Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan39
Talking With $1 Billion Battery Startup Alevo
November 10th, 2014 by Zachary Shahan
We recently covered the news of a battery startup called Alevo that has received $1 billion in private funding (yes, billion) and has just unstealthed after about a decade of development in germany, with an announcement that it was going straight to production and opening up a factory in North Carolina at the location of a former cigarette plant.
To complement what James already wrote up, a representative of Alevo also sent CleanTechnica the following summary of the startup, its history, its “tech breakthrough,” and its manufacturing plan.
What’s the news?
In a nutshell, a company called Alevo will announce plans to transform the world of energy storage at a new 4 million sq. ft. manufacturing plant in Concord, North Carolina, which it opened on Tuesday, October 28th. The event was attended by senior US administration, partners, investors etc. In addition to creating up to 6,000 jobs for the local area, the company has major national government contracts in place (one in the Far East, and the other an EU affiliate – can confirm both in due course) and plans to invest $1 billion into the manufacture of its battery technology, which has been proven to reduce the 30% waste that currently exists in electric grid delivery systems.
What’s the background?
Alevo classes itself an Energy Service Provider (the first of its kind) that uses a combination of innovative battery technology and smart data analytics to reduce a huge part of the 30% generated electricity that is currently wasted through inefficiencies in the grid delivery system.
Alevo has operated in stealth mode for the past 10 years while conducting extensive R&D and gathering investments. The reduction in waste delivered by Alevo has major environmental as well as economic benefits. Through the implementation of Alevo technology, utilities using coal-fired power stations can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the efficiencies gained — and so meet the new tough EPA Clean Power targets to that will enable the continuing use of coal. The battery technology will also enable greater use of renewables such as wind and solar power, whose energy can be captured when created and cost-effectively stored for later use. These efficiencies and reductions in waste will reduce generation costs for the utilities, benefitting them financially and also enabling the price of electricity to come down for consumers when savings are passed on.
What is the tech breakthrough?
Alevo has invented a ground-breaking battery technology that is the core component of its GridBank containers which are used as capacitance points on electrical grids.
The active ingredients of the Alevo cell are LFP (lithium ferrophosphate) and graphite. Unlike typical rechargeable lithium ion batteries such as those found in most consumer electronics devices the Alevo lithium cell contains an inorganic electrolyte and as such is completely non-flammable. Alevo’s technology is a result of changing the core chemistry and invention of a new inorganic electrolyte that at once eliminates both the risk of combustion and explosion, and then massively reduces the debilitating effects of charging cycles.
Alevo’s engineers have spent ten years working from labs in Germany – the largest inorganic battery research facilities in the world – to develop a truly next generation, rechargeable battery. Having quickly identified issues associated with organic materials in battery production leading to undocumented and irreversible side reactions, Alevo’s engineers concluded that it would be impossible to develop a thermodynamically stable system that contained organic materials. By focusing its research on the use of inorganic materials within the battery, Alevo achieved two key properties:
(a) Thermodynamic stability which enables the battery system to always return to the same state following each complete charging cycle.
(b) An electrochemical loop to regulate overcharge and deep discharge conditions and completely minimise battery degradation and reduce capacitance.
In testing, the Alevo Battery Technology has been found to outlast all standard industry performance measures, with battery cells recording no signs of increase in internal resistance after more than 30,000 cycles of over-charge followed by deep discharge. The key to the reduction of waste is combining this breakthrough in battery technology with advanced data analytics that can monitor grid usage in real time and so enable the batteries to be utilized for a range of services that drive efficiencies such as peak shaving, frequency regulation and renewables integration.
How does Alevo plan to do manufacture these batteries?
To create the infrastructure for the scale of the manufacturing required, Alevo has taken over the 4 million sq. ft. former Philip Morris cigarette factory in Concord, NC, and will be building multiple production lines there commencing in 2015. The factory will produce GridBanks™ — shipping containers loaded with Alevo batteries to provide 2MW of power / 1MWh of energy — that are will then be then attached to electricity grids at strategic locations and then provide a range of services to deliver efficiencies and eliminate waste.
This will create thousands of skilled jobs within three years as manufacturing lines are added, rising to many thousands more when additional manufacturing elements are located at the plant. These jobs are in a region of relatively high unemployment (6.8%) and in a county that is still suffering from the closure of the Philip Morris Plant in 2008 and the loss of the 3,000 jobs.
What else should you know?
Alevo has already gained major traction with both domestic customers and global states; major U.S. utilities are discussing partnerships with Alevo to progress the use of the technology. A national government in the Far East has already signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Alevo and another government affiliated to the EU is in the process of signing a similar agreement. Further contracts expected in the coming weeks.