March 7th, 2014 by James Greenberger
February 28th, 2014 by James Greenberger
The NAATBatt Board of Directors met this week to outline NAATBatt’s strategic objectives for 2014. The Board identified five areas of strategic focus for the coming year and authorized the formation of committees to address each of them. Interested employees of NAATBatt member firms are invited to participate in one of more of the following committees created by the Board:
- Education Committee. The Board decided that in 2014 NAATBatt will organize educational programming to help build knowledge and familiarity with electrochemical energy storage technology among potential customers, regulators and the general public. The Committee will organize webinars and workshops as appropriate to fulfill its educational mission. Ralph Brodd (Broddarp), John Butkowski (Beckett) and John Warner (Magna) will co-chair this committee.
- International Membership Development Committee. The advanced battery business is not limited by national boundaries. U.S. companies want to sell abroad. Non-U.S. based companies want to sell in the U.S. NAATBatt wants to be a resource to all. The International Membership Development Committee will be charged with promoting the internationalization of NAATBatt’s mission and encouraging the participation of non-U.S. based companies in NAATBatt. Carlos Helou (Tronox), Zak Kuznar (Duke) and Len Peters (Kentucky) will head this effort.
- Harmonization of Standards Committee. NAATBatt is not itself a standards setting body. But our Board is increasingly concerned that the standard setting bodies for specific battery applications (e.g., automotive, grid systems, etc.) are not communicating with each other. As batteries designed for one application are increasingly deployed as solutions in other applications, the need for consistency among standards is becoming increasingly apparent and urgent. Dan Cass (GCube), Dirk Spiers (ATC), and Pablo Valencia (General Motors) will lead a NAATBatt effort to help harmonize evolving standards.
- Ultracapacitor/KiloFarad International Committee. For several years, KiloFarad International acted as an advocate of ultracapacitor technology and performed valuable work on ultracapacitor standards and regulation. Through this new committee, NAATBatt will pick up where KiloFarad International left off. This will be NAATBatt’s first technology specific committee. Michael Everett (Maxwell) and Chad Hall (Ioxus) are expected to lead it.
- 2015 Annual Meeting Committee. Planning for the 2015 NAATBatt Annual Meeting is now underway. The 2015 meeting will build on the success, and revisit some of the very popular content, of the 2014 annual meeting recently concluded in San Diego. Steve Vechy (EnerSys) will be leading a committee of members interested in planning the 2015 program.
I would encourage all NAATBatt members to serve on one of these committees. Committee service is a great way to help move the entire industry forward and an even better way to get to know your fellow members and get full value out of your NAATBatt membership. NAATBatt members should keep an eye out for the committee sign-up invitation, which you will receive soon by e-mail.
February 22nd, 2014 by James Greenberger
I had the pleasure this past week of attending the ARPA-E Summit in Washington, D.C. The ARPA-E Summit is always for me one of the most interesting programs on the industry calendar. Although the Summit focuses primarily on highlighting new energy technologies, much of its program is devoted to discussing the future of energy and the future of the economy more generally. These discussions are often more interesting than the individual new technologies themselves.
This year was no exception. Several speakers and panelists talked about the future of microgrids, distributed generation and distributed storage. Although there was plenty of good news about progress in those technologies and the market opportunities relating to them, the good news was tempered, as usual, by many bemoaning the high price of those new technologies and the need for utilities to move slowly in adopting them.
A new insight for me in thinking about these problems, however, came from David Crane, President and CEO of NRG Energy. Mr. Crane reminded the audience that for all the problems with new energy technologies, the challenges faced by traditional electricity providers may be even worse. Electricity demand in the United States is likely to fall, as electricity consumption becomes increasingly efficient. Mr. Crain opined that this trend will likely accelerate as energy efficiency becomes a function of automation rather than a function of choice. Customers are no longer going to be customers, in the traditional sense. Customers will increasingly be looking to compete with traditional utilities, rather than to just be served by them, with the most lucrative of those customers often being the first to reduce consumption or go off-grid entirely. The traditional electricity business, complained Mr. Crane, is a lousy business.
Schadenfreude is no virtue, but it does have its moments. Mr. Crane reminds us that in thinking about the financial challenges of microgrids, distributed generation systems and distributed energy storage, it is important to remember the question: “Compared to what?”
Mr. Crane noted that one of the consequences of the challenges facing the traditional electricity business is that financing large grid scale projects will become more difficult, as the entities that have in the past owned or used those projects become less creditworthy. This probably means that the cost of traditional, centralized electricity will be going up over time. At the same time, the cost of microgrids, distributed generation and the energy storage devices upon which they depend will almost certainly be going down.
The economic challenges we face in deploying energy storage on the grid are real. But they do not exist in a vacuum. It may well be that because of changes that are happening in the wider electricity business, many new energy technologies, including distributed energy storage, may become economically attractive a lot sooner than many may think.
February 14th, 2014 by James Greenberger
Although EV and PHEV sales in the United States continue at a pace that is better than disappointing, the budding enthusiasm for electric drive of a few years ago seems to be fading. Serious concerns about the cost effectiveness of using EV’s and PHEV’s to reduce petroleum consumption and the efficacy of using EV’s and PHEV’s to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (considering the source of the electricity they use) have steadily undermined enthusiasm for electric drive among those who view it largely as an environmental proposition.
The one bright spot in the EV industry, Tesla Motors, has taken a different approach to promoting EV’s. In listening to conversations at dinner parties, I am struck by the reason that relatively well-off suburbanites want to buy a Model S: They want to buy one because it is cool. What makes it cool is that it is a high tech vehicle with a lot of high tech amenities. The fact that the Model S is an electric vehicle is part of what makes the vehicle high tech. But the fact that the Model S is an electric vehicle is not itself the selling point. I suspect that few of the suburban housewives I hear talking rhapsodically about the Model S would ever buy an EV just to own an EV.
It may be that Elon Musk has duplicated Steve Jobs’ feat of turning an item of technology into an item of fashion. But more likely Elon has simply rediscovered why people buy a car: because they develop an emotional attachment to it.
There is a lesson in Tesla’s success that the rest of the electric drive industry would benefit by learning: Selling EV’s and PHEV’s may be less about selling environmental benefits than about selling a sexy and exciting new technology.
If sexy and high tech is the way it needs to go, the EV industry needs to get serious about building that image. Fortunately, it has a lot to work with. EV’s really do have a lot more torque than comparably powered ICE’s and their lower center of gravity makes for better handling and a better driving experience. The fact that EV’s are also cleaner and quieter is a bonus, though perhaps not the principal point.
Promoting the new, sexy, high tech nature of electric drive is something the EV industry needs to get behind. The new FIA Formula E Championship racing series therefore bears consideration. The Formula E championship features single-seater cars powered exclusively by electric energy. Commencing in September 2014 through to June 2015, the championship will compete on the streets of 10 of the world’s leading cities, including Beijing, Los Angeles and London.
Motor races, particularly those that take place on city streets (think Monaco Grand Prix), are expensive, high risk events. But they are also high visibility events that convey an image of sex, power and high technology. In the case of Formula E, it might also take on a nationalistic element (i.e., can an American-made battery (after receiving billions of dollars of federal government support) outperform one made in China, Japan or Korea?).
The future of electric drive may lie in playing to its inherent performance advantages over internal combustion engines and its emotional appeal as an exciting new technology. If so, companies other than Tesla need to step up and start driving that message home with consumers.
February 7th, 2014 by James Greenberger
NAATBatt provides a number of benefits for our member firms. But none is more valuable than the ability to network in the industry and to grow a member firm’s visibility. NAATBatt has developed a unique program to help members do this. The program is called the Members Site Visit meeting, and attendance at such meetings is a key benefit of NAATBatt membership.
Members Site Visit meetings offer the opportunity for one of our members agrees to open its facilities to all other NAATBatt member firms. The meetings generally include a presentation by the hosting firm about its history, business and capabilities followed by a tour of its manufacturing facilities (carefully redacted to protect confidential information). Following the meeting, members adjourn to a special, members only reception and dinner at a restaurant of local note. Most of the business and relationship building takes place over dinner and cocktails. These programs are free to NAATBatt members; their cost is included in regular membership dues. There is no program anywhere that is more effective in promoting networking, business development, and the growth of a U.S. advanced battery community than a NAATBatt Members Site Visit Meeting.
I am pleased to announce that the next NAATBatt Members Site Visit Meeting will be hosted by EnerDel in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday, May 21. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s annual meeting on May 19-21 (see: http://www.edta2014.com/). NAATBatt members will have the opportunity to attend the EDTA show and, following its conclusion, go to EnerDel for a deep dive into advanced battery technology and industry networking.
EnerDel will be a fascinating tour. Tracing its roots to Delphi and GM’s EV1 program in the 1990’s, EnerDel was the winner of a major DOE FOA-26 award in 2009 but subsequently ran into trouble when the EV expectation bubble burst in the early part of this decade. After a sojourn in the bankruptcy courts, EnerDel and its affiliates have emerged with new financing and a focus on grid-connected and industrial batteries (as well as some heavy transportation applications). EnerDel’s batteries are providing power back-up at the Sochi Olympics. As the market for grid-connected storage grows in the United States, it is likely that EnerDel will become a major player in that market as well. The meeting and tour at EnerDel is a great opportunity for NAATBatt members to see EnerDel’s capabilities and better to understand its needs as well as those of every other major battery manufacturer.
More information about the meeting at EnerDel on May 21 will be distributed shortly. But I would highly encourage members to mark their calendars for this event. The meeting will be an opportunity to visit EnerDel, catch the EDTA show and see the Indy 500 (which will be held the weekend following the EnerDel meeting) all in the same trip. Don’t miss this one.
January 31st, 2014 by James Greenberger
For the past several months a committee of NAATBatt member firms has been working with a group of electric utilities, EPRI, Sandia National Laboratory and DNV GL on a project to ascertain industry’s view as to how U.S. Department of Energy financial support could be most effective in moving distributed energy storage technology into widespread commercial application.
The project interviewed 39 commercial entities involved in electricity storage, including 18 electric utilities that have deployed or studied the deployment of DES systems. The interviews sought to determine the issues that utilities are attempting to address by using electricity storage, the applications of storage that are being used to address those issues, and the barriers and disincentives to deploying storage that utilities are facing. The interviews asked respondents to rank the various applications of electricity storage by value in order to determine which applications of distributed storage customers view as being the most beneficial.
The initial results of the project report, which will be published in later this month, will likely suggest that future, government-funded demonstration projects have a different focus than those in the past. There is a growing consensus that the technical feasibility of storage systems has largely been proven. What is still left to be demonstrated, however, is the ability of distributed energy storage systems to bundle and effectively administer a sufficient number of services such that the aggregate value of those services justifies the significant costs of deploying such systems on the grid. Demonstrating the economic efficacy of distributed energy storage, the report will likely conclude, should be the principal focus of DOE storage programs going forward.
In the view of many project participants the key to demonstrating the economic efficacy of storage is developing and demonstrating communications and controls systems that can effectively manage and maximize the value of multiple grid services provided by a single (or group of networked) storage systems. Although several existing projects use such systems to bundle and administer multiple storage services, there appears to be a general consensus that much more development and demonstration of communications and controls systems is needed.
At the last meeting of the project advisory committee, held in San Diego on January 24, the participants agreed to extend the term of the DES project in order to allow participants more time to suggest specific demonstration projects focused on communications and controls systems for inclusion in the project report. It is anticipated that the report will recommend some of these specific demonstration projects for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Project recommendations are due by February 10 with a final conference call among participants to discuss recommended projects on February 14. NAATBatt expects to release the final report of the DES Demonstration Project advisory committee later this month.
January 18th, 2014 by James Greenberger
Last week concluded the best and most successful NAATBatt program we have ever held: the 2014 NAATBatt Annual Meeting and Symposium. A few statistics about the program that may be of interest:
- Attendance was up by about 63% over last year (attendance at almost every other major battery and energy storage industry conference last year was down)
- At least 27 C level executives attended the Annual Meeting
- Our tour of the microgrid at UCSD, attended by over 150 people carried on three buses, was the largest single tour of that facility that UCSD has ever conducted
- We lost money on the incredible Spouses’ Program (i.e., we are putting our money where our mouth is, when we say that NAATBatt is working hard to enhance personal relationships among our members and to build a community of energy storage professionals)
There were so many highlights of the program that it is hard to know where to begin.
The tour of the UCSD microgrid was phenomenal, even for those who have toured a lot of energy storage facilities before. UCSD has taken the concept of using a microgrid as a test bed for new energy technologies to a new level. Led by Dr. Byron Washom and Dr. Bill Torre of UCSD, tour participants visited a new ZBB flow battery system that will soon be commissioned, a Maxwell ultracapacitor unit installed in conjunction with a solar array, a Sanyo/Panasonic storage system installed at the La Jolla Playhouse, a second life EV battery testing project powering four EV recharging bays, and a 2.8 megawatt fuel cell. While the physical infrastructure we toured was impressive, what made the greatest impression was the sheer willingness of UCSD to take in new energy storage technologies, interconnect them to a working microgrid serving a community of nearly 50,000 and make it work. UCSD claims that its microgrid produces electricity at a cost of about $0.06 per kilowatt. If anyone doubts that electricity storage can be an important, cost effective tool on the grid, they need to visit UCSD.
The UCSD tour was just a warm-up for the rest of the program. SDGE invited attendees to a reception at SDGE’s Energy Innovation Center, where attendees heard a talk by Tom Bialek about SDGE’s experience with electricity storage on the grid. Attendees got a quick lesson in the potential of graphene from Dr. Gordone Chiu of Graphoid. Judith Judson McQueeney presented a survey of state-based ESS incentives around the United States. Troy Miller talked about S&C Electric’s experience in using storage to enable distributed generation. A dynamite panel of CEO’s, Directors of M&A, private equity providers and investment bankers talked about what is going to be hot this year (and what is not) in the battery industry M&A space.
Attendees listened to Kathryn Paisner of IP Checkups explain how by analyzing Big Data gleaned from patent filings, battery manufacturers can discern the direction of the markets they are trying to serve. A panel of experts, led by Dan Borneo of Sandia National Laboratory, discussed safety issues in ESS projects. Ralph Brodd summarized a recent National Academy of Science study predicting the future of the electric vehicle market through 2050 (fuel cells, Ralph, really?). Dr. Steve Clark talked about Structurally Stable Magneli Phase Materials and their implication for battery manufacture. Nick Warner of OSU CARS brought attendees the latest data about the use of EV batteries in second life applications. And a panel of project developers and financial experts talked about how independent storage projects on the grid will be financed and what will be required to get them done.
Our keynote speaker, NTSB Member Mark Rosekind, spoke about how the NTSB approaches transportation-related accidents involving battery fires. He urged the battery industry, for its own sake, to be proactive in educating the NTSB about safety developments and safety standards in lithium-ion batteries. Dr. Rosekind, as NAATBatt will be proving later this year: We heard you loud and clear.
NAATBatt 2014 also featured our first Energy Storage Innovation Summit, chaired by Chad Hall of Ioxus, highlighting 20 emerging companies jury selected by a committee of NAATBatt member firms. Each of the emerging companies is working in some aspect of energy storage technology and looking to partner with more established commercial firms. Finally, we ended with 30 presentations by NAATBatt member firms, each firm having the opportunity to tell its story and highlight its competency to all meeting attendees.
Yes, we got the message that with all this content, we need to schedule in more downtime so that people can network. We will certainly do that next year. But I am very confident, and very proud, that no other battery show or conference in the industry this year will be able to match the quality of presentations or the quality of attendees that we had in San Diego last week.
Thanks again to all who attended, to UCSD, to SCDE, to our sponsors, speakers, panelists and staff. I can promise you that we will have an even better show for you next year. Save January 20-22, 2015 on your calendar for NAATBatt 2015.
January 10th, 2014 by James Greenberger
For those of you who attend multiple trade shows each year, it may be difficult to understand the feelings of the NAATBatt staff as we face the start of our 2014 annual conference next week in San Diego. For the past several months preparation for the conference has been all-consuming. Conceiving the program, recruiting sponsors, exhibitors and speakers, lining up the hotel, the caterers, the transportation providers and tour operators, and coordinating the presentations of 80 different speakers, presenters, award recipients and keynote speakers has dominated our waking hours and even our sleeping hours.
But looking out from the precipice, I am pleased by what I see. We have a great and fascinating program lined up. It will be unequaled in quality by even the largest and most established battery and energy storage trade shows in North America.
The program will include tours of UCSD and SDGE facilities, where delegates will see examples of energy storage systems deployed in the very heart of what will soon be the first major market for grid-connected electrochemical energy storage in the world. It will include flash presentations by 20 top emerging companies talking about the battery and energy storage technologies they are trying to commercialize—the greatest single forum of early-stage energy storage presentations ever put together anywhere. Our keynote speaker will be a senior member of the National Transportation Safety Board, who, speaking a little more than one week after the latest 787 Dreamliner lithium-ion battery overheating incident, will likely be among the handful of people who will decide what battery makers will need to do to sell lithium-ion batteries in the United States. And my description has so far only scratched the surface of the program’s agenda.
We have, of course, had to deal with some problems too. The first concerns scrambling to find additional space, food and buses to accommodate registrations, which have exceeded our expectations by about 50%. The NAATBatt Annual Meeting is becoming by numbers (though it has long been by quality) one of the major events in an industry overcrowded with conferences. Our other major problem has been rushing to move the location of conference meals and receptions from the hotel ballroom to the poolside terrace, in order to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather expected next week in San Diego. Not a bad problem to have.
For those of you who are already intending to be in San Diego next week, I look forward to seeing you. For those still on the fence about whether to come, there is still some room left, but not much. Please note that you must register on-line; we may not have the space to accommodate walk-ins.
Finally, a word about the spouses’ program, which we instituted this year to try to incent delegates to bring spouses to the meeting and build relationships, not just among industry colleagues but also among families: The program will be amazing; the spouses will see more and do more than even the conference delegates. If you did not sign your spouse or significant other up to attend, I would strongly advise that you not tell him or her about the spouses program. That way you will stay married long enough to invite him or her to next year’s program.
Safe travels to San Diego.
January 2nd, 2014 by James Greenberger
Lesley Stahl’s segment on 60 Minutes last Sunday entitled the “Cleantech Crash” has been the subject of much commentary. The segment largely reiterated the popular storyline that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wasted billions of dollars on worthless Cleantech investments, which the Chinese are now buying for a song.
Critics have called the segment a “hit job,” a “debacle,” an “about face” and even “Dumb & Dumber Part 3.” What immediately comes to my mind, however, is the old Woody Allen line about the food being bad and there not being enough of it. The idea that the DOE invested in something worthless and that the Chinese are now stealing it from us does not stand up to logic.
But while I agree with the critics, that 60 Minutes got it wrong last Sunday, it is important to understand exactly what it got wrong. 60 Minutes did not get the facts wrong. Nor did it unfairly cite those facts selectively. What 60 Minutes got wrong was that it asked the wrong question.
In advanced battery technology, the bulk of the DOE’s Stimulus Package investments, about which 60 Minutes complained, came through the Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative (FOA-26). In all, more than $2 billion was invested in electric battery production and supply facilities spread among 30 corporate grantees. Among those grantees, as noted by 60 Minutes, were companies such as A123 Systems and EnerDel, which subsequently went bankrupt.
Indeed, the whole focus of the 60 Minutes segment was on the Cleantech companies that have failed. At one point, Lesley Stahl dramatically reads a list of failed Cleantech companies to Vinod Khosla before exclaiming “Pfff…I’m exhausted.”
The point Ms. Stahl missed is that it is irrelevant whether the companies that received DOE money succeeded or failed. The DOE never invested in companies. It never purchased a single share of stock. It is true that many private investors lost money in companies that received DOE awards. Those investors made bets on A123, EnerDel and other Cleantech companies. Had those bets worked out, the investors would have profited handsomely. Unfortunately they failed. Too bad. Tough luck. Or, as Pin Ni of Wanxiang put it in the 60 Minutes program, “That’s capitalism.”
What the DOE invested in was technology. The goal of the FOA-26 grants was to improve the technology and reduce the costs of advanced batteries so that they might one day reduce the use of petroleum-based fuels in transportation. Which investors ended up owning that technology was of no concern to the DOE, and rightfully so. All that was intended was to fund the development of a new technology that might one day reduce national reliance on petroleum-based fuels.
The question Ms. Stahl should have asked is what happened to the Cleantech technology funded by the DOE? The answer to that question would certainly reflect much better on the DOE’s judgment. In the advanced battery space, we have made slow but steady progress on increasing the energy density of batteries capable of powering electric vehicles. Since 2009, by some estimates the cost of advanced automotive batteries on a per kilowatt basis has been reduced by half.
Advanced battery technology still has a way to go in order to displace a material quantity of petroleum used by our national vehicle fleet. The energy density of advanced batteries needs to go up and their price needs to come down. It is possible that the technology will never get there. And if it does not, then it would be fair to say, with respect to advanced batteries, that Cleantech has crashed.
But it is just possible that one day advanced batteries and electric motors will improve to the point where they become an economically attractive alternative to petroleum-fueled cars for many American consumers. That day may not be far off. When that day comes it is likely that we will look back at the early DOE investments in technology developed by long since failed Cleantech companies and understand how important those investments were.
It is worth noting that A123 Systems and EnerDel, which both went bankrupt, have since reorganized and attracted new private investment. The advanced battery technologies owned by them in which the DOE invested continue to develop and improve.
December 27th, 2013 by James Greenberger
In a little more than two weeks, NAATBatt will convene its fourth annual program, the NAATBatt 2014 Annual Meeting and Symposium, on January 21 in San Diego. One of our challenges in planning the program was how we can make its program attractive to those doing business in the advanced battery industry. In an industry where you can attend a different conference every week, it is clear that NAATBatt needs to do something a little different.
NAATBatt will meet this challenge in a number of ways. First and foremost is by centering the program on NAATBatt’s central mission: building a community of professionals engaged in the business of advanced electrochemical energy storage. In planning the program, we have gone out of our way to maximize the opportunities for meeting attendees to spend time networking with others in the industry. Multiple breaks, receptions and group bus tours of energy storage facilities at SDGE and the University of California at San Diego will give delegates an atypical amount of time to meet and spend time socializing with each other.
The spouses’ program of the meeting will raise this networking to a new level. This year, we are inviting delegates to bring their spouses with them to the meeting. We have a full spouses program planned, including discounts at the Hilton Spa, a city tour of San Diego and a shopping expedition to La Jolla. In the evening, the spouses will rejoin meeting delegates at the SDGE reception and at the gala awards dinner on Wednesday evening. Building relationships within the advanced battery industry is what NAATBatt is all about. How better to do that than to build relationships among our spouses.
We have also noticed that many of the larger trade shows and conferences in the battery industry are focusing their programs almost exclusively on new technical developments in the battery field. While several presenters at the NAATBatt meeting will discuss new trends and developments in technology, NAATBatt will intentionally focus a significant part of the 2014 Annual Meeting on developments in the business of selling storage technology.
Two panels will be of particular interest. The first will focus on M&A in the advanced battery area and the outlook for battery companies in the capital markets in 2014. The second will focus on the role of independent energy storage developers in the emerging energy storage market. To date, most energy storage projects have been developed by electric utilities or their affiliates. As the energy storage market develops, independent developers may come to dominate a large part of that market. How they think, and what they want from battery manufacturers and power integrators, are very different than what utilities think and want. The 2014 Annual Meeting will provide some insight.
Finally, we have tried to take a page from the playbook of venture forums, by vetting and selecting 20 of the most interesting new companies working in energy storage to make “flash” presentations to the meeting. The goal of these presentations is to give meeting attendees a chance to learn about what early stage companies in the industry are doing. Our hope is that these presentations will spur a new round of investments and acquisitions in the industry. Those investments and acquisitions by more established companies in the industry will be a catalyst for moving new battery technology from the R&D to the marketplace.
I hope you can join us later this month. This will be our best annual program yet. I hope you can join us in San Diego.
As 2013 comes to a close, it is proper to look back and take stock of the state of the advanced battery industry in North America during this past year. A coherent retrospective of 2013 in the industry is beyond the scope of this column. But a few news items of the past year come to mind that may be illustrative of where we have been in 2013 and where we may be going in 2014.
- At the end of 2012, the industry was shaken by the successive bankruptcies of A123 Systems, EnerDel, Valence Technologies and International Battery. 2013 saw similar filings by Better Place, Coda, ECOtality and Fisker. But, importantly and contrary to some pessimistic expectations, 2013 saw the reorganization and recapitalization of many of the companies whose failures in 2012 cast such a pall over the industry. A123 Systems, EnerDel and Valence have all received new infusions of capital and are again active market participants.
- The decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to mandate the deployment of 1.3 gigawatts of electricity storage on the California electricity grid by 2020 is a potentially transformative event for the electricity storage marketplace. The decision may transform the market for electricity storage in North America from one that has been dependent upon government-funded demonstration projects (often requiring match funding by vendors) to one driven by actual commercial contracts.
- The Tesla Motors story continues to amaze. Elon Musk’s face on the cover of yet another news magazine each week reassures us that electric vehicles are a long way from being dead.
- The safety challenge of lithium-ion batteries is an issue that continues to smolder, but not to blaze. Incidents at Boeing and Tesla earlier this year garnered substantial news media attention. But they have not, as some had feared, shut down the lithium-ion business or proven indicative of larger problems in the technology.
- Technological improvements in lithium-ion and other advanced battery technologies continue steadily along in the lab, if perhaps more quietly than in the past. The energy density of lithium-ion batteries reportedly increases by about 15% every 18 months, their cost decreases by about 15% every 18 months, and their cost per life cycle-mile goes decreases by 50% every 18 months. While not on the trajectory of Moore’s Law, advanced battery technology seems well on track to fit the typical pattern of a new technology, whose impact is overestimated by the market in a two year time frame but underestimated in ten.
2014 should be a very interesting year for the advanced battery business. Happy New Year.