Exciting news just released regarding community energy storage (CES) in the U.S. International Battery will be supplying large-format lithium-ion battery technology to S&C Electric’s CES product. The partnership will be involved in AEP Ohio’s gridSMARTSM Demonstration Project initiative, deploying initially in the Ohio territory.
Energy storage is essential for grid modernization. As more intermittent renewable energy sources of power generation enter the transmission/distribution equation, energy storage is becoming an essential component for grid stabilization and frequency control. Additionally, peak power efficiencies at the residential level is viewed as an important aspect of smart grid development. For community energy storage in particular, energy storage-based units offer residential electricity backup, improve distribution line efficiency, integrate renewable resources, and eventually will support plug-in vehicle charging. For utilities, receiving energy storage benefits as close to the consumer as possible holds the highest value. CES systems offer just that.
Understandably, batteries play a dominant part in the CES system. This system requires a highly robust battery technology, mandates full communication and control (both internal battery system as well as on a modular level), as well as a highly safe battery. S&C Electric chose International Battery as a result of the company’s stringent safety focus at the chemical and system level as well as the company’s proven reliability. International Battery also is one of very few production lithium-ion manufacturers in the U.S. This step has demonstrated the tremendous opportunity for lithium-ion batteries usage in CES systems but the road ahead is long and challenging in terms of product test and evaluation. International Battery has demonstrated strength in the large-format lithium-ion industry and is well poised to take the CES application to the next level.
Frost & Sullivan research indicates that deployment and penetration of lithium-ion in CES systems is relatively dependent on smart grid developments as well as plug-in HEV and full EV penetration. Large-format lithium-ion is cutting edge technology and continues to evolve each year in terms of price, performance and safety. As lithium-ion expands in the automotive applications, other industries will benefit including stationary utility and telecommunication applications. Lithium-ion for utility applications, including community energy storage, will be a $500 million global industry by 2020.
Good news just in for thin-film, solid-state energy storage. Cymbet Corporation announced completion of the final phase of its 3rd round of funding – closing out the session by raising $31 million. Overall, the company has raised over $66 million to date (company founded in 2000). Current round of financing will expand the company’s EnerChipTM product sales and marketing initiatives as well as expand manufacturing capacity for the product.
Cymbet offers a rechargeable solid-state, thin film battery technology that offers electronics designers with a cost-effective alternative solution by providing a reliable, long lived, non-volatility energy source for common semiconductors. The company is classified as a chip company and their technology is not a chemical battery system but a solid-state component made with standard semi-conductor processes. Both coin battery cells and ultracapacitors do not run through the standard electronics assembly process – they are assembled outside of the automated processes because these technologies cannot withstand the temperatures that circuit boards and components are exposed to. Cymbet offers a unique value-proposition and technology that can be implemented during the automated process – company is setting the pace of the industry and market opportunities are lucrative.
The latest round of funds were supplied by a variety of well-known firms, including Perseus, LLC, Intel Capital Texas Instruments, Bekaert N.V., Helmet Capital, Cedar Point Capital, The Dow Chemical Company, and The IGNITE Group. Support from these companies creates a marked impact on the overall thin film energy storage industry.
“Cymbet is a recognized leader in the development of solid-state rechargeable energy storage devices used to supply back-up power for integrated circuits found in a wide range of electronic products,” said Bill Priesmeyer, CEO of Cymbet.
Some of the key applications that benefit from solid-state thin film energy sources are those that require a long-lasting (the life of the device), lightweight, eco-friendly, provide backup or bridging power, and other key features. Typically, conventional disposable batteries (such as primary lithium) have been the industry mainstay for this type of application. Sold-state thin film energy storage can provide these benefits as well as others including at the electronic design level – a 10-year component-class device that can go through the normal electronics assembling process either as a surface mount device (attached to a circuit board) or it can be mounted inside the chip package itself at the integrated circuit manufacturer’s level. Applications include: industrial controls, consumer electronics, hand-held wireless devices, medical devices, military equipment, wireless sensors, RFID tags, energy-efficient intelligent building systems, among others including Smart Grid opportunities.
The product can even open doors as an energy harvesting/scavenging enabler. This concept has been discussed for a long time, but one of the difficulties in this area is that most of the energy storage solutions available do not adequately address is the energy storage component. There is significant progress in the ability to gather the energy (transducer) by vibration, solar, and other methods. However, the issue is gathering small amounts of energy and reliably store it in a way that will trickle charge in small amounts, but store the energy efficiently and not self discharge quickly. Solid-state thin film energy storage can be the key.
In a challenging economic situation, Cymbet has been able to secure and close-out another aggressive funding round. Great news for this emerging, innovative company that has a real commercial product.
Change is likely in the air when it comes to how the U.S. transports “small” lithium batteries (packed or contained in equipment) by air – cells and packs. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently revamping existing lithium battery air transportation regulations and this has stirred up both concerns as well as approvals as a result. Here is a quick review of how lithium batteries are classified.
|Small (no more than)||Medium (between)||Large (no more than)|
|Cell: Primary||1 g Lithium||1g and 5g Lithium||5 g Lithium|
|Cell: Secondary||1.5 g ELC*||1.5 g and 5 g ELC||5 g ELC|
Battery Pack: Primary
|2 g Lithium||2 g and 25 g Lithium||25 g Lithium|
|Battery Pack: Secondary||8 g ELC||8 g and 25 g ELC||25 g ELC|
*equivalent lithium content Source: U.S. DOT
Under current U.S. DOT regulations, lithium small cell shipments are not required to be classified as “regulated Class 9 hazardous material” - a DOT classification that means the batteries could pose a hazard when transported. Therefore, pallets of small cell lithium batteries could be transported without the air carriers knowledge. Opponents of the current regulation state that even a 5 lb paint can or other flammable Class 9 product must be properly labeled and flight crew made aware of, while a pallet containing thousands of highly volatile lithium cells can be transported without the full scope of the regulation. An argument that is tough to overcome.
However, the argument's flip side states that this proposed U.S. DOT regulation change trumps the international safety requirements for small lithium battery shipments. This creates inconsistencies with global regulations, some of which are even tougher than current U.S. standards. The battery industry is by and large globally orientated. Even cutting-edge lithium battery developers have production and/or distribution agreements with foreign players. Battery supply chains are extremely dependent on transportation to and from various countries.
All in all, while safety is a concern for battery shippers and battery manufacturers, minimal safety incidents (around 40 events) relating to lithium batteries have been reported under the current DOT regulations since 1991 (I find this number hard to believe considering the shear volume level of batteries shipped daily). However, even in the past year, several incidents involving the batteries themselves or battery-powered devices caused significant fire, smoke or evidence of fire has occurred aboard aircraft. Primary lithium batteries have been banned on U.S. passenger aircraft since 2004. Many in the air industry feel similar bans should be upheld for cargo aircraft as well.
A full ban won't come easy or is likely, The first step however - proposed changes to the U.S. DOT regulations relating to shipping lithium battery packs and cells on cargo flights include the following changes (source: U.S. DOT):
- Eliminate regulatory exceptions for small lithium cells and batteries when included in an air shipment; and require their transportation as Class 9 materials, meaning they could pose a hazard when transported;
- Subject packages of small lithium batteries to well-recognized marking and labeling requirements for hazardous materials;
- Require transport documentation to accompany a shipment of small lithium batteries, including notifying the pilot in command of the presence and location of lithium batteries being shipped on the aircraft;
- Require manufacturers to retain results of satisfactory completion of United Nations design-type tests for each lithium cell and battery type;
- Limit stowage of lithium cell and battery shipments aboard aircraft to cargo locations accessible to the crew or locations equipped with an FAA-approved fire suppression system, unless transported in a container approved by the FAA Administrator; and
- Apply appropriate safety measures for the transport of lithium cells or batteries identified as being defective for safety reasons, or those that have been damaged or are otherwise being returned to the manufacturer, and limit the transportation of defective or damaged cells or batteries to highway and rail. Damaged or defective lithium batteries that are being returned to manufacturers would be required to be shipped by highway or rail
Proposed changes are under a 60-day public comment period that initiated on January 11, 2010. DOT officials will then review and include comments in a final ruling, expected fall 2010.
2010 will be the year of the battery – and I’m not talking just for automotive applications which received most of the attention in ‘09. Battery life is a key focus for most all consumer electronics device makers and I expect ‘10 will rank as a strong start to the new decade for battery and charger technology innovation. What areas do I think will shine the most this year? … universal chargers based on a number of technologies ranging from good-'ole battery chemistries, to inductive/conductive charger mats, to solar, to fuel cell operated….
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010 show in Vegas has already set the pace. Several companies are announcing new battery products, innovative charging technology, as well as a plethora of new, power-voracious electronic gadgets. Here is a quick taste of the excitement:
- mPower Emergency Illuminator ™ – emergency lighting and power kit that demonstrates a 20 year shelf-life. Reserve battery provides ‘Power on Command ™’, a feature that allows the battery to be stored unused in a vehicle or residence for years, then activated to full power (with minimal to no self-discharge) when needed for emergency situations. Product provides efficient LED lighting and a USB-port for device charging capability – great to have during winter storms! mPower is the consumer products division of mPhase Technologies, Inc.
- Toshiba – Dynario direct methanol fuel cell for portable devices product demonstration. System can be operated by re-filling the methanol cartridge (takes about 20 seconds to re-fill). Fuel cell system is priced over $300 and 50 ml bottle of methanol for $35
- MTI MicroFuel Cells – Mobion TM fuel cell universal charger product demonstration. A cartridge-based fuel cell charger system, each cartridge offers 25 watt-hours of power that can charge a cell phone on average 8 to 10 times before cartridge replacement. A user can be off-grid for about a month and just use the Mobion™ fuel cell charger to their cell phone! This handy universal charger also has a USB-port (a must these days) to provide power to any USB-enabled device (digital camera, MP3 player, etc). Universal charger will be a premium product, priced $100-250, with replacement cartridges priced under $5
- Powermat USA unveiled the Powerpack at this year’s CES show. Taking the company’s powermat to the next level, the Powerpack is a complete battery that replaces the one that comes with your cell phone thereby enabling quick & easy charging with the powermat (aka, no additional device sleeve). Product is expected to retail for $40 and will be available in May
- PowerGenix’s AA Nickel Zinc rechargeable battery (1.6 volts) showcased at the CES show. This unique rechargeable AA provides a lot more runtime and very low self-discharge rate than conventional nickel metal hydride rechargeable AAs. PowerGenix’s batteries are an eco-friendly option and are full RoHS compliant. Run out today and buy this technology from Amazon.com for $29.99 for battery 4-pack and charger combo. Innovative and eco-friendly battery technology available commercially today
- Novolink – showcasing their Apple-certified iPhone 3G/3G S and iPod Touch (2nd Gen) solar chargers, the Surge. Innovative sleeve product that allows solar energy to continually charge the device. Available for around $70. Power to the People!
- Better Energy Systems was the first to develop and introduce a 'green,' universal, solar charger, the SOLIO. The company is showcasing their product line of external solar chargers that offer a solution to all mobility constraints
- Easy Energy – introducing the new YoGen®, a fully-sustainable, palm-sized handheld charger. Through repeated pulls on an attached ripcord, YoGen’s internal alternator generates sufficient power to charge everything from cell phones, iPods, PDAs and MP3s to Gameboys, GPS units, cameras and other devices
Power-hungry device categories that are likely to drive battery and charger growth in 2010:
- Table PCs – making a come back. Apple rumored to be introducing a iPad or iTable, in addition to many other products showcasing innovative software and applications
- Smartbooks and netbooks – several products are being introduced at this year’s CES show. Some claim that netbooks are a ‘recessionary play’ but these devices are likely to remain a hot product. Consumers are demanding a razor thin device that is easy to carry, fast, integrated 3G, and can operate for a full day or longer on a single charge
- eReaders are HOT – Kindle paved the way, now several other products are set to be introduced at CES. Plastic Logic’s Que proReader, Entourage’s eDGe device, Sony’s Daily Edition device, Sprint and Hearst’s collaboration the Skiff device, Barnes & Noble’s Nook device, and others. These aren’t your daddy’s PDA, but highly interactive and intelligent devices that require a hearty power source
- PC to TV, no strings attached technology. Consider cutting the HDMI cable with this technology. Several companies are aiming to do just that with wireless USB (improving on previous attempts), WHDI (wireless home digital interface) and others. This translates into increased need for a strapping power source to support laptops broadcasting content to TV, all in high-definition quality
Overall, I expect 2010 will be a strong year for CE device battery and charger technology. Device accessories augment and personalize products so ODMs are looking to this category with renewed interest. Not just cables, cases, and cords, battery and charger technologies are quickly becoming an accessory of choice in the $10 billion CE device accessory industry.
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