Batteries

Published on December 28th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales

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Will Seeo’s 400 Wh/kg Battery Fulfil Expectations?

December 28th, 2014 by  

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Forbes, Bloomberg, TechCrunch, Giacom, Green Car Congress, Xconomy, Reuters Pe Hub, The Green Optimistic, VentureBeat, and the MIT Technology Review have all written about the California start-up company Seeo. Korean electronics giant Samsung led in the recent $17 million round of series E investments. The other two investors, Khosla Ventures and Beijing-based GSR Ventures, increased existing holdings. According to President & CEO Hal Zarem, Seeo has a longer lasting battery that can double the existing range of most EVs and has grid applications. Will Seeo’s 400 Wh/kg battery fulfil expectations?

Seeo Coater

Zarem points to Seeo’s most recent investor” “Samsung is a major supplier and a major user of batteries, so they know a lot about this space. We see their investment as a real vote of confidence. There are a lot of small companies doing battery development and there has been a lot of noise in this space. As a sophisticated investor, Samsung knows how to cut through that and chose to invest in Seeo, which obviously helps us financially and opens up other possibilities for the future.”

Though Samsung has previously denied its plans to enter the EV space, it has filed for technology that can be used in electronic vehiclesOne of its subsidiaries has been researching lithium-ion battery cell technology with BMW since 2009. (Note that Samsung SDI is a known supplier of EV batteries.)

What does Samsung see in Seeo?

“We have a solid state battery and are developing a product that is targeted at 400 Wh/kg, which is an energy density that is two to three times that of existing products out there,” said Zarem. “When you double the energy density, you almost cut the cost of manufacturing in half.”

He added: “This type of energy density has the promise to enable mainstream adoption of EVs by hitting range and cost targets that consumers need to see.”

CEO Hal Zarem

Seeo CEO Hal Zarem

Given that EVs are already superior to gas cars in many ways — a recent comparison was iPhones to the old dial ups –– this could trigger a massive shift in the popular choice of transportation.

Seeo is not the only company working on a battery that can double the effective range of inexpensive EVs. Tesla and Panasonic are expected to start manufacturing by 2017 that will reportedly bring costs down a lot. There are startups like Sakti3, and there are undoubtedly other promising-looking ones out there.

Zarem said his company’s latest round of funding is to accelerate the development of Seeo’s 400 Wh/kg battery.

Seeo expects to start manufacturing a 300 Wh/kg battery in mid to late 2015.

“Our pilot production is in California. We will scale up in locations that are appropriate for customer opportunity and the cost of manufacturing,” said Zarem.

Given that prices keep coming down and this product is not yet ready for the market, he said it is too early to talk about the retail cost.

“Our battery technology is made on standard lithium-ion processing equipment, using mostly standard materials. We have developed our own proprietary polymer electrolyte. That’s the fundamental technology the company was founded on and we have an exclusive license to that from Lawrence Berkeley labs,” said Zarem. “We have developed a large family of patents around that technology.”

“It’s an all solid state battery. Solid interfaces lead to a more reliable battery. We have groups of cells that have undergone cycle testing to over 2,000 cycles, which is excellent, and we are continuing to improve on that.”

Seeo’s product is still being tested by automotive manufacturers.

“We are working on a prototype vehicle with a customer now,” said Zarem.

They have also performed a 10 kWh demonstration in a stationary storage application with solar panels.

“One of the unique features of the batteries is that they are reliable at elevated temperatures,” said Zarem.

“We see applications in outdoor environment, in warm climates where they use photovoltaics. The best application for our product, with regard to the grid, is along with distributed generation.”

Where large amounts of renewable energy have been deployed in California, Germany, and other parts of the world, the grid is suddenly expected to handle large influxes of energy. It is more efficient to store surpluses in the area than send them back to a central location. Seeo’s product stores energy from two to four hours.

“If you are distributing generation with photovoltaics, distribute your storage alongside that,” said Zarem. “The battery packs that are used for vehicles are on the order of tens of kilowatt hours and match very well with the size of photovoltaic panels that are in residential and commercial application.”

Seeo solid state batteries

Is it cost competitive with fossil fuel plants?

“That’s the holy grail and we want to get there. We think the potential is there, but no one is there now,” said Zarem.

There were a half a dozen people involved when Seeo’s proprietary, nanostructured non-flammable polymer electrolyte DryLyte™ was developed at Lawrence Berkeley labs.

They formed a company at Hayward, California during 2007. Seeo raised $15 million for its first pilot line in 2011.

“We developed larger format cells, that can be deployed in customer applications as well as modules which contain tens of cells or packs with hundreds of cells which is what you really need in a storage application or an automotive application,” said Zarem. “We’ve been able to make these in large commercially viable formats, make them at high yield, and now we’re pushing for the highest energy density before scaling this into mass production.”

Seeo’s 400 Wh/kg battery sounds impressive. Fulfil expectations.


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About the Author

is the editor of the ECOreport (www.theecoreport.com), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America and writes for both CleanTechnica and Planetsave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over a thousand articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • JP

    ““We have a solid state battery and are developing a product that is
    targeted at 400 Wh/kg, which is an energy density that is two to three
    times that of existing products out there,””

    Tesla/Panasonic NCA 265 Wh/kg. 400 Wh/kg is not 2-3 times that. Still impressive but you need to compare your product to the best currently available.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m seeing claims from this year that the batteries Tesla is using are 117Wh /kg.

      Is that wrong? 400 / 117 = 3.4x.

      400 / 265 = 1.5x. Rounds to 2x.

      • JP

        117 Wh/kg would mean the Tesla pack is 1600lbs, which it’s not. The pack level number is around 150 – 160 Wh/kg, around 1,100 – 1,200 lbs. Cell level the Panasonic NCA cells are around 265 Wh/kg, and I’m sure this company is talking cell level numbers, not pack level.

  • Michael G

    Elon Musk said he gets a letter/email every week from some battery co. saying they have a battery that can double or triple battery efficiency. He always says ‘send us a sample and we’ll look at it’. They either never send it or it doesn’t work.

    This sort of thing is ilke graphene – the miracle stuff that will grant our every wish. The potential is tanalizing, but getting it from lab-prototype-version 1.0 to mass market and cheap takes a good long while. I know several people researching graphene and nanotech in materials science at major universities. They are all as excited as anyone about the potential, but none of them forsees anything soon or cheap.

    It took about 30 years for OLED to get from lab to mass market so we need to be patient. I love reading about this sort of thing but ultimately it all ends up as a slow but steady improvement in yield, efficiency, etc., etc.

    • Philip W

      But nobody really needed OLED back then. We need better battery technology now for EVs and grid storage.
      So I´m confident that it won´t take 30 years, not even close.

      • Calamity_Jean

        “I´m confident that it won´t take 30 years, not even close.”

        I hope you’re right, but I’m not holding my breath.

      • Mint

        We really don’t need better batteries for EVs. The conservative cost reduction targets for the Gigafactory are good enough for automotive cells, as is their density.

        Grid storage isn’t truly needed either for a few decades, nor does the high density of solid state have any value there.

        • Philip W

          With better I also implied cheaper. And higher density is always appreciated and makes new stuff possible.

          I said ‘battery technology’ not ‘solid state battery technology’.

          But keep playing smartass.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We don’t. But if we can get more storage from the same amount of feedstock we both lower battery price and vehicle weight. That’s the route to cheaper batteries and cheaper EVs.

          • Mint

            True, but that often takes a long time. Look at lithium-ion’s advantage over lead acid or NiCd way back. It always had far, far higher energy density, and was commercially introduced in 1991 by Sony. By 2002, it was found in most CE devices due to superior density, but still more expensive:
            http://www.economist.com/node/1176209

            Only a few years ago have hybrids used Li-ion instead of NiMH (and Toyota still uses the latter), and only recently has it matched deep-cycle lead-acid in amortized cost.

            So that’s 25 years for a new battery with “lower feedstock” to match the price of the incumbent.

            It won’t necessarily take that long with solid state batteries, but 10 years for the crossover point is on the optimistic side of reasonable, IMO, especially if material deposition is like solar panels (e.g. Sakti3). Remember that liquid-electrolyte lithium-ion will keep getting cheaper, too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            When it comes to technology history is not necessarily a good predictor.

            Right now we have an immense amount of money being spent on battery research. I would imagine we have thousands of people working on battery improvement now when the number would have been very much lower earlier. We have fab and testing equipment which we didn’t have in the past. We understand the chemistry and physics much better. We have stronger supply streams and more flexible manufacturing ready to jump on the next (proven) thing.

            BTW, Tesla is offering batteries with 31% more capacity than they were installing in 2012.

          • Philip W

            Exactly.

        • Jamset

          Grid storage is needed and thus the Powerwall was launched.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Storage is starting to find a role on the grid, but mainly for smoothing purposes. There are few places where shifting power even a few hours makes sense with today’s storage prices.

    • I’m guessing 2024 is when a mass-market electric car uses solid-state batteries. but we’ll see.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      From the article:
      “Seeo expects to start manufacturing a 300 Wh/kg battery in mid to late 2015.”
      Significant improvement later this year, not 30 years from now.

      • Michael G

        And if the Seeo battery is cost competitive and manufactured in high quantities, it will be a real game changer and no one will be happier than I. All I was saying was that historically, things DO get better, cheaper, more commonplace, but typically not all three at the same time.

        For example, you might get the energy density in 2015, the cost competitive in 2017, the quantity in 2019, incorporated into consumer product in 2022 by which time it will be only incrementally better than Li-ion which is not standing still.

        It is all good, and I am an eternal optimist about this sort of thing but until it is real it is just a press release. Press releases are easy – there’s no penalty for being overly optimistic.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Actually, I think they do get better, cheaper, and more commonplace all at the same time for disruptive technologies. We’ll see about that one. Market is big, and demand high, so they won’t price too cheap to start …assuming they reach energy density goals at all.

          I’m just saying they will need to produce in 5 to 10 years, or they won’t be players any more. Rate of battery development has clearly increased and competition is fierce.

          Let’s see: Solid Power, Sakti3, Seeo, VW/QuantumScape, and maybe Toyota, all working on high energy density solid state Lithium batteries. If one, or two, of them succeeds, then our future will looks much brighter indeed.

  • Matt

    There is at least one other solid state lithium battery company out there. Saw a interview (I thought here) on Auto-world or Auto something. Their plan was to hit CE first then go after EV. I thought they were talking 2017 for EV application, but there has been some eggnog since I watched. I know that the CEO/founder was a woman and the LG Chem was also on the panel.

    • Mint

      You’re talking about Sakti3, whose CEO is Ann Marie Sastry. The video you speak of is here:
      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/12/21/ev-battery-costs-battery-experts-video/

      They said 2 years for CE and a few years later for EVs, but I’m calling BS on the latter for the reasons mentioned above. They claim to have produced 1100 Wh/kg batteries (which they also simulated a few years earlier), but such a good battery is way too valuable for EVs. They can price it at $2000/kWh and sell $1B/yr to Apple.

      What sane businessperson would sell such an amazing battery to a customer that wants to pay $200/kWh at most, even if they were able to cut costs that low?

      • Dragon

        Perhaps a sane businessperson that wants to corner a battery market that will be larger than tiny device batteries? Since multiple companies are coming out with similar battery tech and there’s little to stop them from copying other technology outside the USA, other countries will certainly get these batteries in cars and someone’s going to want that huge market and be willing to drop the price to get it. Companies are already selling entire EV cars at a loss or a tiny profit trying to get that market. Even in the USA the tech will probably get sold by some big foreign company with a large collection of patents they can threaten to sue Seeo with if they try to claim their patent rights, or the big foreign company will buy the patents outright. All this won’t necessarily happen next year but it certainly isn’t 10+ years off.

        • Mint

          You can’t corner a battery market. It’s a commodity, so you can be replaced in an instant; likewise, you can replace others in an instant if your price is right. Marketshare in battery markets has no long term implications, e.g. GM already switched from A123 to LG for the Spark EV, Tesla could switch to Samsung cells (provided they’re as good) at any moment without any difference to the customer, so Panasonic hasn’t cornered anything.

          Besides, it’s going to take a long time for the realistically addressable auto battery market (i.e. batteries not for Tesla or BYD, who will almost certainly both have huge sunk costs in manufacturing plants and low variable cost) to be “larger than tiny device batteries”.

          Finally, copying battery tech is nowhere near as simple as you claim. It’s not a piece of clothing or software. There’s a lot of first-of-a-kind processes going on in their mass production.

          • Dragon

            Batteries are more of a commodity than cars, but they also aren’t a true commodity like food where people buy “corn” rather than “Panasonic corn” or “LG corn”. Car makers are not prone to change battery suppliers in an instant or simply go for the very lowest “commodity” battery price each year. Purchase agreements are made that may span years, software is tailored to very specific battery cell characteristics that discourage change, and companies come to trust the specific characteristics and quality of what they put in their cars only after lots of testing and as much real world experience as possible. There’s still a lot of value in being the first company to come out with a quality EV battery at a low price and I can’t see anyone waiting 10 years to do it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In investing speak commodities are things that are common across suppliers. Batteries, solar panels, similar products are viewed as commodities if multiple vendors can sell the product which is basically interchangeable with what other vendors offer.

            EV manufacturers have already demonstrated a willingness to change supplier if someone had a usable battery with better performance or price. Nissan contracted for batteries and overlooked what their own battery factory could produce.

            I think you’ll find purchase contracts more on the level of one year at a time while technology and prices rapidly change.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        GM invested Sakti3, Apple did not.
        Like LG GM has plans for these batteries.

        • Mint

          Sakti3 is going to produce for the CE market first.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      Also,
      Volkswagen bought a 5% stake in solid-state battery startup QuantumScape.
      “I see great potential in this new technology, possibly boosting the range to as much as 700 kilometers (430 miles),” VW Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in a Nov. 6 speech at Stanford University in California.

  • Mint

    Whoever cracks the riddle to producing high density solid-state batteries is not going to waste their time with EVs for a decade or more.

    Samsung and Apple are interested in them for phones. Fitting 20Wh in a 6+ or Note 4 would be a huge leg up on competition, allowing them to charge $50-100 extra. I bet Apple alone would buy $1B/yr of 2x density batteries at $2000/kWh (even that is enough for only 1/4 of their phones). The total CE market would probably buy $5-10B/yr of these wonder batteries at $1000/kWh.

    Above all, EVs need cheap batteries. Once solid state battery manufacturers take over the CE world, then we can start talking about them considering expansion into a market that pays them 10x less per cell (auto cells will be $150/kWh or less in a few years). I’m guessing we’ll have to see 10M EV sales per year before solid state battery companies venture into that low profit market.

    Until then, talk of solid state batteries in competitive EVs is fantasy.

    • Jim Smith

      they are going to sell/license them to anyone willing to buy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Sure. It makes no sense to give a huge market to other companies. If you can’t ramp up fast enough to sell to EVs then license to existing manufacturers and rake in the cash.

        • globi

          Sorry, this is offtopic, but someone appears to using your name on GTM: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/google-engineers-explain-why-they-stopped-rd-in-renewable-energy

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, that’s happened a lot on that site. A troll that got kicked off here started posting under my name on GMT and other sites.

          • globi

            Unfortunately GTM appears to be poorly moderated. As soon as nuclear fans get hooked on an article the comment section is bursting with anti-renewable and pro-nuclear hogwash for lines on end.

          • Huge props to Bob for being chief comment moderator here for years. Is probably a full-time job. And I think this site now has the best comment threads of any site I’ve seen covering cleantech topics… or just about any topics. A huge thanks to Bob, even though I think he doesn’t want the recognition. 😀

          • RadicalSkeptic

            That seems to be a more general problem lately. On the political sites trolls are engineering the actual removal of posts!

    • Bill Kalahurka

      You might be correct, but if you read seeo’s website, you can see that they show no interest in the CE market. Perhaps it’s too expensive/difficult to miniaturize their technology? I don’t know, just throwing that out there.

      • Mint

        That’s a very good observation, but right now they don’t have the high density pack ready. Right now, it’s only 220 Wh/kg at the cell level, so none of my logic applies. They’re a small company, and I suspect they’re trying to prove their total addressable market to investors.

    • Douglas Card

      Mint: This is your answer to an article about a battery that IS solid state and is coming out in ONE YEAR? I think I would be inclined to hedge my bets a little more. I don’t think you know Zarem well enough to call him a liar.

      • Mint

        Samsung is the lead investor, as per the article. Which market do you think their interests are in?

        The battery coming out soon is 300 Wh/kg, not the one that doubles density. If they deliver on 400 Wh/kg, I guarantee you that Samsung will buy them out. Doubling battery life would be a killer feature in today’s smartphone market.

    • Ron Winton

      Talk of gigafactory using expensive, old fashion, highly combustible, cylindrical Li-ion cells is a fantasy. My bet’s on solid state technology.

    • RadicalSkeptic

      Did your mother drop you on your head when you were small and permanently sour your mood? In case you didn’t realize the obvious, there are plenty of EV batteries around in spite of those higher profit phones also using the same materials. Granted 400 watts energy density will be something of a game changer for the adoption of EVs. Demand will increase rapidly but I don’t think there will be more than momentary shortages. You’ll probably get a visit from the thought police for dissing capitalism that way.

      • Mint

        Read my post properly before making nonsensical comments.

        Higher profit for phones is only there if you have notably superior energy density. The “plenty of EV batteries” you point to lack such a feature; in fact, everyone aside from Tesla is using lower density batteries.

        Seeo and Sakti3 aren’t using public IP for their tech, and the manufacturing tech to make them <$1500/kWh doesn't even exist yet, let far alone $150/kWh. So how is capitalism relevant to the conversation?

        Today, after over 20 years and counting, lithium ion batteries still haven't reached cost parity with lead-acid (which continues to dominate in auto batteries, despite <1/4 the energy density).

        So please, oh wise one, tell me why it's only going to be "momentary" for solid-state to overtake liquid-electrolyte in cost-sensitive markets.

        • RadicalSkeptic

          Sorry guy, I’m more used to volatile political discussions. I’m sure you didn’t need any goading to share your techno know.

          As you say, higher profit is only there with solid patent protection and no likely alternatives. Hardly likely to last 10 years. There are too many new technologies on the cusp, many promising even greater densities. Even current lithium technology gets cheaper and better every year. There are manufacturers trying to build the next great technology with lead.

          Do you remember the scare over rare earth magnets for electric motors. The price went up but the supply didn’t falter.

          Besides in a few years ultra-capacitors will probably replace current batteries.

          The reference to capitalism was meant as humour.

          • Mint

            Current lithium getting cheaper is a major reason why SSB are unlikely to appear in EVs for a decade. In industry you often see one technology just being a freight train, despite being inferior. AMOLED is theoretically cheaper, thinner, and better quality than LCD and also far simpler in construction, but the latter got commercialized sooner with huge momentum, and thus it owns the display market.

            Patent protection isn’t what my argument was based on. You look at SpaceX and Tesla, and it’s not patents that are giving them cost advantages. It’s manufacturing IP. Competitors can tear down and analyze a SSB all they want, but unless they can figure out all the little details of how to produce it, they won’t be a threat. Everyone knows about Intel’s 14nm FinFET structure and atomic composition. Nobody can replicate it at low enough defect rates and cost.

            As for ultracapacitors, they may play a role in PHEVs or high performance EVs, but nobody expects them to match the cost or energy density of batteries.

          • RadicalSkeptic

            The lead acid battery has had a phenomenal run but its almost over. Most of your claims have merit; you’re just trying to push them too far. Even if it turns out that phones get marginaly better power density because they can afford it, there will be steady improvement in EV batteries. We are at the tipping point now; just momentum and inertia holding it back.

            I bought an electric scooter two years ago and am having trouble deciding which battery type to buy next. How about you?

          • Mint

            Where did you get the impression that I think EV batteries aren’t going to improve?

            I’m talking solely about solid state batteries with high energy density (400 Wh/kg, 1100 Wh/L). They’re 10+ years away from anything but ultra-niche use in EVs.

          • RadicalSkeptic

            All right, Mint, you’ve made your stand and you’re sticking to it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for your position. I guess we’ll have to wait to see if you’re the lone voice in the wilderness or whether the gods are having sport with you. He whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

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