Encell’s hardy battery targets emerging markets

By Jason Deign

Encell graphic: cycle life is determined by oxide solubility.

Encell claims to have a battery chemistry that can beat lithium-ion and lead-acid. Image: Encell.

Battery start-up Encell Technology is taking aim on emerging markets with a residential-scale product that bucks the current trend for sleek, eye-catching design.

The company’s Fused Iron batteries are visually unimpressive but able to perform better and withstand a much wider range of operating conditions than lithium-ion (Li-ion) rivals, said Encell chairman and founder Robert Guyton.

“There are fundamental trade-offs in lithium-ion when it comes to cost, cycle life and safety,” he said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”

Evaluating the trade-offs led Encell to select a nickel-iron battery chemistry instead.

Nickel-iron batteries have low specific energy and poor charge retention but are popular in mining because of their long operating life, of up to 20 years with regular cycling, and their ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

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One battery to rule them all?

After the Tesla Powerwall launch, there is reason to think lithium-ion batteries could become the overwhelming technology of choice for battery storage. Photo: Tesla Gigafactory

After the Tesla Powerwall launch, there is reason to think lithium-ion batteries could become the overwhelming technology of choice for battery storage. Photo: possible Tesla Gigafactory design.

By Jason Deign

The Tesla 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.
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Tesla Gigafactory: nothing but good news for energy storage

As Reno wins the jackpot to be the location of the Tesla Gigafactory, we look at what it means for Tesla, Nevada and the energy storage industry.

As Reno wins the jackpot to be the Tesla Gigafactory location, we look at what it means for Tesla, Nevada and the energy storage industry. Photo credit: Michael Ocampo

The waiting is finally over. And surprise, surprise, Nevada, the state that never missed an opportunity to bend over backwards for big business (an attitude Bugsy Siegel may have appreciated), has scooped Tesla’s Gigafactory for a mere USD$1.25bn in subsidies over the next two decades.

Okay, let’s park the cynicism over the vast sums corporations squeeze out of the tax-payer and look at the positives of what will be a real game-changer in energy storage, not just for electric vehicles and their drivers, as well as providing a bit of background.
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Energy storage news: 10.09.14

The process of lithium plating taking place during the charging of lithium-ion batteries has been observed by scientists at Technische Universität München, Germany.

The process of lithium plating taking place while lithium-ion batteries charge has been observed at Technische Universität München, Germany. Photo: Andreas Heddergott/TUM

This week’s energy storage news headlines from our Twitter feed.

  • NEC Energy Solutions will supply a large utility in California with a 3.9MWh lithium-ion battery-based grid energy storage system.
  • ABB and BYD have announced a global energy storage collaboration, which will focus on electric vehicle charging, on- and off-grid renewable energy storage, batteries and marine energy storage.
  • WiTriCity plans to dramatically increase its electric vehicle wireless charging power transfer potential.

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Power-One shows off REACT in UK

REACT energy storage system, with Aurora inverter. Photo credit: Power-One

REACT energy storage system, with Aurora inverter. Photo credit: Power-One

Power-One, of the ABB Group, will showcase its residential REACT Renewable Energy Accumulator and Conversion Technology at this year’s Solar Energy UK, from October 8 to 10 in Birmingham. REACT will be available in 2014 and consists of a 4.6kW single-phase grid connected Aurora Power-One inverter and a lithium-ion battery, providing 2kWh of usable capacity.
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GM to beat Tesla on batteries

GM has expanded its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

GM expands its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

Earlier this week General Motors made a bold statement of intent: to sell a production-line electric vehicle at half the price of Tesla’s Model S, with a similar range. And GM says it will be able to offer the vehicle at USD$30,000 thanks to the development of its own lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology, according to a Reuters report.
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Battery design gets nanotube boost

NSCU have aligned silicon-coated carbon nanotubes like a layer of drinking straws.

NCSU team aligns silicon-coated carbon nanotubes like a layer of drinking straws. Photo credit: Horia Varlan

Researchers at North Carolina State University have created a new flexible nano-scaffold for rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that could help make cell phone and electric car batteries last longer.

The research, published online in Advanced Materials, shows the potential of manufactured sheets of aligned carbon nanotubes coated with silicon, a material with a much higher energy storage capacity than the graphite composites typically used.
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Lithium-ion battery production picks up

Naoto Noguchi, President of Panasonic Energy Company, with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors.

Naoto Noguchi, President of Panasonic Energy Company, with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors. Photo credit: Panasonic

Two lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery makers have seen an uptick in production, according to press reports last week. LG Chem started production at its Michigan, USA, manufacturing facility last month, media such as MLive confirmed.
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