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News Article | May 11, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Dyson could become the next Tesla motors as it develops a new electric car, according to a leading industry expert. Filed patents show the Dyson vehicle may use solid-state batteries, which would see the car’s range stretch to hundreds of miles and also be safer than current batteries. In March, a government document revealed funding to help Dyson develop “a new battery electric vehicle”. The company declined to comment but in 2015 it said it planned to invest £1bn in battery technology and in October it bought solid-state battery company, Sakti3, for $90m, which founder Sir James Dyson said had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology”. One of Sakti3’s patents states: “The present invention provides a method and system for an all solid-state rechargeable battery and a vehicle propulsion system powered by the battery.” “Dyson have some excellent product engineering and some excellent marketing skills, so could they follow the same path as Tesla? Well, yes, probably they could,” said Prof David Greenwood, who leads the energy storage work at Warwick University’s manufacturing group, which the UK’s £1bn Advanced Propulsion Centre chose to lead its battery programme. US-based Tesla’s expensive, long-range electric cars have achieved cult status among enthusiasts and its new, cheaper Model 3 has attracted more than 325,000 pre-orders, worth $14bn if delivered. Greenwood said the three key factors for electric car batteries are low cost, safety and a high “energy density” which gives a long range. But currently they are expensive, he said, and cannot drive as far as petrol or diesel vehicles on a single charge. Solid-state batteries could provide a tenfold increase in energy density - how much power they pack in - and are also safer. This is because existing batteries use flammable organic solvents as an electrolyte (through which the current flows), whereas a solid electrolyte does not pose a fire risk and does not need expensive safety features. The solid electrolyte also means the battery electrodes can be made of a much more energy dense material, such as metallic lithium. Solid-state batteries for vehicles are being developed by many companies, including Toyota, Volkswagen and Bosch, a major supplier to the automotive industry. Autolib, a car-sharing service in Paris, uses solid-state batteries in its 3,000 small vehicles, while electronics giant Samsung and other companies, like SolidEnergy Systems, are also working on the technology. However, a recent article in the journal Nature suggested that while solid-state batteries for a mass-market electric vehicles are coming, they are at least a decade away. But when such power-packed batteries arrive, Prof Donald Sadoway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Nature, they could prove decisive in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles: “If we had batteries with [energy densities of] 350 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) we’d have electric vehicles with 350 miles of range, and that’s the end of petroleum.” Dyson’s battery company, Sakti3, has not disclosed the energy density it has achieved but industry experts estimate it has already passed 300Wh/kg. Sakti3’s patent states: “No solid state batteries with ceramic electrolytes have come close to achieving [our] level of energy density.” Greenwood said it usually takes a new battery chemistry that has been proven in the laboratory another five years to scale up to cost-effective, high-volume production, while developing a new electric vehicle could also take five years. Electronic devices like smartphones are replaced frequently, but cars are not and he said: “You need very high reliability and durability before you would put it into a car.” Tesla’s success to date, said Greenwood, has come from creating a car that overcame people’s worries over range and performance, even if that meant a high price: “Tesla’s genius was very carefully identifying a market segment that would be prepared to pay for it.” Dyson also targets the expensive end of the market with its innovative vacuum cleaners, washing machines and hand dryers. But could Dyson move successfully into car manufacturing? “It worked for Tesla,” said Greenwood. “Could they then scale it to be in the mass market? Who knows. Tesla have yet to prove they can do that.” “The challenges of entering the automotive industry are absolutely not to be underestimated,” he said. “But at least with an electric vehicle the barriers to entry are a bit lower than for an internal combustion engine vehicle [because] the latter have some horrendously complex legislation to meet around emissions, for instance, which are simply not a problem for an electric vehicle as they do not have noxious emissions.” Note: The original article named the Paris car-sharing service Autolib as Blueindy, which is the company’s operation in Indianapolis.


News Article | August 29, 2016
Site: www.technologyreview.com

Earlier this year, Ellen Williams, the director of ARPA-E, the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced research program for alternative energy, made headlines when she told the Guardian newspaper that "We have reached some holy grails in batteries.” Despite very promising results from the 75-odd energy-storage research projects that ARPA-E funds, however, the grail of compact, low-cost energy storage remains elusive. A number of startups are closer to producing devices that are economical, safe, compact, and energy-dense enough to store energy at a cost of less than $100 a kilowatt-hour. Energy storage at that price would have a galvanic effect, overcoming the problem of powering a 24/7 grid with renewable energy that’s available only when the wind blows or the sun shines, and making electric vehicles lighter and less expensive. But those batteries are not being commercialized at anywhere near the pace needed to hasten the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk, hardly one to underplay the promise of new technology, has been forced to admit that, for now, the electric-car maker is engaged in a gradual slog of enhancements to its existing lithium-ion batteries, not a big leap forward. In fact, many researchers believe energy storage will have to take an entirely new chemistry and new physical form, beyond the lithium-ion batteries that over the last decade have shoved aside competing technologies in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-scale storage systems. In May the DOE held a symposium entitled “Beyond Lithium-Ion.” The fact that it was the ninth annual edition of the event underscored the technological challenges of making that step. Qichao Hu, the founder of SolidEnergy Systems, has developed a lithium-metal battery (which has a metallic anode, rather than the graphite material used for the anode in traditional lithium-ion batteries) that offers dramatically improved energy density over today’s devices (see “Better Lithium Batteries to Get a Test Flight”). The decade-long process of developing the new system highlighted one of the main hurdles in battery advancement: “In terms of moving from an idea to a product,” says Hu, “it’s hard for batteries, because when you improve one aspect, you compromise other aspects.” Added to this is the fact that energy storage research has a multiplicity problem: there are so many technologies, from foam batteries to flow batteries to exotic chemistries, that no one clear winner is attracting most of the funding and research activity. According to a recent analysis of more than $4 billion in investments in energy storage by Lux Research, startups developing “next-generation” batteries—i.e., beyond lithium-ion—averaged just $40 million in funding over eight years. Tesla’s investment in its Gigafactory, which will produce lithium-ion batteries, will total around $5 billion. That huge investment gap is hard to overcome. “It will cost you $500 million to set up a small manufacturing line and do all the minutiae of research you need to do to make the product,” says Gerd Ceder, a professor of materials science at the University of California, Berkeley, who heads a research group investigating novel battery chemistries. Automakers, he points out, may test new battery systems for years before making a purchase decision. It’s hard to invest $500 million in manufacturing when your company has $5 million in funding a year. Even if new battery makers manage to bring novel technologies to market, they face a dangerous period of ramping up production and finding buyers. Both Leyden Energy and A123 Systems failed after developing promising new systems, as their cash needs climbed and demand failed to meet expectations. Two other startups, Seeo and Sakti3, were acquired before they reached mass production and significant revenues, for prices below what their early-stage investors probably expected. Meanwhile, the Big Three battery producers, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic, are less interested in new chemistries and radical departures in battery technology than they are in gradual improvements to their existing products. And innovative battery startups face one major problem they don’t like to mention: lithium-ion batteries, first developed in the late 1970s, keep getting better.


News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

Rumors were going around last year that the well-known UK-based company Dyson was in the process of developing an electric car. According to documents recently released by the UK government, it appears that those rumors were true. The company is apparently developing its first consumer electric vehicle with the aid of public (government) money. The news originated with the newly published National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which stated: “The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174 million of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering.” Believable rumors first began to swirl last October, following the company’s acquisition of the solid-state battery company Sakti3 for $90 million. The acquisition was made because, according to Sir James Dyson himself, the company had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology.” A mass-market electric vehicle (EV) featuring a solid-state battery would certainly be an interesting development, would it not? It’s a bit strange to see that the only established companies seemingly taking EV technologies very seriously — Apple, Google, and now Dyson — are so far outside of the auto-industry inner circle. Maybe they smell blood? The company’s CEO, Max Conze, made a reference along those lines last year when first questioned about the EV rumors: “We are ruling nothing out. Like our friends in Cupertino we are also unhealthily obsessive when it comes to taking apart our products to make them better.” The Guardian provides more: Dyson recently reported profits up 20% in 2015, driven by strong growth in China, and said it plans to invest £1 billion in battery technology over the next five years. …Asked if the company was, as the government suggested, developing an electric car, a Dyson spokesman said: “We never comment on products that are in development.” …Dyson, 68, has a long history of inventions. He designed the Rotork Sea Truck, a fast cargo boat in 1970, which has been used by the military and is still sold today. In 1974, he designed the Ballbarrow, a barrow with a ball replacing the wheel, having been frustrated by wheelbarrows getting stuck in mud on a building site. His breakthrough was the bagless vaucum cleaner, which was inspired by air cyclones used in sawmills to suck up sawdust. Since then, he has created bladeless fans and the Airblade hand dryer. Many of Dyson’s devices use small, light and efficient electric motors developed over 10 years by his company, which may find application in developing a new electric car. Dyson is a now worth several billion pounds and in 2014 pledged his company would spend £1.5 billion on research and development to create future products, aiming to launch 100 new electrical products by 2018. It’ll be interesting to see what Dyson ends up developing and putting on the market. If the price-point ends up low enough, and the performance and range high enough, the offering could probably be pretty compelling.   Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  


News Article | March 23, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Dyson is developing an electric car at its headquarters in Wiltshire with help from public money, according to government documents. The company, which makes a range of products that utilise the sort of highly efficient motors needed for an electric car such as vacuum cleaners, hand dryers and bladeless fans, last year refused to rule out rumours it was building one. But on Wednesday, the government appeared to have accidentally disclosed Dyson is working on one, along with other big companies outside of the automotive industry, such as Apple. “The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174m of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering,” said the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, published on Wednesday. When Dyson CEO, Max Conze, was asked last year if the company was working on an electric car, he said: “We are ruling nothing out. Like our friends in Cupertino [Apple] we are also unhealthily obsessive when it comes to taking apart our products to make them better.” Dyson recently reported profits up 20% in 2015, driven by strong growth in China, and said it plans to invest £1bn in battery technology over the next five years. Last October, Dyson bought solid-state battery company, Sakti3, for $90m, which founder Sir James Dyson said had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology.” Asked if the company was, as the government suggested, developing an electric car, a Dyson spokesman said: “We never comment on products that are in development.” The Guardian has also contacted the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles, which encourages the roll-out of electric vehicles as a way to cut air pollution and lower carbon emissions, and is awaiting details on the exact level of funding. Dyson, 68, has a long history of inventions. He designed the Rotork Sea Truck, a fast cargo boat in 1970, which has been used by the military and is still sold today. In 1974, he designed the Ballbarrow, a barrow with a ball replacing the wheel, having been frustrated by wheelbarrows getting stuck in mud on a building site. His breakthrough was the bagless vaucum cleaner, which was inspired by air cyclones used in sawmills to suck up sawdust. Since then, he has created bladeless fans and the Airblade hand dryer. Many of Dyson’s devices use small, light and efficient electric motors developed over 10 years by his company, which may find application in developing a new electric car. Dyson is a now worth several billion pounds and in 2014 pledged his company would spend £1.5bn on research and development to create future products, aiming to launch 100 new electrical products by 2018.


News Article | March 25, 2016
Site: cen.acs.org

Dyson, the British manufacturer of small household appliances, is betting that the right batteries will allow the world’s consumers to cut the cord. Building on its purchase last year of Sakti3, a U.S.-based start-up, Dyson says it will spend $1.4 billion on battery technology development over the next five years. As anyone who has seen a Dyson commercial knows, the company’s vacuum cleaners have powerful motors and “never lose suction.” That power comes at a price: Cordless versions run out of juice in minutes. Still, the company reports that sales of battery-powered vacuums grew 66% last year. Batteries are already a focus at Dyson’s expanding R&D center in Malmesbury, England, which will eventually house 3,000 engineers. The company’s battery investments are stoking speculation that it may compete with the likes of Tesla in electric vehicles. With its purchase of Sakti3, Dyson gained technology for solid-state lithium-ion batteries, which use a thin, solid layer of electrolyte in place of liquid electrolyte to store more energy in a smaller space. The details of Sakti3’s technology have never been disclosed, and solid-state batteries are years away from commercialization, industry watchers note. To design energy-dense batteries that last, Dyson engineers will have to overcome problems with electrolyte films. The thin layers can create short circuits that lead to battery failure, according to Geoffrey May, who directs Focus Battery Consulting. “I am sure the $1.4 billion will be needed to get a new lithium battery technology from prototype to volume production, especially if there are unique manufacturing processes,” May says. Dyson’s project, he adds, “is one to watch with interest.”


News Article | March 16, 2015
Site: www.xconomy.com

Two years ago, Sakti3 co-founder Ann Marie Sastry told the crowd at Xconomy’s Mobile Madness Motor City conference that consumer electronics is the next frontier for solid-state lithium batteries like the the kind her company was producing. That prediction seems to have played out in yesterday’s news that Dyson—the global manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, fans, hand dryers, and other products—became the latest investor in the Ann Arbor, MI-based startup, to the tune of $15 million out of a $20 million round. Also reportedly participating in the round were past investors General Motors, Beringea, Khosla Ventures, and Itochu Technology Ventures. Dyson’s head of R&D, Mark Taylor, told Wired that solid-state batteries are essential to his company’s future growth. Taylor praised Sakti3’s technology as “world-beating”—a characterization similar to that of MIT Technology Review, which named Sakti3’s batteries one of 2011’s top technologies—and pointed out that its batteries already have nearly twice the energy density of today’s best lithium-ion batteries. Though Taylor admitted Dyson is still a few years away from having products that will utilize solid-state lithium batteries, the consumer electronics industry is already hungry for a more powerful battery that requires less frequent recharging. Dyson is betting that day comes sooner than later and is putting its money on Sakti3. At Mobile Madness Motor City in 2013, Sastry estimated that by 2020, consumers will own more than 1 billion devices, all of them needing a better way to store energy. (In aggregate, she said, it represented a decabillion-dollar market.) We said then, “It’s not just the first-world problem of wanting your iPhone to hold its charge during a night out on the town. In emerging economies like India, Brazil, and China, Sastry said the ability to walk away from the power supply—to sustain power drawn off the grid for increasingly longer amounts of time—enables more people to enter the middle class.” But, as with any emerging technology, now we wait and watch Sakti3’s journey to market—which apparently just got a little easier, thanks to Dyson and other backers. Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA


News Article | December 22, 2016
Site: marketersmedia.com

— The global next-generation battery market analyst says the latest trend gaining momentum in the market is reducing GHG emissions and promoting cleaner energy in order to slow climate change. A great effort has been put in to reduce the energy consumption across the world. This has been done by making facilities more efficient through the energy management systems. In addition, the effort has also been directed to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels as it is one of the major contributors to emissions. Complete report on next-generation battery market spread across 74 pages, analyzing 5 major companies and providing 58 data exhibits are now available at http://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/788312-global-next-generation-battery-market-2016-2020.html According to the next-generation battery market report, one of the major drivers for this market is growing investments in renewable energy production. Energy insecurities have led governments worldwide to focus on the alternate sources of power for the future. The rising concerns of carbon emission from power plants have made the utilities to switch to gas powered plants and renewable source for electricity generation. A significant amount has been invested in the renewable sources for cleaner power generation, which has increased the year-over-year renewable installed capacity. The following companies are the key players in the global next-generation battery market: Sion Power, Seeo, OXIS Energy, Fluidic Energy, and GS Yuasa. Other prominent vendors in the market are: 24M, Ambri, Hitachi, TESLA, Samsung, Panasonic, Sakti3, Primus Power, EnerSys, AES Energy Storage, Alevo, BYD, and Samsung SDI. Order a copy of Global Next-generation Battery Market 2016-2020 report @ http://www.reportsnreports.com/purchase.aspx?name=788312 The transportation segment occupied the largest market share and dominated the global next-generation battery market. Countries globally are focusing on EVs as an energy-efficient alternative to fossil fuel-based vehicles. The global EV market is growing substantially worldwide due to the extended government support across countries. The global next-generation battery market by grid storage application is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 72% during the forecast period. The demand for grid energy storage has increased over the years owing to the high adoption of smart grid and growth in renewable energy production, especially in the wind and solar energy. The consumer electronics market has grown at a fast pace with rapid advances in technology. Some of the major markets for the consumer electronics include notebook PCs, laptops, cell phones, tablets, and digital cameras. Global Next-Generation Battery Market 2016-2020, has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. This report covers the present scenario and the growth prospects of the global next-generation battery market for 2016-2020. To calculate the market size, the report considers the revenues that are generated by the next-generation battery vendors in the market. Further, the next-generation battery market report states that one of the major factors hindering the growth of this market is growing competition from alternative technologies. The battery market is a highly competitive one with many manufacturers, both local and international, facing stiff competition from both, the other battery manufacturers and also from alternative technologies such as the fuel cells for energy storage and for transportation. There are the other energy storage applications such as hydro storage and CAES. Besides, there is stiff competition from internal combustion engines and natural gas vehicles. About Us: ReportsnReports.com is your single source for all market research needs. Our database includes 500,000+ market research reports from over 100+ leading global publishers & in-depth market research studies of over 5000 micro markets. With comprehensive information about the publishers and the industries for which they publish market research reports, we help you in your purchase decision by mapping your information needs with our huge collection of reports. For more information, please visit http://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/788312-global-next-generation-battery-market-2016-2020.html


News Article | March 28, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

Dyson, the home appliances company, is reportedly entering into the electric car arena. A potentially accidental leak of government documents last week indicated the United Kingdom-based firm was working on an energy-efficient vehicle at its headquarters in Wiltshire, according to The Guardian. Financial support will be given by the country’s government to Dyson as part of a program called the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which is a five year initiative aimed at improving different aspects of Britain’s infrastructure through various transportation and communication projects. Details surrounding the vehicle are sparse, but Fortune noted that Dyson’s acquisition of battery startup Sakti3 last year for $90 million could play a crucial role in this venture. According to the documents published by the U.K. government, Dyson will receive a £16m investment to help support research and development into battery technology at the corporate headquarters. Sakti3 is an eight-year old startup specializing in “solid-state” lithium-ion batteries. A key component of this module is that they use solid material for energy storage making them safer and less flammable compared to their counterparts who use a liquid compound. The complex in Wiltshire could be used to manufacture these batteries at a large clip, but Fortune added that Sakti3’s products will probably be used Dyson’s series of cordless vacuums first. Establish your company as a technology leader! For more than 50 years, the R&D 100 Awards have showcased new products of technological significance. You can join this exclusive community!


News Article | November 4, 2016
Site: www.newsmaker.com.au

This report studies Next-Generation Advanced Batteries in Global market, especially in North America, Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia and India, focuses on top manufacturers in global market, with production, price, revenue and market share for each manufacturer, covering  Ambri  Amprius  Aquion Energy  Boulder Ionics  EnerVault  PolyPlus  Sakti3 Market Segment by Regions, this report splits Global into several key Regions, with production, consumption, revenue, market share and growth rate of Next-Generation Advanced Batteries in these regions, from 2011 to 2021 (forecast), like  North America  Europe  China  Japan  Southeast Asia  India Split by product type, with production, revenue, price, market share and growth rate of each type, can be divided into  Type I  Type II  Type III Split by application, this report focuses on consumption, market share and growth rate of Next-Generation Advanced Batteries in each application, can be divided into  Application 1  Application 2  Application 3 Global Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Market Research Report 2016  1 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Market Overview  1.1 Product Overview and Scope of Next-Generation Advanced Batteries  1.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Segment by Type  1.2.1 Global Production Market Share of Next-Generation Advanced Batteries by Type in 2015  1.2.2 Type I  1.2.3 Type II  1.2.4 Type III  1.3 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Segment by Application  1.3.1 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Consumption Market Share by Application in 2015  1.3.2 Application 1  1.3.3 Application 2  1.3.4 Application 3  1.4 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Market by Region  1.4.1 North America Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.4.2 Europe Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.4.3 China Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.4.4 Japan Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.4.5 Southeast Asia Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.4.6 India Status and Prospect (2011-2021)  1.5 Global Market Size (Value) of Next-Generation Advanced Batteries (2011-2021) 7 Global Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Manufacturers Profiles/Analysis  7.1 Ambri  7.1.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.1.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.1.2.1 Type I  7.1.2.2 Type II  7.1.3 Ambri Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016) 7.1.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.2 Amprius  7.2.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.2.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.2.2.1 Type I  7.2.2.2 Type II  7.2.3 Amprius Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.2.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.3 Aquion Energy  7.3.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.3.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.3.2.1 Type I  7.3.2.2 Type II  7.3.3 Aquion Energy Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.3.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.4 Boulder Ionics  7.4.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.4.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.4.2.1 Type I  7.4.2.2 Type II  7.4.3 Boulder Ionics Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.4.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.5 EnerVault  7.5.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.5.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.5.2.1 Type I  7.5.2.2 Type II  7.5.3 EnerVault Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.5.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.6 PolyPlus  7.6.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.6.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.6.2.1 Type I  7.6.2.2 Type II  7.6.3 PolyPlus Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.6.4 Main Business/Business Overview  7.7 Sakti3  7.7.1 Company Basic Information, Manufacturing Base and Its Competitors  7.7.2 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Product Type, Application and Specification  7.7.2.1 Type I  7.7.2.2 Type II  7.7.3 Sakti3 Next-Generation Advanced Batteries Production, Revenue, Price and Gross Margin (2015 and 2016)  7.7.4 Main Business/Business Overview


News Article | October 25, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

Last month, Silicon Valley startup Sunculture Solar unveiled its solar-plus-storage solution, to Jobsian fanfare. SolPad™ was all over the tech media on the morning of September 22 (here, there, and seemingly everywhere). And while the iMac’s solar cousin hasn’t yet dented the universe, it seems that its effects were felt in Fremont. How else to explain Elon Musk tweeting at 10 am that same morning about the eventual unveiling of Tesla/Solarcity’s solar roof product? (He is known to be somewhat competitive, after all…) Or was that just one of the universe’s funny coincidences? Owing to the comically belated nature of this article, most CleanTechnica readers have probably heard of the SolPad. (And wondered why CleanTechnica hadn’t covered it yet!) A combination solar panel + storage battery + microgrid generator that can be plugged directly into an electric outlet, it looks to be the world’s first all-in-one, off-the-shelf plug-and-play solar solution. SolPads can also be daisy-chained together to create bigger systems offering more power and storage, as required. The company argues — compellingly — that by bringing balance-of-plant components into one product, SolPad can halve the overall cost of residential solar and storage by crushing “soft costs” such as design and labor. Despite photovoltaics, inverters, and batteries being mass-produced, residential solar + storage solutions remain expensive because they still involve a lot of “artisan” labor: engineers and installers design a system customized for each house and household’s needs, slap photovoltaics on the roof, sit the battery in the basement, and set up the necessary wiring. None of these tasks are easy to scale. The SolPad (and the clones it will inevitably inspire) stands to circumvent most of that by putting panel, inverter, and battery together in one manufactured enclosure, where mass production efficiencies can work their magic. Eliminating the need for bespoke engineering and hired labour means the SolPad should be a cheaper overall solution, even if it doesn’t provide an optimal solar-to-storage ratio for most customers — even at modest production volumes. A US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy study from earlier this year had soft costs being 64% (two-thirds!) of the overall cost of a residential solar installation, which GTM Research estimated at $3.50 per watt. GTM also pegged the cost of fixed-tilt utility-scale solar, where the project size shrinks soft costs per watt to minimal levels at $1.33 per watt, or 62% (two-thirds!) lower. Using the numbers for residential solar systems as a guide, an all-in-one SolPad approach would minimize installation labour (11%) and installer/developer profit (9%). Assuming savings in supply chain costs (12%) and volume discounts from hardware suppliers, and the company’s claim to be able to halve the cost of residential solar + storage looks viable. Best of all, if they succeed in collapsing the price of solar + storage products, the competition will follow, and we’ll all stand to benefit. One of the few advantages of not being in a position to do “hot takes” of news stories is that one has more time to do research. Patent applications are a great place to start. Since it can take years for patents to be granted for inventions, looking at a company’s patent portfolio doesn’t tell you where the company is now; it tells you where the company was, years ago. (It’s the tech equivalent of how, when we look at distant galaxies at night, we’re not seeing them as they are now, but are rather looking at the light they emitted millions of years ago.) Patent applications are generally more fruitful, since the US Patent and Trademark Office theoretically publishes patent applications 18 months after they’re first filed. In practice, they tend to be even quicker — a recent study showed half of US patent applications were published within 12 months of the applicant’s most recent revision. Best of all, searching for patents and patents applications is as easy as using Google, which tells us that SunCulture Solar has two patents and — as of September 2015 — another in the pipeline. (There’s a worldwide patent application for one of the US patents as well.) These corroborate the company vision for SolPad being a unibody product with behind-the-solar-panel storage (and ancillary systems), and a “flexgrid” inverter to keep everything running smoothly, even during power outages, which can incapacitate other solar systems. Some name changes might be in order though, as Civic Solar appears to have trademarked the term FLEXgrid. (Sunculture Solar also has to distinguish itself from similarly named and similarly promising startup SunCulture, which is using solar panels to pump water for irrigation for farmers in Kenya.) We’ll chalk those coincidences up to the “great minds think alike” phenomenon! SolPad — or a similar all-in-one solar/storage product architecture — looks poised to make big inroads to the residential solar market, though it might not dent the universe of the utility-scale solar market. As noted above, soft costs are far less important at the utility scale, and those purchasers are more likely to want exactly the solar/storage mix that would maximize their financial returns. It will be interesting to learn what battery technology SolPad deploys — the company explained that it would use a “forthcoming solid-state battery technology” that is “inherently safer than standard lithium-ion batteries.” One presumes that products from Sakti3/Dyson and Johnson Battery Technologies have been in the running. While it’s pure speculation and almost certainly wrong, Sunculture’s claim that SolPad’s batteries will withstand punctures and 200°C doesn’t sound too different from JBT’s claims that its first-generation technology could handle 150°C. Of course, other companies are probably developing similarly robust battery technology, too. A product introduction in the second half of 2017 would give the forthcoming solid-state battery vendor an opportunity to scale production. A late-2017 timeframe would also give Sunculture Solar the opportunity to do deploy a test fleet over the winter. When asked if they had any highlights they wanted to share from prototype campaigns in the field, the company said these would be revealed in future announcements. It’s a fair strategy — startups generally seek to maximize publicity — but also suggests the first prototypes haven’t been deployed. Otherwise, the press materials would have probably included phrasing to the effect that X number of units were already harvesting Y hours of sunlight (or Z kWh of electricity) per week, month, or quarter. Perhaps readers who have access to up-to-date Google mapping imagery (or who live in Mountain View, California) can report whether an array of SolPads already graces the roof of Sunculture’s Mountain View headquarters! Irrespective of whether Sunculture Solar successfully leverages first-mover advantages to transform the residential solar space (à la iPhone), or whether “fast followers” ultimately outpace them (à la MacIntosh), one is left with the sense that the SolPad is a glimpse of the future — and one that we have an excellent chance of seeing play out! Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store!   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

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