Here they are, once again! Just a few years ago, US startup Group 14 Technologies was a spark in the eye of the US Department of Energy, which paid the company $ 4 million to develop new electric vehicle batteries aimed at replace internal combustion engines. They must have been on to something. Two years and several contracts later, here is Group 14 again with ambitious new plans to kill petrol motorcycles. They teamed up with Slovakian company InoBat Auto… wait, Ino who?
InoBat claims to make truly smart electric vehicle batteries
InoBat is new to the CleanTechnica radar, having appeared there in October 2020 with the claim of producing the world’s first “smart” battery about a year after its launch in 2019.
“First of all, the company behind this bold claim is InoBat Auto, based in Slovakia, and the description of the company is that they” discover and produce smart battery solutions customized to the individual end user’s specifications for an increasingly diversified market for electric vehicles in the automotive, aeronautical, commercial and industrial sectors ”, observed CleanTechnica Editor and CEO Zach Shahan, while warning that bold claims are, well, bold claims.
InoBat co-founder and executive chairman, Faysal Sohail, is a believer. He is also a Managing Partner of Presidio Partners, which is described as a “multi-sector, US-based venture capital fund with a deep technology focus, investing in IT, life sciences, energy and the materials”.
Interesting! The energy portion of Presidio’s diverse portfolio includes connection to electric vehicle batteries through carbon nanotube company Cnano, which markets itself as a “leading nanomaterials company that manufactures and develops carbon nanotubes for peak energy, especially Li-ion battery, conductive plastic and structural applications.
Presidio is also behind the advanced materials company Wildcat Discovery Technologies, which received a grant from the Department of Energy in 2019 to work on one of our favorite topics, solid-state batteries (over solid state coverage here, here and here).
Smart EV Batteries – Oh, That’s What They Mean!
InoBat’s reputation is bolstered by a partnership with the increasingly popular energy storage company ESS, whose CleanTechnica took note in passing earlier this year. ESS specializes in flow batteries. It doesn’t have much to do with electric vehicle batteries, at least for now, although some people believe that flux batteries have a future in the zero emission mobility agenda of the sparkling green future. .
The “smart” in InoBat’s bold claims actually apply to the company’s production methodology, which aims for fast turnaround time for custom batteries.
“With proprietary R&D capabilities supporting continuous performance improvement, InoBat Auto rapidly optimizes existing cell chemistry and evaluates new battery innovations, accelerating them from the lab to the factory,” explains InoBat. (original in capitals).
This is where Group 14 comes in.
Last week, Group14 and InoBat announced that they had teamed up to manufacture high energy density electric vehicle batteries on a custom basis, taking advantage of Group 14’s very special energy storage material, namely :
“Reimagined in its most ideal form for energy storage – amorphous and nanoscale – silicon has 10 times the capacity of graphite by mass. Designed with precision, the SCC55 ™ is the perfect combination of carbon, silicon and void space and is readily available as a ready-to-use solution for any mixing ratio with graphite or as a full displacement to deliver unmatched energy density and life cycle stability.
Translated into the field of EV batteries, this means “considerably more energy density per volume than traditional lithium-ion batteries” according to the two partners.
For those of you keeping the score at home, the customization involves different types of cellular architecture, including the pouch-style setup for EV batteries currently favored by General Motors.
What is this silicon energy storage device you’re talking about?
The new electric vehicle battery partnership with InoBat represents a breakthrough of scale for Group 14, which primarily focuses on batteries for consumer electronics at its plant in Washington State. Last December, the company partnered with SK Materials to add a second energy storage plant to its list, which will be located in South Korea.
It’s a strong vote of confidence for silicon energy storage, which until recently seemed an unlikely candidate for electric vehicle batteries. There are – or had been – two main challenges. The first problem is easy to explain: silicon expands during charging, which could cause it to break.
The second problem is a bit more complicated unless you already know what the initial coulombic efficiency is. If you don’t, that basically means that the output of the first charge cycle for a rechargeable battery should be as close to 100% of the input as possible. Anything below 80% is a non-starter and that’s where silicon was, not that long ago.
“Silicon is a very attractive alternative to graphitic carbon alone because of its much higher theoretical energy storage capacity, almost an order of magnitude more per gram, and its relative availability due to its use in the whole world in various industries, ”says Argonne National of the energy department. Laboratory. “However, in electrodes with larger amounts of elemental silicon (around 15%) and therefore a much higher energy density, several problems seriously limit the life of the calendar, including large stray currents at rest. “
“The wealth of previous electrochemical studies on anodes with this element testifies both to its potential and to the scale of the challenge to be met, requiring innovation on several fronts”, adds the laboratory, which means that the researchers hammered home the problems because the payoff is so attractive.
How far can EV batteries go?
Today’s crop of 200 mile EV batteries has already solved the range anxiety problem permanently. After all, who needs to cover 200 miles in a day? American drivers barely traveled 30 miles per day on average, the last time we checked with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. As explained by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory earlier this year, a new generation of silicon-based technology could “reduce battery size by 25-30%, or increase runtime by 30-40% with power packs. the same size as those found. in current electric vehicles.
NREL is the leader of the recently hatched Silicon Consortium project by the Department of Energy, which brought together the Silicon Electrolyte Interface Stabilization and Silicon Deep Dive projects into one large R&D powerhouse. Other members include Sandia, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, as well as Argonne.
It seems like a lot can happen in a short period of time. In June 2021, the energy department already had a serious conversation about best practices for manufacturing batteries with silicon anodes.
Stay tuned for more information on silicon batteries. Last year, the Department of Energy awarded $ 55 million in R&D funding for advanced automotive technologies, and Group 14 was one of seven winners in the silicon category. The others were the University of Maryland, University of Delaware, Stony Brook University, Enovix Corporation, Sila Nanotechnologies, and Solid Power.
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Photo: Courtesy of Group 14 Technologies.
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