The secrets of the StoreDot battery that wowed BP

StoreDot's technicians at work. Pic: StoreDot.

StoreDot’s technicians at work. Pic: StoreDot.

BY JASON DEIGN:

A lithium-metal-polymer battery that helped Israeli manufacturer StoreDot secure USD$20m from BP could be priced at $200 per kWh if produced today, company sources said.

That price, roughly twice the level of traditional lithium-ion batteries in 2018, is for a first-generation version of the StoreDot product. Upon launch next year it will be sold for use in mobile phones and other consumer electronics.

The first customer will be a power bank manufacturer, said Dr Doron Myersdorf, StoreDot’s CEO and founder.

A second generation, manufactured at scale for electric vehicle and stationary storage applications, would cost around 15% above average lithium-ion battery prices on launch.

The difference between StoreDot’s batteries and run-of-the-mill lithium-ion products is in the charging time. 

StoreDot claims on technology

StoreDot claims its technology, which has a novel anode, cathode and electrolyte, could allow an electric vehicle to fully charge in around five minutes, roughly the same amount of time as a petrol refill.

For comparison, electric vehicle charging firm Pod Point says today’s technology can take from 30 minutes to several hours to fill up a lithium-ion battery.

In April the Swiss industrial giant ABB unveiled a 350kW charger that could theoretically give drivers 200 km of charge in eight minutes.

But none of today’s electric vehicles can take that kind of power, with even the fastest-charging models capped at around 100kW to save the battery.

Myersdorf told Energy Storage Reportthat BP had been moved to invest in the company because it might help today’s service stations evolve into charging points. “They have over 18,000 retail gas stations,” Myersdorf said. 

Where combustion engines are not allowed

“That real estate in 2030, in major cities where combustion engines are not allowed, will be completely obsolete.”

Myersdorf said BP was keen to avoid a situation similar to that faced by the Eastman Kodak Company when traditional film was superseded by digital photography.

“They didn’t realise beforehand their whole market was going away,” he said.

Kodak went bankrupt for almost two years and is now ironically focusing on battery technology as a way to achieve growth. Faced with a similarly changing business landscape, BP’s bet on charging stations could prove wise.

In Norway, which has the highest penetration of electric vehicles in the world, insiders have reported a change in driving habits that potentially increases the value of retail outlets attached to vehicle charging. 

Valuable retail and restaurant revenue streams

Hence if BP can make its service stations as useful to electric vehicle owners as they are to combustion engine drivers, there is a good chance it could hang onto valuable retail and restaurant revenue streams.

That future may depend on how quickly car manufacturers can incorporate StoreDot batteries into their new electric models. Given industry design cycles, this is not likely to happen before 2021, said Myersdorf.

“We are trying to align with some Daimler designs,” he said. “If not, it will be 2022. But by then we will also have [more] manufacturing capability.”

For now, StoreDot is facing a supply chain conundrum in bringing its first-generation products to market. “Our number-one problem is supplies of high-end nanoparticles,” Myersdorf confided.

“When we bought one kilo there was no problem. Now we are asking for 10 tons we see we get garbage. We are facing some major roadblocks.” 

Industrial quantities of nanoparticles

Despite this, Myersdorf said he was confident StoreDot would be able to cost-effectively obtain industrial quantities of nanoparticles. “It’s very easy to buy silicon,” he said.

It remains to be seen how the company can deal with other challenges that have emerged with lithium-metal-polymer batteries, though.

A French company called Blue Solutions has already tried to use the chemistry in electric vehicle batteries.

But the company had to refocus after it emerged the batteries needed to be kept warm, so they consumed energy even when the car was not running.

Myersdorf claimed StoreDot’s batteries “behave like a normal lithium-ion battery.” 

A lot of investor attention

The chemistry has certainly attracted a lot of investor attention.

Besides BP, other companies backing StoreDot include Samsung Ventures, Daimler, EG Capital Advisors, Singulariteam and Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse investment firm, according to Crunchbase.

And in March StoreDot inked a “strategic agreement” with TDK Corporation, the Japanese electronics giant.

Myersdorf said StoreDot’s backers would be a crucial factor in helping the company take on the traditional lithium-ion industry.

Compared to other battery start-ups, he said, “we come with the best collection of partners and strategic investors.”

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