Hopes To Put Southern Africa On Path To Battery Manufacturing Self Sufficiency
We recently looked at how battery supply constraints on the world market and electricity blackouts have catalyzed the South African battery assembly industry. We looked at three startups that are importing lithium-iron-phosphate prismatic cells from China, then incorporating their own proprietary battery management systems (BMS) as well as their own energy management systems (EMS), and then assembling battery packs locally. These packs are mostly going into stationary storage applications, with a small percentage of them starting to find applications in the EV conversions market in South Africa.
The battery storage market in South Africa is expected to grow significantly going forward as companies and homes look to cushion themselves from ongoing electricity blackouts. Eskom, the stated-owned utility company, has been battling to keep the lights on during peak demand hours. Electricity blackouts are expected for at least another 18 months according to some reports.
One company plans to take South Africa’s battery manufacturing a step further by manufacturing the Li-ion cells locally.
The Megamillion Energy Company outlined its plans at the Batteries and Electric Vehicles Conference recently hosted by the uYilo eMobility Programme. Megamillion wants to be Africa’s first large-scale manufacturer of Li-ion cells and battery packs, in the hope of bringing down prices and thereby catalysing mass adoption of energy storage systems. Speaking at the 2019 Batteries and Electric Vehicles conference in South Africa, Nechan Naicker, the founder and CEO of The Megamillion Energy Company, announced, “Africa’s time has come. The Megamillion Energy Company will be Africa’s first large-scale producer of lithium ion batteries, making lithium ion batteries in Africa for Africa’s benefit first.”
Megamillion hopes to leverage abundant battery mineral resources in the Southern African region and believes that by localizing the supply chain, it can produce cheaper energy storage systems. The chosen form factor is the cylindrical 2680 cell (a diameter of 26 mm and a length of 80 mm) using nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) chemistry for the cathode. According to Megamillion, its cells have a capacity of 6200mAh and an energy density of over 200Wh/kg. Nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite, and of course lithium can all be sourced in South Africa and several countries across Southern Africa.
Table 1: Mineral resources for battery materials found across Southern Africa
A pilot plant is set to be up and running in Q1 of 2020, producing 0.2 GWh of battery cells per year, with a plan to gradually increase cell production to about 32 GWh per annum by 2028.