Will tech giants follow Tesla into energy storage?

Apple logo.

Apple is well placed to enter the energy storage market.

By Jason Deign 

Tesla’s early success in the energy storage market is raising questions over whether nearby Silicon Valley firms might follow suit. Apple and Google are just two consumer technology giants that could make a play for the sector.

Apple, whose 1 Infinite Loop HQ is just 20 minutes’ drive from Tesla’s Freemont offices, has long been the subject of energy storage speculation. In 2011 the company filed a patent for a novel wind energy storage system.

The system was designed by Jean Lee of Apple’s Environmental Technologies Department, who has also investigated the use of hydrogen fuel cells for laptop power.

It “uses a set of rotating blades to convert rotational energy from a wind turbine into heat in a low-heat-capacity fluid,” according to the patent application.

“Next, the system selectively transfers the heat from the low-heat-capacity fluid to a working fluid. Finally, the system uses the transferred heat in the working fluid to generate electricity.”

European data centres

Media interest in the design was re-ignited in February after Apple unveiled a EUR€1.7bn investment in two European data centres, in Denmark and Ireland, that “will run on 100% renewable energy.”

Apple said: “The new facilities will run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources from day one.

“Apple will also work with local partners to develop additional renewable energy projects from wind or other sources to provide power in the future.”

There is speculation that the Danish centre, in Viborg, will rely on Norwegian hydro for backup renewable energy. Such reserves are not available in Ireland, however.

Further details are expected to emerge as the data centres near completion, in 2017. Meanwhile, however, Apple has also been linked to developments in battery storage.

Poaching A123 employees

In February, the iPhone maker was involved in a lawsuit for poaching five employees from the battery maker A123 Systems’ Advanced System Venture Technologies Division.

“In addition to the five A123 workers, the suit alleges Apple has targeted employees from other companies who have knowledge of the firm’s battery technology,” reported Apple Insider.

These companies are said to have included LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, Johnson Controls and SiNode Systems, a research and development firm focusing on lithium-ion battery technology.

The suit has helped fuel rumours that Apple is working on an electric car, which would put it in competition with Tesla. So far these rumours have not been confirmed.

However, given Apple’s penchant for forays into new product areas, such as watches, such a prospect cannot be taken lightly.

Brains to break into energy storage

Similarly, even though recent battery moves may simply be focused on its consumer device portfolio, the brains that Apple now has in house could easily allow it to break into energy storage.

For now, even though Apple is committed to running all of its operations on renewables, “we’ve not made any announcement regarding energy storage,” said Tanya Ridd of the Apple UK press office.

But if Apple does not make a move into energy storage soon, perhaps Google might. The search engine giant, also a 20-minute car ride from Tesla, already has a foot in the residential energy market via Nest, its intelligent thermostat.

Like Apple, Google is committed to running 100% of its operations on renewable energy.

It is also linked to the auto sector, although in this case there is nothing speculative about the company’s intentions: Google went public with its self-driving car project in 2010, mostly using electric vehicles.

Researching battery technologies

And in April it emerged the company was researching lithium-ion and solid-state battery technologies in its Google X research facility. The work is being led by Dr Ramesh Bhardwaj… formerly of Apple.

Google has previously sponsored an renewable energy research effort, RE<C, although this was closed down in 2011. But that does not mean energy storage development is out of the question.

Indeed, an intriguing quote from RE<C engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork suggests the opposite could be true.

“Solar panels … can be put on every rooftop but can’t provide power if the sun isn’t shining,” they wrote in IEEE Spectrum last year, explaining why RE<C was shuttered.

“Yet if we invented a distributed, dispatchable power technology, it could transform the energy marketplace and the roles played by utilities and their customers.”

Massive renewable energy investments

That sounds a lot like PV with batteries. Google has already made massive investments in renewable energy plants, so it would not be a great leap for the company to take a stake in the battery business.

And while Google and Apple are perhaps the tech companies best placed to move into energy storage at the moment, they are far from the only ones.

The network device maker Cisco, for example, is pushing heavily into energy infrastructure territory with what it calls the ‘Internet of Everything’. The chip manufacturer Intel, meanwhile, is exploring novel wind technologies.

In addition, erstwhile Silicon Valley investors such as Khosla Ventures and VantagePoint Capital Partners have been eyeing the energy storage market for some time.

Dan Brdar, CEO and chairman of Ideal Power, says it would be no bad thing if some of Silicon Valley’s heavy hitters joined the energy storage fray.

“It’s going to bring different perspectives and drive innovation,” he told Energy Storage Report. “Things in the energy space move at a slower pace than Moore’s Law. [With tech players] the rate of adoption will be much quicker.”

One battery to rule them all?

Artist's rendition of the Tesla gigafactory.

Tesla’s gigafactory, as it might be.

By Jason Deign

Tesla’s Powerwall launch three weeks ago focused attention on energy storage but may also have been a nail in the coffin for non-lithium-ion (Li-ion) technologies.

In drastically reducing prices, Tesla removed one of the remaining barriers to adoption of Li-ion as the standard for battery storage.

Currently other technologies are vying for supremacy on the basis of cost, safety, performance and bankability.

However, the launch of a residential battery system for USD$3,500 helped lay to rest the idea that Li-ion is automatically more expensive than other chemistries.

Even Tesla’s grid-scale Li-ion offering, the Powerpack, looks competitive with the most cost-effective battery technologies out there.

Costing just $0.05/kWh

An analysis by Zachary Shahan of Cleantechnica, for example, shows the Tesla product costing just $0.05/kWh over a 5,000-cycle lifespan.

That’s cheaper than an Imergy vanadium flow battery could achieve with a 15-year lifespan at current prices.

The Eos Aurora battery system, which uses a rechargeable zinc hybrid cathode battery technology, beats Tesla at $0.02/kWh. But it will not be available until next year.

Importantly, too, it seems practically all of Tesla’s price cut is down to economies of scale that look likely to be achieved after the company reported an estimated $800 million worth of orders in a fortnight.

In the meantime, though, other companies are scrambling to make the underlying technology even cheaper.

Non-toxic production processes

Electrovaya, for example, is looking to cut Li-ion costs by incorporating a non-toxic production process into battery manufacturing. Such advances could also help to address another of Li-ion’s perceived shortfalls: safety.

Li-ion batteries have traditionally been seen as a fire hazard, a problem that has led project developers such as Demand Energy to resort to lead-acid technology in risk-conscious markets such as New York State.

However, manufacturers such as Electrovaya and Tesla are increasingly working to dispel Li-ion’s dirty, dangerous image.

Unveiling the Powerwall, Tesla’s boss Elon Musk said: “It gives you safety, security, and it gives you a complete, affordable, solution.”

What of performance, though?

Energy delivered up to four hours

Right now, says Roger Lin, director of product marketing at NEC Energy Solutions, many utilities are happy with the performance of Li-ion for short-term storage, where energy is delivered for up to four hours.

With a growing need for longer-term storage applications, however, utilities are keen to explore the potential for using other product categories, such as lead-acid, molten sodium and flow batteries.

But the reason for overlooking Li-ion in these applications is usually down to cost. If Li-ion product prices continue to plummet, it is hard to see why project developers should choose anything else.

And it is the matter of choice that could be the clincher for Li-ion.

When two competing technologies are roughly equal in terms of price, safety and performance, it is natural for developers and owners to choose the one that is most established and bankable. Here, Li-ion wins hands down.

Widespread use in other applications

“The one thing that lithium has that a lot of other [battery technologies] don’t have is widespread use in other applications, and the manufacturing infrastructure to support it,” Lin told Energy Storage Report.

“Lithium-ion batteries are used in almost every portable electronic device in the world, they are used more and more in vehicles, so you’ve got this diversity of markets and applications that lithium-ion enjoys.”

This, plus the fact that Li-ion batteries are produced by major, diversified manufacturers with healthy balance sheets, means the technology is a natural choice for utilities wanting to reduce risk in energy storage projects.

“For the utility industry it’s going to be more the mature technologies that make it in early on, in the next five years or so,” said Lin. “I see Li-ion taking most of the applications, most of the projects that will be put into commercial service.”

It is important to note that Lin is not a Li-ion evangelist. As a project developer, NEC Energy Solutions is technology agnostic. “Look at the guys at Aquion Energy,” Lin said. “They have got this new aqueous hybrid ion battery.

A breakthrough chemistry

“Maybe that is a breakthrough chemistry. That could be the ideal one for stationary, large-scale energy storage and nothing else competes on a levelised cost of energy basis.”

But companies such as Aquion have the odds stacked against them as utilities automatically favour Li-ion products from big manufacturers, and those manufacturers continue to pour research into improving their products.

“If we see Li-ion getting down into the very aggressive numbers that you might expect to be viable for the stationary side of the business, because of Li-ion’s energy density you are probably going to see some advantages there,” Lin said.

The issue of which technologies are most suited to stationary energy storage will be front and centre in discussions at Energy Storage USA 2015, where Lin is speaking.

However, another speaker, SunEdison’s director of advanced energy solutions Faisal El Azzouzi, has already told Energy Storage Report of concerns over adopting non-mainstream products that are not backed by a reputable brand.

“In solar, the buzzword was bankability,” El Azzouzi said. “Same thing here.”

Renewable producers target short-term storage

SunEdison Outdoor Microstation

A SunEdison Outdoor Microstation, which can power 25 households for five hours each night and takes just four to six hours to set up. SunEdison will be one of the companies speaking at Energy Storage USA 2015.

By Jason Deign

Independent power producers (IPP) considering the booming California energy storage market will most likely target short-term, power-based applications, Energy Storage Report has learned.

“IPPs will focus on power applications just because of the design of the [storage] target,” said SunEdison’s director of Grid Energy Storage, Faisal El Azzouzi, ahead of his appearance at Energy Storage USA 2015.

SunEdison is evaluating energy storage technologies and applications with a view to possible deployment in California, where a 1.3GW mandate through Assembly Bill 2514 (AB2514) is creating interest in new projects.

However, said El Azzouzi, the structure of the Californian market drives IPPs to focus on short-term storage applications and leave longer-duration tasks, such as energy shifting, to the utilities.

In essence this is because he believes long-duration storage is more costly to implement, which makes it more difficult for IPPs to develop since they are not able to pass costs onto ratepayers.

“Load shifting is expensive”

“Energy applications such as load shifting, with more than an hour duration, are higher-cost assets, which most likely utilities will want to own and rate base,” El Azzouzi explained.

“The rest of the stuff, which is the power applications, is what is really left for IPPs to fight over in these first rounds of California investor-owned utility procurement. We don’t have the luxury to own these assets and rate base them.”

If correct, this assessment means California storage projects from IPPs will be mostly aimed at delivering short-term services such as frequency regulation, super peak shaving and ramp control.

Meanwhile utilities will have to find ways to deal with California’s famous duck curve themselves.

Alongside other industry leaders, El Azzouzi will be discussing the lessons learned from recent Californian requests for offers in more detail this year’s Energy Storage USA 2015 conference in San Diego, on July 7 and 8.

Commercial energy storage in California

SunEdison has yet to build a commercial energy storage project in California.

But it has plenty of experience thanks to its acquisition of Hawaiian wind-plus-storage projects through First Wind in 2014 and its purchase of Solar Grid Storage’s assets, project pipeline and development team earlier this year.

“We have batteries providing power and energy services in Hawaii alongside our wind farms and solar with storage assets participating in frequency regulation on the east coast,” El Azzouzi said, likening the present energy storage market to the early days of solar.

Already, he notes, there is a clear need for storage to stabilise grid supplies on island grids such as that of Hawaii. But few customers are willing to pay a premium for such services in mainland environments.

This means IPPs have to evaluate storage projects according to strictly commercial criteria, and seek out applications that can pay for themselves from the outset.

A major opportunity for IPPs

Nevertheless California represents a major potential market for IPPs because AB2514 specifies that 50% of the 1.3GW mandate should be third-party owned, El Azzouzi said.

When it comes to the kinds of technologies that might be used in this market, however, IPPs such as SunEdison share utilities’ concerns over adopting non-mainstream products that are not backed by a reputable brand.

“In solar, the buzzword was bankability,” El Azzouzi said. “Same thing here.

“The technology could be solid but if there is no solid balance sheet behind it then we are taking on a risk.

“Our preference is the big companies that are willing to offer guarantees.”

A US focus on short-term, power-based applications also favours the use of lithium-ion battery technologies, in contrast to SunEdison’s use of Imergy flow batteries for rural Indian microgrids.

How energy storage developers might be able to overcome the challenges associated with commercialisation is one of the key themes that will be covered in Energy Storage USA 2015.

The commercialisation of storage

The event will feature experts such as Peter Davidson, executive director of the US Department of Energy Loan Programs Office and Rosalie Roth, Energy Contracts, Southern California Edison.

Jack Ahearne, head of renewable strategy for Energy Storage USA 2015 organiser FCBI Energy, said: “This is the only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialisation of storage.

“Any company that is serious about the US market should try to attend. We expect some of the intelligence-sharing here to be critical in developing company strategies over the next 12 months.”

UK elections: who’s best for energy storage?

A Cornish onshore wind turbine yesterday.

A Conservative win tomorrow may spell the end of subsidies for onshore turbines such as this one in Cornwall. Photo credit: Animam.

By Jason Deign

Energy storage supporters may have some reason to hope for a Labour Party-led outcome to tomorrow’s UK General Elections, an analysis of electoral pledges reveals.

Labour, currently trailing the ruling Conservatives by a photo-finish margin in opinion polls, has issued one of the strongest renewable energy promises in the electoral campaign, with a plan to de-carbonise the UK completely by 2030.

“We will work to make Britain a world leader in low carbon technologies over the next decade, creating a million additional green jobs,” says Labour’s manifesto.

“This aim will be supported by ambitious domestic carbon reduction targets, including a legal target to remove the carbon from our electricity supply by 2030, and a major drive for energy efficiency.”

And while Labour, the UK’s main left-wing party, does not mention energy storage as such in its proposals, at least two of its potential government alliance partners do.

Support for energy storage

One of these is the Liberal Democrats, which is currently a coalition partner to the Conservatives but has confirmed it will talk to whatever party leads in the voting tomorrow.

It aims to up “research and development and commercialisation support in four key low-carbon technologies where Britain could lead the world: tidal power, carbon capture and storage, energy storage and ultra-low emission vehicles.”

Meanwhile the Green Party flags up storage as a major priority within its energy policy proposals.

“The Green Party strategy for energy efficiency ensures that we can change to an energy system based mainly on electricity from renewables within 15–20 years (a little longer for transport),” it says.

“This will require substantial investment over the period. We also need to pay more attention to energy storage.”

Research and deployment programme

By “more attention”, the party means spending GBP£2.5bn on “an intensive research and deployment programme” for non-solar, non-wind renewables and energy storage.

The Greens also pledge to: “Expand electricity storage capacity, including using the potential storage capacity of electric vehicles, and develop the commercial and regulatory framework to make this a reality.”

On current forecasts, however, neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Greens are likely to emerge as deal breakers in tomorrow’s ballot, billed as “the tightest general election for decades.”

The Scottish National Party (SNP), on the other hand, could well play a pivotal role in the electoral outcome after predictions show it becoming the UK’s third-largest political group.

While Labour leader Ed Milliband has ruled out a deal with the SNP, the Scottish Nationals remain open to dialogue. And theirs, too, is a renewable-friendly agenda.

Removing barriers to pumped hydro

“Our ambition is not limited to wind,” says the SNP manifesto.

“We want the UK government to remove barriers that are limiting growth in the hydro sector and believe there should be additional support for pump [sic] hydro and Carbon Capture and Storage schemes.”

Indeed, Scotland has a vested interest in developing large-scale energy storage reserves, including pumped hydro schemes, to cope with the massive amounts of on- and offshore wind it has permitted in recent years.

The country is also experimenting with other storage technologies to support emerging renewable energy technologies such as tidal stream power.

The outcome of these elections is important for energy storage because of the size and scope of the country’s renewable sector.

Remarkably, the UK is now the world’s third-largest market for utility-scale solar installations, beating India and Germany, according to Wiki-Solar.

A leader in emerging renewable technologies

It also has the world’s largest offshore wind market and is a leader in emerging renewable energy technologies such as tidal stream.

A more favourable attitude towards energy storage, as espoused by some of the country’s left-leaning parties, could help give the industry a real push.

At this point, however, any speculation on likely leadership alliances is pure guesswork.

The UK’s self-proclaimed ‘top general election predictor’, Electoral Calculus, says: “Currently there is about a 90% chance of a hung parliament in 2015.

“The growth of SNP support in Scotland creates a genuine four-party system at Westminster, with a range of possible coalition permutations.”

The Election Forecast website, meanwhile, says: “Our current prediction is that there will be no overall majority, but that the Conservatives will be the largest party with 281 seats.

Substantial uncertainty in forecasts

“However, based on the historical relationships between the sources of information we are using in our forecast and the outcome of UK elections, we know there is substantial uncertainty in our forecast.”

Even if tomorrow’s elections do indeed hand victory to the Conservatives, which claim to have led “the greenest government ever” but are now pledging to end onshore wind subsidies, that might not end up a bad thing for energy storage.

As much as favourable policies, renewable and energy storage development depends on economic stability and a healthy investment climate.

And some observers have questioned whether Labour’s decarbonisation pledge is economically viable.

Furthermore, at least one project developer consulted by Energy Storage Report has expressed concerns over the financial instability that an SNP surge might bring to projects north of the border.

But with the odds stacked against any single party winning the election, and leaders refusing to entertain a number of viable partnerships, it is beginning to look like stability will be hard to achieve whatever the weather.

Tesla stock surges on storage speculation

UPDATE: Elon Musk has unveiled the price of Tesla’s ‘Powerwall’ consumer product will be USD$3,500, significantly below expectations.

By Jason Deign

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.49.44

Tesla Motors shares were changing hands for mind-boggling amounts ahead of a likely energy storage announcement as Energy Storage Report went to press this week.

The electric vehicle maker’s stock, which was given junk-bond rating less than a year ago, closed at just over USD$230 a share yesterday after having peaked at $237.06 on Monday.

Tesla’s valuation soared at the beginning of the week after Deutsche Bank issued a ‘buy’ recommendation relating to a battery storage announcement due tomorrow.

“Tesla’s announcement may be more significant than the market indicates,” said Deutsche Bank. “While stationary storage is still in its infancy, we believe that there are clear indications that significant growth lies ahead.”

There appears to be little doubt that tomorrow’s announcement, scheduled for 8pm, Pacific Standard Time, at Tesla’s design studios in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, will be fully focused on energy storage.

Information leaked already

Indeed, given the amount of information leaked already it might be difficult for Tesla’s effervescent boss, Elon Musk, to find much new to say.

Back in February he announced during an earnings call that: “We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses, fairly soon.”

And last month he Tweeted that tomorrow’s event would be to unveil a “major new Tesla product line – not a car.”

Finally, last week Bloomberg reported on an email to investors and analysts from Tesla’s head of investor relations, Jeffrey Evanson, confirming the announcement would relate to residential and ‘very large’ utility-scale batteries.

There is even a fairly good idea of what Tesla’s residential energy storage products will look like, thanks to press reports relating to SolarCity customers who have had early versions of the battery systems for the past year or so.

“An uninterruptible power supply”

According to information gleaned from investment analyst Trip Chowdhry in The Guardian, “the Tesla battery system is basically an uninterruptible power supply.”

The Guardian says the system is being offered in 10 and 15kWh configurations and costs about $13,000.

In California, though, the utility Pacific Gas & Electric will give users a 50% rebate, “presumably because it can be used to decrease load on the grid during peak use hours.”

Chowdhry revealed that Tesla’s business model is likely to be lease-based, with an initial payment of around $1,500 and then monthly payments of $15 for 10 years, after which the customer hands back the system.

The analyst said he believed there would be a niche for the product among homeowners with a keen need to keep the lights on in the event of a blackout.

A product you can’t live without

“If you feel naked when you leave your iPhone at home, this is a product you can’t live without,” he told The Guardian.

Tomorrow’s announcement comes as a number of potentially game-changing players are eyeing up the energy storage market.

Earlier this year, for example, it emerged that the tech giant Apple was considering thermal energy storage for wind power. Apple also faces legal action after poaching battery experts from A123 Systems.

To date, though, it is probably Tesla, with its Gigafactory manufacturing plans, which has led speculation around energy storage coming into the mainstream in the US.

And not just in residential energy storage, which most analysts believe could still take a few years to make real economic sense in markets such as California.

Last week, for instance, Bloomberg noted that Tesla had signed nearly half of the applications made under the California Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) for commercial-scale projects.

Batteries for commercial uses

“A review of California’s SGIP shows Tesla has ambitions to sell batteries for a range of commercial uses, from powering its factories to reducing electric bills at schools and wineries,” Bloomberg said.

“Tesla is on track to reap as much as $65m in SGIP rebates, which are designed to encourage investment in alternative energy.”

Notwithstanding the potential upside, however, some voices have expressed concern over the feeding frenzy around Tesla shares right now.

“Traders are getting charged up about Tesla’s prospects, but both the technicals and fundamentals may indicate the stock is close to reaching its top,” wrote CNBC producer Lawrence Lewitinn yesterday.

And one day trader consulted by Energy Storage Report said: “The shares are at $232 and in Q2, 2013, it was around $40. It doesn’t look good. They look pretty over-rated.”

Meanwhile Tesla’s reputation as a high-tech leader took a knock last weekend after its website and Twitter account were hacked, with the online criminals offering to give away free cars from the company.

Given the level of expectation surrounding tomorrow’s announcement, Musk may well have to come up with something just as spectacular simply to keep his business from going into meltdown.

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Ioxus targets auto sector with new appointment

Pic: Nissan is one of the manufacturers currently incorporating ultracapacitors into its vehicles.

Nissan: one of the manufacturers currently incorporating ultracapacitors into its vehicles. Photo credit: Animam.

The ultracapacitor company Ioxus last week reinforced its automotive sector focus by naming ex-General Motors (GM) executive Don Runkle the chairman of the board.

Runkle’s experience includes having been GM’s top engineering executive as vice president of the company’s North American Engineering Center.

He was previously chief engineer of Chevrolet, chief engineer of powertrain and racing at the Buick Division, director of advanced vehicle engineering and vice president of GM’s advanced engineering staff.

Latterly Runkle worked as chief technology officer at the UK parts manufacturer Delphi Automotive, where he was also leader for the DaimlerChrysler and commercial vehicle customer teams.

“Ioxus has been on my radar for some time,” said Runkle in a press release.

“They clearly have the strongest technology in the ultracap space, with higher energy and power densities, higher temperature capability, more innovative module designs and both cylindrical and pouch-cell experience.”

Growing market expectations

The appointment comes amid growing market expectations for ultracapacitor (or ‘supercapacitor’) technologies in the automotive sector.

According to analyst estimates, the ultracapacitor market as a whole is due to hit USD$20.2bn by 2018, largely due to the technology’s use in electrical smart meters.

However, companies such as Ioxus see the automotive industry as potentially having the greatest market potential for their products.

“Historically transportation has been the big push,” said Chad Hall, Ioxus co-founder and senior vice president of sales and marketing, in an interview with Energy Storage Report last month.

“About six manufacturers use ultracapacitors for different things.”

Incorporating ultracapacitors into models

Peugeot, Mazda, Lamborghini, Honda, Nissan and Toyota have all started incorporating ultracapacitors into certain models, particularly for stop-start and breaking power harvest applications.

The technology is still far from established in the automotive sector, however. Even Elon Musk, who famously gave capacitors the thumbs-up in 2011, is still sticking to batteries for his Tesla models for now.

One of the problems facing Ioxus and other ultracapacitor manufacturers, such as Maxwell Technologies and Sunvault Energy, is a lack of familiarity the technology.

“Most customers do not understand how to use capacitors,” Hall said. “There is a very low ultracapacitor literacy rate. There’s also extensive partnerships with battery companies that have been there for years.”

This perhaps explains why car manufacturers have been slow to adopt ultracapacitors even though advocates say it could vastly improve performance if used alongside batteries or fuel cells in low-carbon emissions vehicles.

Much-hyped developments

That ‘alongside’ is important, though. Despite much-hyped developments in ultracapacitor technology, Hall does not suggest ultracapacitors should be used in place of batteries or fuel cells.

“To use capacitors properly, in most cases it’s hybridised energy storage, letting capacitors handle power and batteries do the energy,” he said.

Ultracapacitors and batteries work well together because they have complementary characteristics. Ultracapacitors can store and discharge large amounts of power very quickly and efficiently, with almost no degradation.

Batteries, on the other hand, can store much more energy over longer periods of time.

That makes ultracaps more suited to providing shorter, stronger bursts of energy, for example during acceleration, and batteries better at delivering slower, sustained discharges.

Fewer battery replacements

The net result is electric vehicles that combine batteries and ultracapacitors should be able to travel further, more efficiently, with fewer battery replacements.

And there is some evidence that if ultracapacitors are combined with fuel cells the benefits may be even greater. Nevertheless, Hall said: “The full value proposition requires crossing silos.

“You have to have someone who understands they are looking at a full-system efficiency rather than just a big energy bank.”

At Ioxus, they will no doubt be hoping the new chairman is that someone.

As the company’s CEO, Mark McGough, said: “Don brings more than three decades of executive-level automotive experience in a career filled with innovation and successes, and this makes him an exceptional fit for our vision.”