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Batteries Li-S energy storage OXIS

Published on July 14th, 2015 | by Tina Casey


Yet Another Energy Storage Company Takes On Tesla

July 14th, 2015 by  

OXIS Energy certainly isn’t letting any grass grow under its feet. In June, the UK energy storage innovator announced that it will be ready next year to market its super efficient lithium-sulfur battery, and barely a month later, the company has just launched a partnership with Anesco, a leading commercial and home energy storage installer.

Li-S energy storage OXIS

Powerwall Who?

Yes, that’s lithium-sulfur, and OXIS aims to leverage the low, low cost of sulfur to undercut the market for lithium-ion batteries.

Here’s the explainer from the company:

Sulfur represents a natural cathode partner for metallic Li and, in contrast with conventional lithium-ion cells, the chemicals processes include dissolution from the anode surface during discharge and reverse lithium plating to the anode while charging. As a consequence, Lithium-Sulfur allows for a theoretical specific energy in excess of 2700Wh/kg, which is nearly 5 times higher than that of Li-ion.

The announcement earlier this month set a price goal of $250 per kilowatt-hour by 2020. That compares favorably with current Li-ion (lithium-ion) batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall. According to OXIS, typically, Li-ion batteries cost in the $400 to $500 per kilowatt-hour range. Though, Tesla’s Powerpack is supposedly at $250/kWh (according to Elon Musk), while its Powerwall is closer to the typical Li-ion battery cost range. Though, $/kWh of capacity isn’t everything. Click that link above for much more context and math on that.


Lithium-Sulfur On The March

For a hint at what’s to come, OXIS is forecasting that its energy storage technology will achieve 400 watt-hours per kilogram in 2016. That’s based on the company hitting a mark of 300 Wh/kg last year, which represented a 12-fold increase in cell capacity over the company’s previous best effort 18 months earlier.

When OXIS let out word of that record, it was looking to achieve an energy density of 500 Wh/kg by the end of 2018, on top of the 400 Wh/kg predicted for next year.

The Anesco partnership provides OXIS with a strong market partner in the stationary energy storage installation sector, and OXIS CEO Huw Hampson-Jones is not shy about comparing the hookup with to Tesla:

Storage systems using lithium ion technology, such as the much publicised Tesla Powerwall, are limited by a technology that only achieves small incremental improvements each year. Such manufactures will want to improve performance, safety and cost of their products, so we expect that they will also switch to OXIS’s technology in the next few years.

So, there’s that. The company is also looking beyond the stationary energy storage market to electric vehicles, including autonomous vehicles like this one:

autonomous EV with Li-S battery

Li-S In The USA

Over here across the pond, Li-S technology is also getting closer to the mass market. A couple of years ago, our sister site Gas2 noted the potential for Li-S energy storage to sneak past Li-ion, and just this May, researchers at Stanford University announced a new “designer carbon” approach that combines bio-activated carbon with Li-S technology for enhanced energy storage.

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Images (screenshots) via OXIS Energy.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • joey

    Why not thorium reactor?

  • Illuminati

    Batteries that will be produced in the Gigafactory will be different from those currently used in the Tesla cars. The batteries used currently are of type 18650, while future batteries will be like 10% longer and larger. The chemical composition of the battery will be also optimized. Fewer cells would be needed for the Tesla’s battery pack. The target cost is below $200 per kilowatt hour.

    “Let’s say the batteries will be optimized, also in terms of their performance.” – Jerome Guillen, Tesla vice president

  • DecksUpMySleeve

    Seems more and more battery abd solar technology is racing towards a sulfur based revolution.
    Be it titanium trisulfide conductors or sulfur based battery chemistries.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Have any of these achieved commercial production yet?

      • DecksUpMySleeve

        Has anything that isn’t in the tiered nature of the productivity chain.
        And yes Aquion has with 3000+ cycle sulfur based.

        • Foxy

          Aquion has a nice product. Its an oxide cathode though – LiMn2O4 cathode with a NaTi2(PO4)3/activated-carbon mix anode. The electrolyte is mostly sodium sulfate in water. They have an open source publication in Nov ’14 in Energy Technology journal describing it.

          • DecksUpMySleeve

            Cleantechnica also touched on it in Nov 14′, still though, they used to think sulfur based solutions would always gunk up, but now they’d nanmirrored them, heat fractured them, coupled them with mutualistic combinations. Sulfur used to be a short product life dirty word of a battery and slowly they’re finding loop holes to bring it out of the shadows.
            Titanium trisulfide conductors could be bilayer style nanoribbons, or even composite materials all their own applied to a variety of fields and applications, computer chips, solar panels, electrolysis, catalysts to hydrogen extraction or desalinization.
            The capacitive range of Sulfur coupled materials seems to be on an upswind and as it’s often otherwise a harmful bi-product it’d be a prime candidate ecologically for uses elsewhere.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Snide? no, not intentionally. Pointed? yes, sorry.

          I’m familiar with Aquion. Not sure I’d call it a sulfur based battery. Exciting product though.

          I hope OXIS succeeds (and others), but it seems like sulfur based batteries aren’t trivial to get working.

          Production of a viable product is important. Chill out dude.

          • DecksUpMySleeve

            I’m chilled, I just get tired of every promising technology getting flooded with doubt upon announcement is all.
            That and there’s this ongoing misconception that unless something is already in it’s production phase it’s vaporware.
            Everythings gotta start somewhere and it seem lately people only put trust in well established conglomerates.
            Beyond that unless something gets interest and hype from the media that patent just gets bought and buried often times.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            My opinion of OXIS is not vaporware, but they still have a long way to go …as far as I can tell. They’ve just started across the “valley of death” with a prototype that only does 100 cycles. They still have to prove 1,000 or 2,000 cycles and then prove cost effective production. I think it’s reasonable to be cautious about their odds of success at this point. That does not mean they will fail, or that they are fraudulent, and that’s just my opinion. I’m interested in other views. Maybe I don’t know enough about the OXIS technology yet. There is a very interesting up side to their tech, if they are successful. Think I made that comment somewhere here.

            I think you are overly pessimistic about patents being bought and buried. We are way past the days when oil interests wanted to bury NiMH battery technology. There are a number of new battery technologies coming to market and there is money behind them. There is far more money behind R&D in battery tech now too. I think it is now well understood there are $ billions, if not $ trillions, involved if you can develop a competitive battery for grid storage or EVs. There are already too many different approaches out there to bury and too many players trying to win in these two markets, both will be huge. This roller-coaster has really picked up speed.

            Tesla/Panasonic, Nissan, Alevo (real?), Solid Energy, Sakti3, Seeo, Amprius, EOS (2016 product), Aquion (on sale now), Ambri (2016 product), several Flow batteries, …and others I’m missing. Just amazing technologies in various stages of development + marketing. I can’t even keep up properly.

            Quit worrying. Smile and enjoy the ride!

            kind regards, mike

          • DecksUpMySleeve

            It’s not so much pessimism as much as pattern recognition. I’ve been watching battery tech for a decade. Big brother, big oil, wallstreet, even universities make breakthroughs and sit on their hand(of cards) like a game of war waiting for the card below theirs to be played, in many field beyond batteries. Many thing don’t make market due to ultra-viability, and it’s a shame and bothers me so because we may go near extinct or have an avoidable collapse. Economics should always come second to enriching our species, for health, safety, famine protection, Equilibrium with nature, so on. We need our best attempts in all things for the greater good. New anodes should’ve struck yet were maybe 20% cost prohibitive, but would have doubled battery life.. Gas guzzling 2 seated V8s are still being manufactured, coal still being mined which by treatys we agreed unburnable, fracking every week taints a water source, fukushima still leaks 300tons of radiated water a day and is currently plan to do so til 2051.. It’s a lot of things which make me so perturbed not just an everyday gripe. But a futurist surrounded by a game of house/monopoly.. Hard to explain without an hours discussion.
            I say all this from a place of hope and constructive criticism, not doom and gloom, I know we can do better.

  • eveee

    There is no “Tesla” battery. Tesla doesn’t own a battery tech. Panasonic does. They are partners. Tesla, fresh with millions in investments, can choose any battery tech, and is constantly sampling the industry.
    The situation is different. All these battery upstarts are submitting their samples to Tesla. They hope to convince them to use their batteries. It’s a vanishingly small probability that some lightly funded upstart will build a GigaFactory and corner the market.
    If LiS succeeds, Tesla can use that. If some other cell succeeds, they can use that.
    Comparing future claimed cell performance vs complete energy storage systems has little usefulness.
    Claims sometimes fail to materialize. Think Envia.

    • MorinMoss

      I’m still ashamed that I believed EEstor’s hype. How many failed promises did they make?

      • eveee

        I assumed EEstor gone. A lot of battery cos have come and gone. There is a big gap from lab to production. As Jeff Dahn explains, its long lifetime in reliable volume production that is difficult to predict. In his video he quite clearly dismisses Silicon cathodes as a longevity problem unlikely to be solved.
        What we never see from all the glowing blurbs, is the not so glamorous.
        The choices come down to which technologies are the most tractable from a longevity perspective, not what increases storage capacity. That and cost.
        Everyone and their brother has announced capacity increases. Just like Envia did. What went wrong? Lifetime.

        • MorinMoss

          EEstor site is still there; there are factory walkthrough videos and a link to a Dec 2014 doc from Canadian partner / majority owner Zenncars.
          So they’re somewhere between zombie and vampire – shambling & stumbling towards some goal while undead & still sucking cash

  • Foxy

    Why is almost every battery article construed as some random non-existent product against Tesla’s actual real products. I hope Oxis success, but it won’t affect Tesla – they’ll just buy the tech they need from whomever as time goes on.

    • Offgridman

      This is something that has been bothering me for the past couple of weeks also.
      Calling all of the other companies that go into EV production, energy storage, or even solar panel installation along with Solar City competitors of Tesla is rediculous.
      We have a long way to go to get the whole world’s energy and transportation systems operating at a zero CO2 emissions level, and this is necessary if we are to have any chance of avoiding the problems caused by climate change.
      This is what the UN is trying to achieve with the ongoing meetings and conferences, cooperation , not competition.
      Tesla can not change the whole world by itself, these new companies or older companies with new products are Tesla co-operator’s at saving all of us, not competitor’s.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        “these new companies or older companies with new products are Tesla co-operator’s at saving all of us, not competitor’s”
        Well both actually. …and this one is neither …yet.

        • Offgridman

          Yes you are right on both points, this company isn’t selling a product yet, and once (when/if) they do it will be a co-operator as well as a competitor.
          But look at the title
          “Yet Another Energy Storage Company Takes On Tesla”
          This is what has become what might be called my own pet peeve. The way that the media, not just here, but on any site that I go to can only discuss another energy storage company, producers of EV’s or hybrids, even installers of solar panels as the competition for Tesla.
          We need to have a massive change to our energy production and in some part storage systems, along with converting a majority of our personal transportation systems to running off from electricity in order to avoid the harm caused by doing this with fossil fuels.
          One company can’t do it on their own, it is going to take thousands of different solutions and options on a worldwide basis. It is going to require cooperation.
          So to always introduce these alternatives as Tesla competitors just seems ridiculous. They are co-operator’s in trying to save our world from the almost sure death of continuing to use fossil fuels.
          Even Musk has made statements to this affect, part of the reason for making the Roadster and Model S was to encourage the big automotive manufacturer’s towards using electric propulsion.
          We have a lot to do in getting our society converted to renewable energy sources and electric transportation on a worldwide basis. There are going to be many different options and solutions that work better for different regions. To consider all of them as Tesla competitors just doesn’t make any sense.
          Just as is said that it takes a village to raise a child, we are going to need a worldwide village to resolve our carbon issues and take care of our earth. While there might be some competition in doing so it is also going to require cooperation.

  • Johnny Le

    Let me get this straight. So the announcement is that by 2020 it will be as good as what Tesla has now? That doesn’t sound like something worth announcing.

  • Hans

    I am confused. The article is mostly about the stationary use of the batteries. Yet it keeps ranting on about storage capacity per weight, which is only relevant for mobile applications.

    • Johnny Le

      It’s relevant. If we talk about the industry scale, it’s the difference between a building or a room to house the batteries.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Relevant, but minor compared to cycle life …which they don’t have yet.

      • Hans

        Now you are confusing weight with volume. Besides, for industrial scale applications land and housing are cheap.

  • mike_dyke

    All of these battery/car manufacturers are promising Tesla-beaters in the next few years. I’ll believe that when I see some physical products on the markets for us to compare.

  • Tesla_X

    Well, this means Elon is out of the battery biz before he hits his stride.

    On the plus side, the tesla car might have a chance of surpassing the 400 miles per charge/tank of gas milestone, making the all electric vehicle less of a PITA to own and operate!

    So he’d better focus off batteries, on cars, and on being compatible with other charging chemistries and characteristics.

    Bye bye battery biz though.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you’ve got a better battery the best route is likely to license its use to as many manufacturers as possible.

      You might only have a few months or a couple of years in the catbird seat before someone else brings an even better battery out of the lab.

      Get as many units manufactured with your technology as possible and rake in the cash.

      Want to sell a lot of batteries? I know about this company that’s building the largest battery factory in the world. I’d bet they’d earn you some money.

      • JamesWimberley

        Nissan have been talking up unspecified breakthroughs in batteries. Maybe they are about to switch chemistry.

        • bink

          jumping off the Tesla bandwagon so soon?

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Competition remains fierce. Biggest winners cannot be known. S%&* could even be one of those lame-o flow battery companies. 😉 Tesla Powerwall is just a harbinger.

    • Jacob

      Tesla batteries have a very long cycle life.

      Can you bother to see the table I posted above.

      Oxis may be useful in mobile phones but not cars.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Premature conclusion based on this information AND on Jacob’s link (better info).

      • Tesla_X

        Possible…we’ll see!

        If innovation in storage is anything similar to the microprocessor or memory innovations of years past, we’re in for a wild ride….and so is elon.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Well, I don’t know about the multiple orders of magnitude increase in performance seen with Moore’s Law, but “wild ride”? Yes, not a game for the faint of heart. Yep …we’ll see.

  • Jacob

    Tina, Oxis is promising a lot of things by 2019.

    You may wish to look at their table for mobile phone batteries:


    Cycle life is only expected to be 1500 cycles in 2019. But with a density of 500Wh/kg, mobile phones would love such a high density, regardless of cost.

    • Offgridman

      If the density gets high enough at a reasonable price perhaps the 1500 full cycles would be sufficient for a car. What has me wondering about this is if the usable miles was to double to 400 per cycle that would give 600,000 miles before the pack needed replacement.
      If the use of sulfur can bring down the costs and increase the range in this way people would be okay with a battery replacement after a half million or even just a quarter million miles.
      In any case it is great to see even more of these Tesla co-operator’s coming to market. As great as Musk may be he and the companies he is associated with can’t get the world changed to a zero carbon energy and transportation system on their own.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Interesting thought.
        Very low depth of discharge for most use, i.e. short distances. Fewer cycles at longer distances. IF they can get from their 100 cycle prototype to 1,500 cycles in 2019. …and they have competition at 300Wh/kg to 400Wh/kg from a couple of solid state battery efforts. Cost of those?

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Nice link, thanks!
      They currently have a prototpe, 300Wh/kg (nice), ~100 cycles (very un-impressive).

      All startups deliver on their promises, right?
      Maybe only a lesser percentage of them?
      Think I’ll wait and see what they can actually deliver. I wish them the best of luck!

      Tina, Cycle life of batteries is critical for grid storage, home storage, and EVs. Get the info in there please. Cost/kWh – Wh/kg – Cycle life – Depth of Discharge (DoD) for cycle life. mike

      • MorinMoss

        Sumitomo announced several years ago that they would have vehicle-grade low-temp molten sulfur batteries market ready by 2015.

        The year is more than 1/2 gone and not a peep from them.
        And this isn’t some backyard startup but a giant century-old conglomerate with $70 billion USD in assets, owns Mazda Motors and has its own mining, chemical, electrical and heavy industry divisions.

  • Senlac

    Somehow I don’t think this is lost on Elon Musk.

    • Jacob

      Straubel is the main man for batteries in Tesla.

      Musk spends most of his time thinking about space rockets.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      One more competitor who’s not delivering any product yet. Even 1,500 cycles is only half of Powerwall. It would have to be less than half the price. Think I’ve seen 5,000 cycles for Tesla’s vehicle battery, but not as sure of that.

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