Lead battery start-up Gridtential announced on January 12 that four major battery companies — East Penn Manufacturing, Crown Battery Manufacturing, Power-Sonic and Leoch International — had invested a total of $6 million in the company.
The four now have a combined equity stake of around a quarter in Gridtential, according to Ray Kubis, chairman of the company. Other firms are also evaluating the technology, he says.
Given the volume of batteries that three of these firms manufacture — and their strong balance sheets — large companies buying the batteries should be happier to accept warranties on the product.
“A start-up company cannot replicate such a capability in the energy storage industry,” says Kubis.
The extra finance will translate into a faster release of the product to the lead market — equating, as one battery commentator called it, the creation of the equivalent of a lead gigafactory for the battery market.
“The added investments in Gridtential by battery companies, the founders, myself and the Roda Group, which specializes in CleanTech investments, will allow Gridtential to better support its manufacturing partners, further reduce the cost of the silicon bi-plate and broaden the application window for our technology,” Kubis told BESB.
“We believe this strategy is efficient in many ways, enabling the existing battery leaders to apply their application and production knowledge and capacity, which has developed over decades. They can choose to convert an existing production line or factory where well over half the installed capability (oxide conversion, pasting, charging, et al) can be utilized.
“They can integrate outsourced silicon bi-plates, and adapt assembly to sustain high volume output with modest capital expenditures, while keeping costs low.”
This integration is key to an easier uptake of the technology. Silicon Joule is a substrate that replaces the grid in a battery, resulting in a large reduction in the amount of lead required and better performance.
“Gridtential bi-polar batteries can be produced on our existing plate-making lines, modified assembly lines and existing formation/finishing lines,” says Shawn Peng, Leoch vice present of technology in the US.
“This will make the steps towards commercial production happen sooner and more reliably. We will have the capability to provide greener, safer, higher power, faster charging, longer life lead-based battery solutions for our customers in the areas of telecoms, UPS, automotive and renewable energy storage industries.
“In the next five years, we estimate that around 10%-20% of all of our batteries will be made with Silicon Joule bi-polar technology.
“This technology will effectively increase the specific power and energy density of lead acid batteries,” said Peng. “The cycle life performance can be extended up to five times normal VRLA-AGM batteries. Because it’s a non-metal grid, there is no grid corrosion, and it has a much wider temperature adaptability compared with a lithium solution.”
Kevin Smith, East Penn Manufacturing vice president of technology, said the scalability of Gridtential’s design would allow for 48-volt operation, for which demand would inevitably increase along with features like stop-start.
“The industry’s experts understand bi-polar technology is really the Holy Grail for design architecture change where you obsolete lead grids, whether they are lead calcium, pure lead or others,” said Kubis.
“However, until now there was not a clear pathway to scale the technology securely to emerge from the lab to commercial production. Gridtential’s technology is a real breakthrough, so I expect other companies in Asia, Europe and the Americas to follow their initial investigations into Gridtential with investments and or licensing.
“It is clear that the race is on to commercialize bi-polar technology and to provide real solutions in contrast to lithium batteries.”
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