Insights from the 2013 NAATBatt Annual Meeting

The 2013 NAATBatt Annual Meeting and Symposium concluded today in Austin, Texas.  The measure of success of any industry conference is whether you remember anything from the program.  If you remember one thing, it was a good program.  Generating two or more recollections qualifies as outstanding event.  Although I was distracted by administrative responsibilities from listening as closely as I had hoped to many of the presentations (a necessary disclaimer to the following list), here are some of the things I took away from the 2013 program:

  •  Everything you have heard about Dr. John Goodenough is true.  He has a sharp mind, a keen wit, and is a genuinely decent human being.  And, yes, his laugh is every bit as inspiring as his accomplishments.
  • Back-up power for critical municipal functions may be the most immediate commercial market for large format batteries.  Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the shortcomings of diesel standby generators (e.g., they need electricity to start) and several East Coast communities have already set aside funds to provide battery-generated back-up power at critical facilities, such as hospitals, schools and police stations.
  • Installation costs continue to be the Achilles Heel of community energy storage.  Utilities are sold on the superior benefits of distributed storage.  But near-term deployment of distributed storage assets by utilities are likely to focus on substations.
  • At the basic science level, the difference between batteries and capacitors is narrowing.  Future developments in batteries may increasingly focus on super capacitance technology.
  • The mantra that “what is most important in advanced battery development is cost, cost, cost” is becoming “what is most important in advanced battery development is safety, safety, safety”.
  • Don’t glue together the components of advanced automotive batteries.
  • Of the ten top scientific challenges in advanced batteries, all of them involve electrolytes in some form.
  • And, most importantly, anyone who is anybody in batteries at ARPA-E seems to have worked for Imre Gyuk.

Thanks to everyone who attended the meeting for your participation and support.  For those who could not attend, you missed a great meeting.  Please join us for the next one.

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