We’ve had a press release sitting on our story list for a few weeks that I’ve been debating whether to cover. It touts “the world’s first ‘intelligent’ EV battery.” I’ve gone through the information from the company about this, but I can’t say that I 100% see how the battery is more intelligent than others, but let’s have a look.
First of all, the company behind this bold claim is InoBat Auto, based out of Slovakia, and the company description is that it “discovers and produces intelligent battery solutions customised to the individual specification of the end-user for an increasingly diverse market of electric vehicles in automotive, aviation, commercial and industrial sectors.” So, again, there’s that term “intelligent” to describe its batteries.
Okay, let’s get to the fruit. Does this battery do calculus? Is it a chess master? Does it know how to recite Shakespeare at just the perfect time?
Well, although CEO Marian Bocek also says, “It is with great pride that I can introduce the world to the first intelligent battery cell,” it appears that the intelligence they are hyping up is actually in how the battery chemistry is determined, rather than what the battery itself does (or thinks). “No other battery cell maker has the technology to discover and demonstrate battery chemistries as quick,” Bocek states. Elsewhere the company refers to an “AI-built battery,” implying that AI helped develop and/or produce the battery, not that there’s AI in the battery. “The company is developing a world-first AI-driven battery research centre and production line in Voderady, Slovakia, which will begin producing its first intelligent batteries in 2021,” a press release adds.
How long did it take to come up with what is portrayed as a revolutionary approach to batteries? One year of R&D.
Not being in the battery design and production industry myself, I don’t know how much depth there is to the company’s excitement about its product. The wording is a bit confusing and makes me skeptical, but maybe there are on to something and the wording is just sketchy.
Andy Palmer, former CEO Aston Martin and COO of Nissan, recently joined the
executive non-executive team, as “Non-Executive Vice Chairman.” Andy Palmer is no Jeff Dahn, but he’s also no Zach Shahan — he knows a few things about EV tech.
Also, the company claims that “InoBat’s batteries deliver an increase of almost 20% in operational range for current best-in-class electric vehicles.” I assume that means Tesla vehicles? Naturally, no one is going to believe InoBat is improving on Tesla batteries by 20%, and it’s not actually clear what this improvement is relative to — 20% more range per dollar/MWh or 20% more range for considerably more money?
The company’s big practical claims center around doing things faster than its competitors. “InoBat set to propel EV market forward as batteries can be commercialised significantly faster than its competitors and customised to any electric vehicle,” they write. “No other battery cell maker has the technology to test and discover battery chemistries as quick as InoBat,” Marian Bocek states.
Yet, the plan is to have a battery gigafactory launch into production in 2025.
What about energy density? Well, there are more ambitious goals there: “This technology enables InoBat to reduce its dependence on cobalt, in addition to also boosting energy density to a goal of 330 Wh/kg and 1,000 Wh/I by the end of 2023.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk hopes to get to $400 Wh/kg in 3–4 years.
I have a hard time taking this company — or its claims at least — seriously. Though, I don’t imagine Andy Palmer would throw his name on just anything, and it does seem like InoBat has a significant team of investors behind it. The company states:
“InoBat is backed by a strong consortium of investors and technology companies, including lead investor IPM Group (IPM) — the fastest growing InfraTech asset managers who specialise in bringing ground-breaking technologies to Europe – strategic investors and partners include CEZ (strategic investment of EUR 10m in InoBat Auto), Matador, AEN, MSM Group, Across and Wildcat Discovery Technologies. InoBat has also recently announced a strategic partnership with global high-tech engineering company, Manz AG, who will supply the production equipment for the R&D centre and production line, designed by architectural firm, Takenaka.”
Bocek’s closing argument is: “The world’s first intelligent battery marks a huge leap forward in the electrification of transport. At InoBat, we want to fast track innovation to ensure the best batteries for any type of electric vehicle. These batteries will be tested and developed further with scale production starting next year.”
We’ll see. The company has certainly succeeded in getting my attention. So, whether the company goes somewhere or not, its PR team has done its job. And, certainly, another 10 GWh battery factory would be welcome and needed.
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