By Jason Deign
Saltwater battery manufacturer Aquion Energy is aiming to cut the price of its batteries by up to 50% within a decade, a company executive confirmed.
Newly named chief commercial officer Tim Poor said it was “very reasonable” to expect a 25% to 50% cut in costs once current manufacturing facilities reached full scale, which would happen within “single-digit years.”
Aquion currently has manufacturing capacity for 200MWh of batteries a year, based on a single production line. But the company’s factory has space for four more lines, allowing for up to 1GWh of capacity to be produced a year.
Poor said the company was planning to double production in the fourth quarter of this year. Aquion has so far shipped 20MWh of storage to about 200 customers, with 50% of products going for export, he said.
Historically, though, Aquion has tended to attract attention for its fundraising escapades rather than its business growth.
Latest cash injection
News of the company’s latest cash injection, of USD$33m from unnamed investors, emerged in an April Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.
According to GreentechMedia, this brought Aquion’s total fundraising to date to $190m and left it still looking for another $27m in this round.
“The company’s cost target is $250 per kWh, with the goal of getting to $160 per kWh when its manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is at scale,” said the report.
Former Aquion investors include Bill Gates, Gentry Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Bright Capital, Advanced Technology Ventures and Trinity Capital Investment, among others.
Poor, who was promoted from vice president of sales and business development last month, admitted to Energy Storage Report that media focus on Aquion’s fundraising antics was a bit of a distraction.
Under the radar
“We have been under the radar,” he said. “Our approach to marketing has not been to trumpet our own business. We have lots of deals, we just don’t press release them.”
At the same time, however, “there are regulatory reasons why we have to make an SEC filing when we get a cash infusion,” he said.
Nevertheless, Poor said Aquion’s business is in good shape, with the company currently shipping to Australia, Europe and Japan as well as North America.
One of the few Aquion deals promoted recently was for a hybrid ultra-capacitor and battery energy storage system installed at Duke Energy’s Rankin Substation in Gaston County, North Carolina, USA.
The 50kW/300kWh Aquion battery system is intended to complement the short-term response capabilities of Maxwell Technologies ultra-capacitors in order to smooth output from a nearby 1.2MW PV plant, Power reported.
Foil for ultra-capacitors
Win Inertia, a Spanish energy storage system integrator working on the project, said Aquion’s Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries were a good foil for ultra-capacitors because the Aquion products provide long-duration storage.
“Aqueous batteries provide low-cost performance and very high energy density,” said the company in a presentation for the US Energy Storage Association.
The energy battery-ultra-capacitor combination would allow Duke to stack grid services such as peak shaving, solar smoothing and load following, and cut capital expenditure by up to 25% and operating costs by up to 35%, it said.
Long-duration storage is not Aquion’s only virtue, however.
The company says its batteries are highly modular, making it easy to use them for everything from residential up to utility-scale installations, and are the only in the world to have a cradle-to-cradle certification.
Commonly available materials
The use of a chemistry based on innocuous, commonly available materials bodes well for Aquion one day achieving the cost reductions it has in view. “There’s nothing in the battery that is expensive,” Poor noted.
Although he would not reveal pricing details, Poor said Aquion’s batteries were already “significantly better” than products from leading battery vendors such as Tesla and LG Chem, on a full lifecycle cost basis.
This competitive edge should widen as Aquion moves towards full-scale production, according to observers.
“Lithiums, of whatever recipe, are eventually constrained by the cost of their materials and manufacturing and are thus doomed to niche applications like hand-held devices,” commented one industry insider.
Increased production should also spell relief for Aquion’s many investors.
While Aquion has not publicly announced details of its financial roadmap, said Poor: “If we’re full-scale [production] in a decade, we’ll be cash positive well before that.”
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