meeting report

Battery Power 2011

Gaylord Opryland Convention Center, Nashville, TN, USA

September 20-21, 2011

  • Dr. George Brilmyer
  • Batt-Tek Consulting, LLC - HighWater Innovations

This year’s Battery Power Conference & Expo was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. The event was well supported with more than 490 attendees. This was my first time attending Battery Power and I was surprised to learn that it is held in conjunction with five other Webcom conferences. Besides Battery Power, there were conferences covering Antenna Systems; Energy Efficiency; Remote Monitoring & Control; and Advances in Thermal Management. Just in case you are wondering, the Thermal Management symposia was not battery-related but dealt with building insulation, measurement techniques and building modeling. This combination of conferences led to a fairly large exhibition with more than 115 exhibitors where 36 were apparently related to the Battery Power side of things.

01

Joe Rosenblum (Keystone Electronics Corp.)

The Webcom staff did a great job to orchestrate the event. The conference was preceded by three workshops that were titled 1) Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air and Ground, 2) Lithium-ion Battery Design Tutorial and 3) Battery Power Management Challenges and Solutions: Safety, Charging, Fuel Gauging and Cell Balancing. The Battery Power conference itself involved 41 technical presentations that were arranged in two (and sometimes three) parallel sessions.

Mega Trends and Energy Storage Market

This year’s keynote speaker was Vishan Sapru from Frost & Sullivan and he presented an interesting monolog on “mega-trends” and how they will shape the future of our world.

02

Mark Chrusciel (Cincinnati Sub-Zero) and Michael Calbert (FLW Southeast Inc.)

First, he defined mega-trends as global, sustained macro-economic forces of development that will impact business, economy, society, cultures and personal lives. For example, the top mega-trends in the year 2000 were China as an emerging super-power; Internet retail and e-commerce; from industrial to an information society; and outsourcing as a business model. He then went on to discuss the proposed mega-trends of the future:

  • Urbanization and the creation of mega-cities, mega-regions and mega-corridors.
  • “Smart” is the new “green” thinking will lead to smart cities, smart mobility, smart materials, smart buildings, smart bandages, smart phones, smart clouds, smart energy.
  • Social trends will grow including networking, social media, meet-ups, geo socialization.
  • Technology will continue to advance with more satellites, more information, more advanced batteries, personal robots and the “virtual world”.
  • Innovating to zero will be the norm driving toward zero accidents, zero breaches of security, zero emissions.
  • Electric-mobility advances will lead to 20 million small two-wheel and 10 million small four-wheel electric vehicles sold annually around the globe by 2020.
  • Infrastructure development such as more high speed rails linking Europe to Asia. Major investments in Africa will change the continent.
  • New business models will continue to change how we do business.
  • From fat to fit: Healthcare costs will most likely double by 2050.

The later portion of his keynote address focused on the energy storage market. This market is clearly in the “growth” stage where competition is just beginning and products and services are not well-defined. Various “hot spots” for energy storage include but are not limited to Germany, U.K., China, U.S., South Korea and Japan.

The applications for energy storage are varied and include grid stabilization; deferral of new transmission and distribution; integration of renewable energy; spinning reserve; load following and frequency regulation; and voltage control.

The options for energy storage include compressed air storage; pumped hydro; batteries and electrochemical devices; fly wheels; super-capacitors; hydrogen energy storage; and super conducting magnetic energy storage.

From the speaker’s perspective the market for batteries/electrochemical devices is rapidly evolving with high growth opportunities. Below I show what the landscape looks like in terms of technical maturity and the expected size of the energy storage application:

  • Lead-Acid > Mature (1Kwh–10Mwh)
  • Nickel–MH (Cadmium) > Mature ( 1Kwh–1Mwh)
  • Li-ion > Medium growth (1Kwh–200Kwh)
  • Sodium Sulfur > High growth (100Kwh–5Mwh)
  • Flow batteries > Medium growth (100Kwh–10Mwh)
    • - Zinc Bromine
    • - Vanadium Redox

The speaker concluded by discussing emerging markets, mentioning specific countries and their specific energy requirements. One of his final slides discussed the components of success which included aspects like internal factors such as innovation, growth and profitability and external factors such as mega-trends, geopolitics and customer needs and preferences.

Zinc Air: A Low Cost, Long Life and Near Term Technology

  • By Philip Black
  • EOS Energy Storage

The presentation began with a discussion of the known feature that the zinc-air battery is one of the highest energy density batteries available. This is due to the fact that the air-electrode requires very little volume or weight in the cell. The EOS cell features a proprietary electrolyte with a near neutral pH that has enabled these cells to achieve more than 1,000 deep cycles. The composition of the electrolyte was not discussed but was attributed to the reduced tendency of the EOS zinc electrode to change shape or form life-limiting dendrites.

04

Conference Expo sign

EOS is claiming volumetric energy densities (Wh/L) that are 14 times greater than Li-ion. Safety is also one of their platforms and when comparing safety records to Li-ion, the speaker presented a photo of a garage or a home that was recently destroyed by a Li-ion battery fire.

In conclusion, the speaker stated the price of their battery is $1,000/Kw and $160/Kwh. The battery was said to be rechargeable over 10,000 cycles and 30 years, which seemed to be extrapolated from their current cycle life data.

Nickel-Zinc: Batteries for the Micro-Hybrid and HEV Market

  • By Salil Soman
  • Power Genix

This presentation highlighted the market opportunities for nickel-zinc in the hybrid electric vehicle industry based on its high power density, safety record and recycling. Power Genix is offering two cell formats for micro and mild full hybrid vehicles. These cell formats include cylindrical cells (AA, AAA, SC, D) and a prismatic cell platform. In their pack design for a Toyota Prius they claim 24% less cells, 34% lighter and 30% lower cost than Ni-MH. When compared to lead-acid for micro hybrids their design offers 65% less weight, 50% better fuel economy (?) and two times the service life (cost was not mentioned). Cycle performance was tested on various HEV-related cycle profiles and power densities were found to be comparable to Li-ion.

Low Aspect Ratio VRLA Battery for Power and Thermal Management in HEV Applications

  • By Dr. George Brilmyer and
  • Michael Gilchrist, HighWater Innovations and
  • Prof. John Harb, Brigham Young University

Dr. Brilmyer presented a new VRLA battery design that is in development specifically for the HEV market. This low aspect ratio, spiral-wound cell offers improved pulse power through the use of short, low-resistance grids and longer battery life through its’ air-cooled central core. HWI’s intent is to develop a battery that is not only low cost, but one that takes advantage of the global recycling infrastructure that already exists for lead-acid battery. According to Brilmyer no battery is “greener” than the lead-acid battery with a demonstrated 98% recycling rate (five-year running average).

The speaker also suggests that HEV battery pack prices must be significantly reduced (compared to where they are today) if HEV technology is ever going to attain 10% of the automotive market. He argues that HEV’s must have a real “payback” without government incentives and this just cannot be accomplished with either Ni-MH or Li-ion battery technology. He asked the audience, “Who is going to by your eight-year old Prius knowing that in a few years the $4,500 battery must be soon replaced!”

The compact HWI VRLA cell resembles a doughnut and is designed for stacking and optimized inter-cell connectivity. Battery packs of any voltage and form-factor can be envisioned with all cells treated equally in terms of thermal management. Initial prototype performance data was presented along with HWI’s path to improve and optimize their battery performance.

Battery Safety and Product Stewardship: A 20 Year Perspective

  • By George Kerchner, PRBA
03

Keith Toll, George Noel and Sam Holden (Richardson Molding Inc.)

Kerchner began by describing the formation of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association in 1991, which was initially created to deal with battery recycling. Though still referred to as the PRBA the official name of this organization has been changed to the Rechargeable Battery Association and it now deals with battery safety, transportation and recycling.

05

Steve Humphrey, Howard Granat and Rebecca Kritzman (Palladium Energy)

Most recently the safety issues surrounding the transportation of lithium (metal) and Li-ion batteries are being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Kerchner discussed various “incidents” that have resulted in several airplane fires and loss of life that are suspected to be related to (but not proven inconclusively) lithium batteries. In January 2010 the U.S. DOT proposed new rules that are designed to eliminate certain exceptions that currently apply to the shipping lithium and lithium-ion batteries by air. The lithium battery industry is opposed to these new rules, which may cost their member companies upwards on $1 billion during the first year if these changes are implemented.

The Benefits of Active Battery Management Verses Passive Monitoring

  • By Dr. David Boden and Randy Ogg,
  • Encell Technology Inc.

Dr. Boden described how batteries are the key to standby power systems but are also responsible for 80% of the system failures. Even the failure of the smallest battery can lead to a standby power system failure that may cost the phone or credit card company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Simply monitoring the battery is not enough and active battery management is required.

06

Brian Morin (Dream Weaver) and Darel Reed (Super Charge Ion Battery – Toshiba)

Over recent years there has been an increase is the use of VLRA batteries in uncontrolled temperature environments. The high temperature serves to accelerate many of the processes internal to the battery which includes venting, oxygen recombination, evaporative water-loss and grid corrosion.

Encell is proposing a new float charging concept that involves maintaining the batteries in a standby (off-charge) mode which isolates the batteries from the rectifier buss while making them available for discharge. Then the batteries are given a maintenance charge everyday by automatically placing them back onto the rectifier buss until they are fully charged. They call their system the Encell “Sentinel”. This system improves battery life and performance because the battery runs cooler and has reduced gassing, grid corrosion and plate wear. The Sentinel system also performs a dynamic load test each day to confirm battery health and performance.