicon Joule bipole battery technology, announced a product development agreement with Camel Energy, the largest car battery manufacturer in Asia, and a top-three U.S. automaker that is supplied by Camel. The agreement is targeted to culminate in the delivery of start/stop batteries for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The same technology architecture can be used for low-voltage batteries in electric vehicles and extended to support the 48V batteries most often used in mild-hybrid vehicles. By replacing traditional lead plates with specially-formulated silicon hybrid bipoles, silicon hybrid batteries increase standard power density by three-fold, reduce weight by 30% or more, and have improved charge acceptance (at least a 3x increase in dynamic charge acceptance). Silicon hybrid batteries also can operate at higher temperatures and tolerate vibration better than traditional lead-based batteries—key metrics for the automotive industry. Under the agreement, Gridtential and Camel engineering teams will work closely to optimize the thin-plate cell design and manufacturing of advanced bipole batteries. They will also verify metrics of cycle life, energy density, battery efficiency, and charge acceptance. Press release.

American Battery Solutions, Inc. (ABS), a leader in the design, development, and manufacturing of advanced battery systems, formally re-launched its upgraded 170,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, with critical added production capacity to meet growing demand for its lithium-ion batteries used in light electric vehicles and numerous industrial and recreational applications. The Springboro, Ohio, facility, purchased from Robert Bosch Battery Systems in 2019, includes additional investment in equipment and facility improvements conducted in parallel with developments in new product offerings and new customer programs, steps that enabled production start-up in January this year of the ALLIANCE Intelligent Battery Series. The plant employs 33 technical and production employees, a figure that represents more than twice the number employed when ABS acquired the facility, with additional positions under consideration by the company. At capacity, the facility will be capable of producing 8 gigawatt hours of power annually—the equivalent of powering more than 150,000 electric vehicles. Press release.

UBCO, a leader in electric adventure vehicles (EAVs), announced a global development partnership with Chemix, a cutting-edge AI-powered battery developer, to commercialize sustainable, ultra-safe, and high-energy cobalt-free (Co-free) Li-ion battery technology. This first-to-market high-energy Co-free cylindrical cell will replace UBCO’s existing reliance on alternative nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) and nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) chemistries without compromising the experience of UBCO’s products. Chemix’s AI-driven development approach provides UBCO increased control and transparency over the battery development process and the resulting battery performance. Research and development based on high-energy 18650 and 21700 format cells has already started. The initial focus will be on designing first-to-market, high-energy Co-free cylindrical cells for UBCO’s upcoming premium performance trail models. This technology will be rapidly scalable to quickly meet the large demand from UBCO’s foundational 2X2 and planned 4X4 models. Both parties also look forward to extending the partnership to the exploration of battery re-purposing, as well as battery pack health management, to leverage the full capability of Chemix’s data-centric approach. Press release.

Enovix Corporation, a leader in the design and manufacture of next generation 3D Silicon Lithium-ion batteries, announced their latest advancement, called BrakeFlow technology, an intra-cell system that significantly increases tolerance against thermal runaway from internal shorts, without compromising high energy density. Unlike conventional “jellyroll” Li-ion cell architecture, where energy density and safety can be in conflict, the Enovix 3D cell architecture incorporates multiple intra-cell features to improve electrical, physical, and environmental abuse tolerance over conventional wound Li-ion cells. BrakeFlow technology will become part of the company’s automatic tooling and production set at its Fremont factory, Fab-1. The company anticipates BrakeFlow will be available in its battery cells in 2023. Press release.

NanoGraf, an advanced battery material company and enabler of the world’s most energy-dense 18650 lithium-ion cell, won a $1 million development contract from the Department of Defense to produce a more powerful, longer-lasting 4.3Ah lithium-ion battery. The cell will provide U.S. military personnel with enhanced run-time for the equipment they rely on to operate safely and efficiently. The cell will enter into volume production in Q2 2024 and be available for battery pack qualifications and fielding to the Warfighter in late 2024. Press release.

Sunlight Group Energy Storage Systems, a producer of integrated and innovative industrial, off-road, and commercial energy storage solutions, announced the launch of Sunlight ElectroLiFe, its newest semi-traction lithium-ion battery. ElectroLiFe’s innovative lightweight yet robust design is built to suit evolving customer needs and allows for tool-less, plug & play installation in golf-carts and other recreational, manufacturing, and light commercial vehicle applications, such as AGVs, and other industrial or material handling equipment, as well as leisure marine. Press release.

The Biden administration announced major government investment into domestic production of key critical minerals and materials. The Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program awarded MP Materials $35 million to separate and process heavy rare earth elements at its facility in Mountain Pass, California, establishing a full end-to-end domestic permanent magnet supply chain. Paired with this catalytic public funding announcement, MP Materials announced plans to invest another $700 million and create more than 350 jobs in the magnet supply chain by 2024. Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables announced that they will break ground this spring on a new demonstration facility in Imperial County, California, to test the commercial viability of their sustainable lithium extraction process from geothermal brine as part of a multibillion-dollar investment in sustainable lithium production over the next five years. A pilot program was highlighted involving Redwood Materials in partnership with Ford and Volvo to collect and recycle end-of-life lithium-ion batteries at Redwood’s Nevada based facilities to extract lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. Press statement.

Trojan Battery Company announced the release of their Trojan GC2 48V Lithium-Ion Golf Battery. The longest range lithium-ion golf car battery, the Trojan GC2 48V travels up to 15% farther than its competitors. It is ultra-durable, charges fast, powers relentlessly up hills, and is maintenance-free, giving owners the confidence that their golf car is always ready to go where they want, when they want. Press release.

ADS-TEC Energy, a global leader in battery-buffered, ultra-fast charging technology, announced that Smart City Capital will be deploying more than 200 ADS-TEC Energy ultra-high-speed ChargeBox electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout Florida. This is the single largest order of ADS-TEC Energy ChargeBox units to date in the U.S. and an extension of Smart City Capital’s initial order announced in late 2021. The company also plans a third phase of deployment that is expected to involve more than 200 ADS-TEC Energy charging systems across 13 U.S. states. Smart City Capital’s most recent purchase of more than $30 million in ADS-TEC Energy systems signals a major commitment to the benefits of ultra-high-speed charging, helping energy-deprived cities and remote locations accelerate the transformation to a more sustainable model. Together, the two companies will be using the 2022 Florida deployments, expected to begin mid-year, as a framework for future rollouts in other states. The deployments—enabling public and private applications for both individual vehicles and fleets—will show how cities can more quickly reach their sustainability and carbon reduction goals without further burdening existing power-grids with costly electrical infrastructure upgrades. Deployments of the additional more than 200 ADS-TEC Energy charging systems are to take place starting in late 2022. Smart City Capital has built a new division of its business—UltraSmart Charge—around its partnership with ADS-TEC Energy. This division will be part of the Smart City Capital Market Place, a platform for municipalities to shop for charging systems infrastructure targeting 15,000 municipalities across the U.S., Canada and U.K. Press release.

Ascend Elements, a vertically integrated lithium-ion battery recycling and engineered materials company, and Koura, an Orbia business and one of the world’s largest producers of fluoroproducts and technologies, announced the launch of a proprietary process technology yielding battery-grade graphite material from spent lithium-ion batteries. Orbia is serving as a development partner to Ascend Elements to scale the company’s technology for commercial production. Orbia has also backed the company through several investment rounds. With consistent yields of over 99.9% pure graphite and energy capacity and cycle life on par with virgin battery-grade graphite anode material, Ascend Elements’ Hydro-to-Anode process technology has the additional benefit of extending recycling and manufacturing throughput beyond cathode active materials to include anode materials. This innovation dramatically increases the value of every lithium-ion battery recycled using the Ascend Elements process. Ascend Elements is currently producing battery-grade graphite in its facility located in Westborough, Massachusetts. Press release.