Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Lithium Metal Battery Is (Almost) Here

ARPA-E lithum metal battery graphic (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Pellion Technologies of Woburn, Massachusetts is the first company to sell lithium metal batteries to commercial customers.  They aren't ready for electric cars or grid storage yet, but may be precursors to the batteries of the future.

In an exclusive interview with Pellion Technologies — a battery startup located in Massachusetts — Quartz reports the company has developed a lithium metal battery that has double the power and half the weight of a conventional lithium ion battery.  Yes, we know.  Battery breakthrough news tends to be all the same — long on promises, short on actual results.  The difference with the Pellion story is the company is actually selling its batteries to commercial customers.

... The first customers are specialized users who value the new battery’s increased range potential to keep their commercial drones aloft longer and are willing to pay a substantial premium over traditional batteries to get it.  The new batteries have a relatively short useful life.  After 50 charge/discharge cycles, they are pretty much toast.  But Pellion expects millions of dollars in revenue from sales of its new battery this year — money that can be put to good use learning how to increase the useful life of the batteries and bring down the cost of manufacturing them.
An independent battery expert, who asked Quartz not to identify him due to press restrictions at his lab, called what Pelllion has done the “holy grail” of the lithium metal battery.  Paul Albertus, a program director at ARPA-E, published a study earlier this year in which the increased energy density of the the lithium metal battery compared to a traditional lithium ion battery is shown graphically.

“Battery startups struggle to find customers for their early products,” Venkat Srinivasan, a lead battery researcher at Argonne National Laboratory, tells Quartz.  “So it’s an achievement that Pellion is already shipping product.”  Quartz reached out to 10 other startups working on lithium-metal batteries for comment and got replies from six.  Sion Power, PolyPlus, Solid Energy Systems, and Ion Storage Systems said they are in the validation phase of their advanced battery products and have begun sending engineering prototypes to potential customers and third-party testers.  QuantumScape and Blue Current declined to comment.  QuantumScape is the reclusive battery company that Volkswagen made a $100 million investment in this past June.

It’s too early to start talking about lithium metal batteries for electric cars or energy storage.  There are too many hurdles to clear first.  But the promise of greatly increased energy density is too great to ignore.  The battery cells Tesla uses have an energy density of 600 watt-hours per liter and 200 watt-hours per kilogram.  The figures for the Pellion lithium metal battery are nearly double — 1,000 watt-hours per liter and 400 watt-hours per kilogram.

Read more at The Lithium Metal Battery Is (Almost) Here

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