NAATBatt Blog

The Race for the Super-Battery

February 28th, 2015 by

This past week I attended a presentation and book signing by Steve Levine, who was promoting his new book, The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World.  Steve Levine was joined in the presentation by Jeff Chamberlain, Deputy Director of Development & Demonstration for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR).

The Powerhouse tells the story of a race to develop a super-battery that will “undermine Russia’s Vladimir Putin, endanger Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, threaten OPEC and transform China…”.  Levine developed his material while “embedded” for two years in the JCESR program at Argonne National Laboratory among many of the scientists who figure prominently in the book.

Based on the talk by Levine and Chamberlain and a quick skim (so far) of the book, The Powerhouse seems like an interesting read and a good insight into the science and many of the personalities driving the progress being made today in advanced battery technology.

But my concern with the book (which is highly qualified as I am still reading it) is that Levine may have sacrificed much of the real story of battery technology in his quest to develop high drama and a compelling story line.  This is hardly a sin in the publishing business.  After all, how good is a book if it does not sell?  But in this case there is a more substantial danger.

It is certainly possible that scientists at Argonne or elsewhere will suddenly discover a new technology that transforms the science of advanced batteries and disrupts the economics of energy.  That “super-battery” discovery might help bring down Putin, threaten OPEC, transform China and solve any number of other problems in the world.

But the more likely scenario is that there will be no momentous breakthrough, no transformative moment in battery technology.  Instead over the next few decades we are likely to see slow and steady progress made in a number of the technologies that scientists are already reasonably familiar with today.  Step by step, battery scientists and battery companies will simply get better at doing what they are already doing today.

While slow, steady progress in battery technology over decades may lack the sexiness of a super-battery discovery, the drama of an international battery race, or the exuberant thrill of a Moore’s Law, it will nevertheless be transformative.  Improvements of just a few percent a year in the energy density of lithium batteries over decades will transform the world of energy just as assuredly as will the super-battery of Steve Levine’s imagination.

We should continue to invest in the race to discover the super-battery.  Sudden, transformative discoveries are always possible and never made without effort.  But we must not allow that race to distract us from the basic blocking and tackling from which most of the advances in advanced electrochemical energy storage are likely to come.

NAATBatt 2015 Offers Insight into the Future of Battery Technology and of NAATBatt

February 20th, 2015 by

The NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference concluded on Thursday in Litchfield Park (Phoenix), Arizona.  The meeting was marred only by the near perfect weather, while most of our colleagues in North America struggled through a particularly harsh stretch of winter.  Aside from the weather, the meeting was a great success.  Attendance was up about 10% from 2014 and the content and networking were as good as ever.

The UL workshop on lithium battery safety got particularly good reviews.  Bob Swaim from the NTSB gave a detailed report of the NTSB’s findings on the Dreamliner (Boeing 787) battery incidents.  Although the written record of the NTSB’s findings is now a matter of public record, that record is enormous and, as such, nearly indecipherable.  Several of the attendees who had read much of that record praised Bob’s summary of the NTSB findings for bringing clarity to the NTSB’s findings.  Bob’s summary engendered some great and at times quite pointed questions from the audience, which added considerably to the value of the presentation.

Another highlight was the panel on the future of lithium battery technology, featuring Stan Whittingham, Khalil Amine and Mike Thackeray. Drs. Whittingham, Amine and Thackeray are three of the leading experts in the world in lithium-ion technology (Stan Whittingham can lay claim to being the inventor of the lithium-ion battery, an accomplishment for which he received a lifetime achievement award at the meeting). During the course of their discussion, and in response to several questions from the audience, the panelists emphasized that lithium-ion battery technology is going to be an important battery technology for quite some time.  They also outlined their views as to what advances are likely to be made in lithium-ion battery technology over the next few decades and, perhaps as important, what hoped for advances are more likely to disappoint.  It was a fascinating discussion.

In the estimate of many attendees, the highlight of the meeting was the presentation of our keynote speaker, Captain Michael Ziv, Group Director of the NAVSEA Technology Office, following the Gala Dinner on Wednesday evening.  Captain Ziv talked about the rail gun and laser weapons systems that the U.S. navy is just starting to deploy and the role of energy storage technology in enabling those systems.  The technical capabilities of those systems are fascinating and captured the full attention of everyone in the audience.  Captain Ziv’s talked focused on some of the technical issues relating to those systems that the navy hopes private industry can help address.  A number of our members left the dinner in deep thought.

In my view, however, the highlight of the meeting was the members’ update presentations on the last day of the meeting. During that portion of the meeting, 27 different NAATBatt member firms made 8 minute presentations about new products, new services and new developments on which they are working.  I had assumed going into the meeting that those presentations would be shameless commercials with limited substance and no real interest.  My assumptions were dead wrong.  Some of the developments, technologies and products discussed were among the most interesting things I heard during the entire conference.  Many other attendees felt the same way.

Immediately following the meeting, I had the opportunity to poll a number of our members about what they liked and did not like about the annual meeting.  The one point on which there was a near unanimity of views was that rather than treating the members’ presentations as an add-on advertising segment at the end of the meeting, those presentations should become the centerpiece of the meeting itself.  And that is exactly what we are going to do next year.

For those of you that joined us in Phoenix for this year’s annual meeting, whether as delegates, sponsors, exhibitors or speakers—thank you.  For those who could not join us, you missed a really great program.  For all of you, I hope you can join us next year at NAATBatt 2016.  Watch out for details soon.

U.S. 2014 Installed Generation Stats Demonstrate the Growing Need for Storage

February 6th, 2015 by

Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission published its latest Energy Infrastructure Update report, which details new electricity generation assets installed in the United States in 2014 by fuel type.  Given that 2014 saw some of the lowest natural gas prices of the decade and substantial uncertainty about the future of tax incentives for renewable projects, the numbers may be surprising.

Of the total new generation of 15,384 MW installed in 2014, natural gas accounted, not surprisingly, for the largest fuel segment with 7,485 MW installed.  But wind followed next with 4,080 MW of installed capacity and solar with 3,139 MW.  The upshot of these numbers is that at a time when it is hard to imagine that the headwinds against wind and solar could possibly be stronger, variable, renewable electricity generation assets accounted for a full 46.9% of all new electricity generation in the United States.

The implications for electricity storage on the grid should be obvious.  It has long been acknowledged that storage will be necessary to accommodate large scale penetration of variable electricity generation on the grid.  The question for the storage market has always been:  Will variable generation assets ever be installed in sufficient quantities to make the need for large scale electricity storage a real issue?

What the 2014 installed generation numbers show is that variable wind and solar electricity is no flash in the pan.  If 46.9% of all new generation installed in a bad year is variable, what are those numbers going to look like when natural gas prices start to climb and Congress brings some long-term predictability to energy policy?

The 2014 installed generation numbers show that the Golden Age of electricity storage on the grid is not nearly as far off as many have assumed.

Spouses Program Serves an Important Purpose at the NAATBatt Annual Meeting

January 30th, 2015 by

As in past years, the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting will include something we call a Spouses’ Program.  This is a set of activities specifically organized (by my wife, Ellen) for spouses and significant others who accompany delegates to the Annual Meeting.  This year’s program involves a guided tour of some of the most significant sites, museums and shopping areas in the Phoenix area.  A full description of this year’s Spouses Program activities may be seen by clicking here.  Spouses and significant others are also welcome to join delegates at the Annual Meeting dinners and receptions, and to register to play in the Advanced Battery Golf & Tennis Tournament on Monday.

While it is true that one purpose of the program is to provide great entertainment for family members of delegates—and a good excuse for a low-cost vacation in a warm and sunny climate during February—the principal purpose of the Spouses Program is something far more important than mere entertainment.

One of the core missions of NAATBatt International is to create a community of professionals working in the business of electrochemical energy storage.  The value of that community is that it permits its members to grow their visibility and personal relationships in the industry.  Those personal relationships can become the basis of solid business relationships.

It is much easier, and much less risky, to do business with someone you know—and someone your spouse may also know—than to do business with a stranger who you happened to meet at a trade show.  Sometimes I think that Asian business culture is far more attuned to this business reality than Western business culture.  But that reality is hard wired in human nature and cuts across all cultures.  In business, you are who you know well.

While former attendees could provide great testimonials for the Spouses Program, the greatest testimonial may be its close to 100% return rate among the spouses and significant others who have participated in the program in the past.  Some great and enduring friendships have been formed among those past participants–which is, of course, the principal purpose of the program.

Those relationships matter.  They matter not just to the individuals who have formed and enjoyed them, but also to their battery industry spouses.  Those spouses, looking to grow their own relationships and visibility in the industry, now have a wife, husband or significant other who is an important business asset.  Welcome to the advanced battery industry community.

I hope that you can join us next month in Phoenix and bring your best business partner along.

NAATBatt Announces 2015 Advanced Battery Industry Awards

January 23rd, 2015 by

It was my pleasure this past week to announce the winners of NAATBatt International’s annual awards for outstanding contribution to the advanced battery industry.  Each year, NAATBatt International acknowledges at its annual meetings individuals who over the past year or over the course of a lifetime have made an outstanding contribution to the industry.  The awards are presented at the Gala Dinner at the annual meeting, this year on the evening of Wednesday, February 18, at the Wigwam Resort outside of Phoenix.

This year’s winners are:

Prof. Stan Whittingham of SUNY Binghamton will receive the NAATBatt 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award-Technology.  Prof. Whittingham is one of the main figures in the history of rechargeable batteries.  In 1972, while leading a research team at Exxon, he discovered the role of intercalation in battery reactions, which resulted in the first commercial lithium rechargeable batteries. Prof. Whittingham is listed as No. 17 in the Greentech Hall of Fame (following No. 16, Nikola Tesla).  He has received the Yeager Award of the International Battery Association and is a Fellow of both the Electrochemical Society and the Materials Research Society.  Prof. Whittingham’s work has facilitated battery applications that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago.  Anyone working in lithium-ion technology today owes their job in part to Prof. Whittingham.  NAATBatt International is honored to salute him.

Naum Pinsky of Southern California Edison will receive the NAATBatt 2015 Technology Commercialization Award.  23 years ago, when Dr. Pinsky joined SCE, few envisioned electric drive, let alone storing electricity on the power grid, as practical possibilities.  Dr. Pinsky established the Electric Vehicle Technical Center at SCE, which did some of the earliest work by any public electric utility on vehicle electrification and electrochemical energy storage on the grid.  He is also responsible for the operation of the Large Energy Storage Test Apparatus facility at SCE, which is capable of testing large transportable energy storage devices prior to field demonstrations, and pilot deployments. As more utilities and IPP’s gain an interest in grid connected energy storage, it is fitting that we should honor this year one of the early pioneers in the field.  Dr. Pinsky’s work continues to serve as a valuable guide to those who are just beginning to investigate the uses and value of storage on the grid.

Sally Miksiewicz, former CEO of East Penn Manufacturing Co., will receive the NAATBatt 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award-Industry.  NAATBatt International is both glad and saddened to be offering the award this year to Ms. Miksiewicz, who died tragically last year.  Ms. Miksiewicz will long be remembered in the advanced battery industry by the many friends she made and by the many people to whom she served as a mentor and a role model.  The industry will remember that under her leadership, East Penn introduced the Deka UltraBattery, a major leap forward in lead acid battery technology, and became an industry leader in lead acid battery recycling.  There is no question but that Ms. Miksiewicz has earned this lifetime achievement award; NAATBatt International only regrets that it is being given so soon.

I would urge those working in the advanced battery industry today to make the trip to Phoenix next month to honor Prof. Whittingham, Dr. Pinsky and Ms. Miksiewcz.  As an industry, we are the sum of our individual parts.  By honoring those parts, those individuals, who have made outsized contributions to the technology and businesses that provide us our livelihoods and our mission, we honor our entire industry.  I hope you can join us.

Je Suis Charlie

January 16th, 2015 by

It was suggested to me that in light of the tragedies in Paris, I devote my column this week to remembering the victims and honoring the principles of tolerance and free expression for which they gave their lives.  While that request may seem a bit of a stretch—this column is normally devoted to developments in the business, technology and policy of electrochemical energy storage—it is not as much of a stretch as it may appear.

The world today seems in many ways to be pulling apart along the lines of competing ideologies.  Radical Islam in the Middle East, nationalism in Europe and Asia, nativism in the United States, and tribalism almost everywhere: these forces urge us to compete against each other, sometimes violently, in pursuit of one zero-sum-gain objective or another.  Perhaps this is inevitable.  After all, one is a Muslim or not; the Senkaku islands belong to China or not; one is an undocumented alien in the United States or not.  Identifying win-win outcomes in ending disputes and re-defining differences is not always easy or possible.

But advanced battery technology, in a sense, is different.  In developing better energy storage technology, individuals and companies, even competing companies, strive to improve a technology that will positively impact the lives of all people around the world regardless of nationality, legal status or tribe.  Reducing the pace of climate change, extending the reach and reliability of electrical power, and breaking the monopoly of hydrocarbon fuels in transportation are in the interest of all of mankind.  The more we cooperate, the faster the technology and its benefits will occur.  Battery technology draws us together rather than pushes us apart.

The forces in the world that pull us apart are inevitable.  The best antidote to them is to focus our efforts on the forces that pull us together, so that the forces of cohesion will simply outweigh those of dispute.  The most fitting tribute we can make to those who died in Paris is to redouble our efforts to benefit all humanity through our technology and its benefits.  Through those efforts and those benefits we will hold mankind together and make for a more peaceful world.

Gasoline Prices and the Battery Business

January 9th, 2015 by

Retail prices for regular grade gasoline in the United States reached the lowest levels in four years primarily as a result of falling crude prices in the second half of 2014. As of December 12, the weekly retail price for regular gasoline in each city for which U.S. Energy Information Administration collects data was below $3.00 per gallon for the first time since February 2010. Each city recorded its lowest 2014 gasoline price on the last Monday of the year.

Falling gasoline and crude oil prices have ignited predictable concern about the future of renewable energy technologies and of technologies, such as electrochemical energy storage, that facilitate the use of renewable technologies on the grid and in transportation.  Those concerns are misplaced.

There are three reasons why those in the advanced battery business should not be concerned about the falling price of hydrocarbon fuels.  First, the story really isn’t the falling price of petroleum but rather its substantial volatility over time.  Prices are falling today because of an imbalance of supply over demand.  The market will correct for that over time, as it does for all commodities, and prices will go back up.  One of the long term advantages of renewable energy technologies over hydrocarbon fuels is that renewable energy tends to be technology-based rather than commodity-based (i.e., a wind turbine vs. a lump of coal).  The price of technology tends to go down over time whereas the price of commodities tends to be volatile.

The second reason not to be concerned about the falling price of petroleum is that petroleum is not the same as energy.  Energy is produced by a number of different sources the prices of which are not necessarily linked.  For example, petroleum prices may have fallen over the past six months, but electricity prices in the United States rose during the same period.  Advanced batteries are not a source of energy and they do not really compete with petroleum or other hydrocarbons.  Advanced batteries are instead an energy vector, taking energy produced in one form and delivering it in another.  In a sense the independent volatility of different forms of energy underscores the importance of battery technology, as it potentially permits users to replace more expensive fuels with less expensive (or cleaner) fuels.

Third and finally, the falling price of petroleum should not concern the battery industry because the principal value of a battery is not its ability to substitute for petroleum or other fuels.  Rather the most valuable function of a battery is to deliver energy to a place or to an application where it would be difficult or impossible to deliver energy by any other means.  Consumer electronics, cell phones and certain distributed energy storage applications are examples of this function.  Even if the cost of a barrel of crude oil fell to $1.00, Apple will still look to lithium-ion batteries to power the iPhone7, not oil.

The falling price of petroleum should not be a drag on the business of advanced batteries.  Electrochemical energy storage is not a form of energy.  It is an energy enabler.  So let the price of hydrocarbon fuels do what it is going to do naturally–fluctuate.  In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

What Will the Battery Market Look Like in 2030?

January 2nd, 2015 by

New Years is a good time for individuals to look to ahead and to wonder a bit about what the future holds them.  The same is true for companies and for entire industries.

Earlier this past year at the Battery Show, Christophe Pillot of Avicenne Energy made a presentation about the state of the worldwide battery market in 2013. One of the slides in Mr. Pillot’s presentation was a bar graph breaking down the battery market into its largest individual components.  The largest component shown on Mr. Pillot’s slide, of course, was SLI batteries followed by portable batteries.  Other automotive batteries came next, followed by a large number of industrial and stationary battery applications in increasingly smaller sizes accounting for the balance of the market. Certain applications that generated a lot of attention this year, such as residential and grid ESS, were so small as to be barely perceptible on Mr. Pillot’s graph.

The interesting question to ponder in the New Year is what will Mr. Pillot’s graph look like 10 or 15 years from now?  How is the industry going to change?  And perhaps, more interestingly, what significant bars will appear on Mr. Pillot’s graph in 2030 that we do not even anticipate today?

As to the question of how the industry is going to change, the balance of Mr. Pillot himself made several interesting predictions.  Mr. Pillot suggests that by 2025, lead acid batteries, including SLI batteries, will still represent the largest share of the market. During the 2012-2020 period, however, Mr. Pillot expects the market for lead acid batteries to grow at a 4% CAGR.  Lithium-ion batteries and the applications they serve will grow, according to Mr. Pillot, at a 16% CAGR.  Mr. Pillot predicts that by 2020, the lithium-ion battery market, powered by the growth of the xEV and ESS applications, will be more than half the size of the market for lead acid batteries.

This is all very interesting.  But what about the bars that will appear on Mr. Pillot’s graph in 2030 that do not even appear on his graph for 2013?  Is there a “killer app” that will emerge in the next 15 years that could fundamentally impact the market for batteries?  After all, would xEV’s, ESS, and notebook and tablet computers have even appeared on Mr. Pillot’s graph in 2000?

It is not difficult to speculate on what some of the new “killer apps” for batteries might be by 2030.  Robotics, control systems, advanced weaponry, and wearable consumer goods are all possibilities.  If we have learned anything over the last 15 years, it is that the battery market is dynamic and the greatest limit on that market is not technology but imagination.

At the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference next February in Phoenix, we will take a serious look at one of the new battery technologies that may well drive some of these “killer apps” and perhaps emerge as a significant bar on Mr. Pillot’s slide for the battery market in 2030: thin film battery technology.

Thin film lithium ion batteries are similar to conventional lithium-ion batteries, but they are composed of thinner materials, some only nanometers or micrometers thick, which allow the finished battery to be just millimeters thick. These batteries consist of a substrate, electrolyte, current collector, anode, cathode, and a separator.  Their manufacture involves unique manufacturing and materials challenges, not all of which have yet been adequately addressed by industry.

Thin film lithium ion batteries can be used to make thinner portable electronics, because the thickness of the battery required to operate the device can be reduced greatly. They can be used in implantable medical devices, such as defibrillators and neural stimulators, “smart” cards, radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags and wireless sensors and wearable devices. They can also serve as a way to store energy collected from solar cells or other harvesting devices. Each of these applications is possible because of the flexibility in the size and shape of the batteries. The size of these devices need not be determined by the size of the space needed for the battery, as they largely are now. The opportunities in which to use this type of batteries are endless.

At the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference, a panel consisting of Anand Kamannavar and John Busch of Applied Materials, Simon Nieh of Front Edge Technology and Igor Bimbaud of ST Microelectronics, some of the early movers in the thin film battery space, will offer delegates an insight into thin film battery technology, its possible applications and the challenges that industry must still meet in order for thin film batteries to achieve their enormous potential.

This brings us back to the missing bars on Mr. Pillot’s future slide showing the composition of the battery industry in 2030.  My bet is that one of the most significant bars on that graph, which is entirely missing on the graph for 2013, will be the thin film batteries that power what some pundit already refer to as the “internet of everything”:  the interconnection of almost all devices and consumer products to each other.  If my guess is right, this will be a huge opportunity for the battery industry as a whole.  I hope you will join us in Phoenix next February and learn more about it.

Understanding the True Potential of Lithium-Ion Technology

December 26th, 2014 by

Will lithium-ion batteries ever be able to compete with gasoline in powering light vehicles?  Ten years ago, many optimists said yes.  But the last ten years of working with lithium-ion technology created many pessimists. They discovered that there is no Moore’s Law for lithium-ion batteries.  And they realized that there are scientific limits on the amount energy that a lithium-ion battery can store, which they were told does not even come close to that of gasoline.  Over the past several years, the pessimists have taken much of the air out of the electric vehicle bag.

But the optimists may be making a comeback.  Recent estimates suggest that the price of large format lithium-ion batteries may fall from about $1,800/kWh in 2009 to less than $200/kWh by 2020.  Just this week Tesla Motors announced that unspecified upgrades in the lithium-ion battery pack of the Tesla Roadster are going to increase its range from 244 miles to 400 miles, a nearly 2x improvement.  Moreover, at nearly every battery conference these days, some analyst displays a chart showing the “breakeven” point for lithium-ion batteries just a few years in the future.  Suddenly, the optimists of 10 years ago are not looking so overly optimistic.

So what is the real story about the potential of lithium-ion batteries and, by implication, the potential of electric vehicles?  NAATBatt International has decided to get to the bottom of this question.

At the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference in Phoenix on February 16-19, 2015, NAATBatt International has invited four of the greatest minds in the world in lithium-ion battery technology to talk about the true potential of lithium-ion technology and its ability to compete with gasoline.  No more analysts and charts predicting the future:  This will be the real deal.

The four experts are: Dr. Stan Whittingham, distinguished professor of chemistry and materials at SUNY Binghamton and one of the original inventors of lithium-ion battery technology; Dr. Khalil Amine, Manager of the Advanced Battery Technology programs at Argonne National Laboratory and five time recipient of the R&D 100 Award; Dr. Michael Thackeray, a Distinguished Fellow and senior scientist in the Electrochemical Energy Storage Department in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory and inventor of several lithium-ion compounds used in advanced automotive batteries today; and Dr. Karim Zaghib, who has published 131 papers, 85 patents, and served as editor or co-editor of 11 books, many on lithium-ion technology and serves as the Administrator, Energy Storage and Conversion at Hydro-Québec Research Institute (IREQ), which owns the rights to lithium iron phosphate technology worldwide.

Drs. Whittingham, Amine, Thackeray and Zaghib will discuss what is really possible to do with lithium-ion technology and, by implication, with electric vehicles.  While it might be an overstatement to say that this will be the definitive word from the scientific community as to the future of lithium-ion technology, it might not be that much of an overstatement.  We will leave considerable time after the panel discussion for Drs. Whittingham, Amine, Thackeray and Zaghib to take questions from the audience.  This will be a great opportunity for industry and for energy storage consumers, such as automakers, utilities, IPP’s and solar PV installers, to really get to the bottom of the lithium-ion value proposition.

The opportunity to speak with our four distinguished panelists at one place and one time about the true potential of lithium-ion batteries will be unprecedented.  Don’t miss it.  I hope you will be able to join us in Phoenix this coming February for this and other important parts of the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference program.

Battery Innovation Continues to Defy Its Critics

December 19th, 2014 by

For the past three decades, the once sleepy technology of electrochemical energy storage has been going through a revolution of historic proportions.  The improvements in battery energy density and performance produced by new lithium-ion, nickel metal hydride, advanced lead acid and other chemistries represents vast improvements in a technology which had largely stagnated since the Bagdad Battery of 0 A.D.  While the speed of improvement in battery technology has not yet matched the Moore’s Law of semiconductors, its pace has been sufficient to enable fundamental changes in the many technologies that batteries can power, from automobiles to the electricity grid to robotics and to any number of future technologies the nature of which we cannot yet fully imagine.

There is no sign that the revolution of the last three decades will slow anytime soon.  This past month, two major users of battery technology doubled down on investments in new battery technologies.  Volkswagen, the world’s most profitable automaker, purchased a 5% interest in QuantumScape.  QuantumScape is is an early stage battery startup that is commercializing technology from Stanford University.  It is reportedly developing a new method for stacking trace amounts of materials together, which can lead to high energy and power densities, and also higher cycle life than standard lithium ion batteries.

Also this month, Samsung, the electronics conglomerate, made a $17 million investment in Seeo, a Hayward, California-based company developing lithium polymer batteries.  Seeo’s batteries incorporate its proprietary DryLyte™ solid polymer electrolyte.  The new electrolyte reportedly enables Seeo’s batteries to operate with enhanced safety and at an exceptionally high energy density.

Skeptics of advanced battery technology have never been hard to find.  One of the most eloquent in recent years has been John Petersen, a regular contributor to Seeking Alpha.  John’s columns often criticize lithium battery technology and he reportedly maintains a long position in Axion Power International, a manufacturer of lead carbon batteries.  This past week, however, Axion apparently had its own stumble.  Axion announced “significant” salary deferrals by management in order to conserve cash while the company tries to execute a new strategy.  This stumble may not be significant; Axion’s technology is itself quite interesting.  But the stumble illustrates the broader danger of betting against some battery chemistries just because they seem in the short term to have some issues.

The bottom line is:  Don’t bet against innovation in battery technology.  Battery technology is evolving rapidly and it is far from clear which chemistries, designs and systems will ultimately win out in the competition to power the increasing number of technologies that will rely on stored electrical power.  The fact that some of the biggest companies in the world are still investing heavily in advanced battery technology is a testament to its future and its potential.

NAATBatt International is also betting heavily on new battery technologies.  Our mission is to help those technologies move more rapidly from the laboratory into commercial application.  Each year at our Annual Meeting, our members select from among dozens of applications the 20 most interesting new energy storage-related technologies to make “flash” presentations at the Meeting.

This year will be no different.  At the NAATBatt 2015 Annual Meeting & Conference in Phoenix on February 16-19, 2014, the following 20 companies have been invited to present: Ambri, Paper Battery Company, SiNode Systems, Worcester Polytechnic, 1Energy Systems, Envia Systems, XG Sciences, Eguana Technologies, NOHM Technologies (Li-Sulfur), Urban Electric Power, Yunasko, Bess Tech, SeaWave Battery, University of California-San Diego, Voltaiq, Inc., Nickel-Cobalt Battery LLC, NOHM Technologies (Electrolytes), NETenergy, Ecoult, and Stria Lithium.

I very much hope that you can join us for this program in Phoenix next February.  The battery revolution is continuing and will affect us all.  Our Annual Meeting will provide an opportunity to see some very interesting glimpses of the future.