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Editor's Blog

John Shepherd

Is it a ‘Fannie and Freddie’ moment for lithium technology in the US?

21/05/2019

Safety concerns are top of the battery agenda again, as we reveal regulators' fears that the currently unexplained explosion at a grid-scale BESS plant in Arizona could trigger a review of safety standards. This could in turn spill over into the US residential storage market.

The US now joins South Korea at the tipping point of lithium battery fires. As far as the US is concerned, could this be a Fannie and Freddie moment— akin to the subprime mortgage crisis?

Utility chiefs and regulators in Arizona have said: "Batteries are the future for the US." If lithium technology is so important to that future and cannot be allowed to fail, then the industry needs to get a grip— and quickly.

Batteries of every chemistry have the potential to enjoy a bright future, if the plethora of projects and deals we report on in this issue are anything to go by. 

As we predicted last week, Sweden's Northvolt has secured the funds it needs to build what could be Europe's first commercial battery cells plant. Germany's VW is now a contender too, with a mystery partner backing its gigafactory plan.

But Chinese and Korean firms continue to tighten their grip on the EV battery supply market in Europe— this time in deals with Volvo. And despite geopolitical tensions between Seoul and Beijing, Korea's SK Innovation is to further expand in China. Even the UK's Moixa has not been held back by the Brexit debate in attracting international investors for its battery technology. 

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BEST Battery Briefing— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

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Action needed to keep lead's best story alive

In these dog days of summer, when executives…

Kristallnacht for lead-acid?

I’m fondly remembering the days when BCI’s convention was there for my amusement, or so it seemed— the ‘early bird’ attendee prize draw for $100 handed out by the amazing Ann Noll.

Mars is a great market for pure EVs

All power to Elon Musk and SpaceX. What an incredible achievement to build the world’s most powerful rocket, make much of it reusable and have a sufficient sense of humour to put one of your other company’s product— a tesla electric car, atop of it all and send it toward Mars! Tesla is losing a fortune, so what the hell?

A flaming embarrassment

Looking for ways to make lithium-ion batteries safer? Well, don’t go to a battery safety conference, because you won’t learn much! At least I didn’t when I went to Cambridge EnerTech’s battery safety event last week in Arlington.

Don’t die… just get bought!

Now is a great time to sell your battery manufacturing business— to an oil company.
The age of oil isn’t over yet but those in fossil fuels know it’s coming, so now is the time to diversify.

Futile rear guard action?

The defending army is on the run. In a desperate attempt to help the troops escape, a rear guard is assembled, hoping beyond hope to delay the rapidly advancing attacking troops. They will run out of ammunition of course, or be overwhelmed.

Auto electric confusion?

It was a confusing week in Mainz. The only thing you could be sure about was that electrification of vehicles was not going away, but perhaps we’ve known that for some time. The thing we’re not sure about is;

No-fly lithium looks very possible

There are few inside the battery industry who haven’t seen a video of a lithium-ion cell going into thermal runaway, shooting out flames and gas like some kind of giant firework.
There are enough battery specialists who can appreciate and calculate the release of energy from such devices and have the imagination to visualise the domino effect that could take place when one defective cell goes wrong in pallet containing maybe several thousand cells.

Poor emissions lead to sales revisions

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, but the ill wind that’s been blowing through Volkswagen these past few weeks may deliver a positive benefit to the battery industry if its industry Guru, Menachem Anderman, is to be believed.

Storage doomsayers unite

This writer tries to avoid TV news these days; From the refugee torrent out of Africa into Europe, the tit-for-tat terrorist bombings in the Middle east, it’s just too awful to contemplate. Batteries, (when not arming bombs and missiles) are relatively innocuous things and when involved in the firming of renewables, they do good. But last week, at the Electricity Storage Association’s technical meeting, the industry was told it is not doing anywhere near enough.

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