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Published on September 9th, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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Un-Stealthy Energy Storage Company Leaps Out Of Stealth Mode To Challenge Tesla Powerwall

September 9th, 2015 by  


For motion picture and teevee industry insiders, the name LibertyPak has been the secret code word for super-reliable portable energy storage on-the-go for everything from The Tron Legacy to Inside Amy Schumer, and guess what, now you can partake in a bit of Hollywood magic, too. The LibertyPak company has transformed itself into a “stealth” startup by the name of SimpliPhi Power, and to kick things off with a bang, earlier today, the company threw down the energy storage gauntlet to none other than Tesla, the electric vehicle company also known as the purveyor of the much-publicized Powerwall home battery.

energy storage challenge Tesla

Where Did SimpliPhi Come From?

The energy storage technology behind SimpliPhi has a rather long backstory, which is why we’re calling the company un-stealthy, and it’s something that fans of electric bicycles will appreciate.

Remember the Lee Iacocca eBike? Back in 2001, SimpliPhi CTO and founder Stuart Lennox was gainfully employed in the film industry when he scouted an eBike as a prop for a commercial shoot. The rest is history, as Lennox attests:

…I was so impressed with the battery in it, I took out a loan on my home, went to e-bike and had six custom battery prototypes made that could be used to power 35 MM movie cameras and portable lighting to my specifications.

By 2002, Stuart founded the LibertyPak company based on lithium-ion batteries incorporating cobalt. Within five years, though, LibertyPak transitioned to another new technology, the even better-performing lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP) platform.

Here are the non-cobalt advantages cited by LibertyPak in its new iteration, SimpliPhi:

Elimination of thermal runaway
No need for ventilation or cooling to prevent heat build-up
Operation at 98% efficiency for over 5,000+ cycles
Up to 100% depth of discharge
Daily cycles for 10 years
Provided 80% savings in operating cost per kWh

By 2008, LibertyPak was expanding into new off grid energy storage solutions for the film and digital photography industry, and exploring new markets such as disaster relief.

The company’s move into the consumer energy storage market began to take shape in 2010, when LibertyPak partnered with current SimpliPhi President and CEO Catherine Von Burg to introduce Optimized Energy Storage brand. The new venture also sparked new markets including military applications with the solar microgrid company ZeroBase (among others), aimed at reducing casualties associated with petroleum fuel resupply in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fast forward to 2015, and with the consumer energy storage market accelerating into high gear, the two companies adopted the SimpliPhi Power brand together, still using the non-cobalt LFP platform.

Epic Energy Storage Battle

That’s where the Tesla challenge comes in. As with its electric vehicle batteries, the Tesla lithium-ion energy storage platform incorporates cobalt. That sparked this comment from Von Burg in SimpliPhi’s press announcement earlier today:

Our products do not generate heat or require ventilation or cooling and do not pose the risk of thermal runaway characteristic of lithium cobalt based batteries, and this creates significant efficiencies and savings for any given installation.

For backup, SimpliPhi cites its experience with energy storage deployment for the US military, among others. The company has continued its partnership with ZeroBase and has added relationships with the leading solar company Lotus Energy (not to be confused with Lotus Energy Group) and a familiar name in energy management systems, Schneider Electric.

Here’s the rundown from the SimpliPhi website:

Operate at 98% efficiency for 5,000+ cycles for the OES [Optimized Energy Storage] line of stationary batteries and 2,500-5,000 cycles for the portable LibertyPak plug-and-play products, many times the cycle life of lithium cobalt-based batteries

Allow daily cycles over 10-year warranty period (compared to one cycle per week for other lithium-based batteries)

Product life expectancy of 15-20 years

1/5th the operating cost per kWh over warranty period vs. other lithium-based systems

SimpliPhi also offers a detailed cost comparison:

Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison 9-9-15

Without naming names, Lotus president Jeevan Golf also was not shy about taking on the Tesla Powerwall:

We’re excited to present our case study on outfitting an award-winning on-grid and off-grid smart home in New York state utilizing 48 SimpliPhi Power batteries. No other battery supplier out there could match the power density, compact, lightweight and modularity we needed to meet the requirements of this home.

Check out Lotus on Facebook (May 9) and you’ll also find a link to an article about the Tesla Powerwall in a UK publication, The Register, headed “Tesla Powerwall: not much cheaper and also a bit wimpier than existing batteries.”

Our source at SimpliPhi also emailed this “Use Case” to us, elaborating on why the aforementioned showcase home went with SimpliPhi rather than the Tesla Powerwall:

Owner of award-winning smart home estate in New York signed up for Tesla Powerwalls for his high-tech off-grid estate but then learned he would have to build an entire new building to house all the Powerwalls he would need. And even then, he was limited to connecting 9 Powerwalls together. So he purchased 48 SimpliPhi batteries instead and put them in his basement.

Somewhat ironically, follow the smarthome link and read the fine print: the homeowner’s choice of vehicle is a Tesla.

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Image (screenshot): via SimpliPhi. 
 





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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+.



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