German commercial battery storage startup gets an investment boost

Tesvolt has received venture capital funding to advance and expand production of its lithium battery technology.
Published: Tue 04 Apr 2017

Commercial and industrial energy storage is expected to be a major market, contributing significantly to the global storage requirements.

Projections from Navigant Research have it growing from about 500MW in 2016 to over 9,000MW by 2025 – more than double the capacity of the residential storage market and almost half that of the utility and ancillary services storage market.

This presents great potential for suppliers and the vendor market, dominated by startups, is an active one.

Over the past three years, the numbers of companies gaining venture capital funding has remained fairly constant in the mid to late 30s, data compiled by Mercom Capital Group shows.

This contrasts with the smart grid companies, which have shown a sharp decline in numbers over the period (albeit from a larger base).

At the same time, the average size of the deals has dropped somewhat but there was a notable increase in the last quarter of 2016, although whether this carries over to the current year remains to be seen.

Either way, one company that will add to the list is the German commercial storage system manufacturer Tesvolt, which has received investment funding from IBG Risikokapitalfonds III (IBG).

The IBG funds are the venture capital funds of the federal state of Sachsen-Anhalt. They provide equity capital financing for young innovative technology companies with “long-term and above average growth potential” that are headquartered in or have a branch office in the state.

Advancing technology and meeting demand

Tesvolt, which like Tesla, takes its name from the ‘father’ of the electrical system, Nikola Tesla, and in this case also Alessandro Volta, develops and produces lithium battery storage systems for commercial customers.

Since the company’s founding in 2014 and the installation the following year of its first system – for a CHP manufacturer in Toljatti, Russia to serve as backup power – it has shown impressive growth.

Through an agreement with SegenSolar, Tesvolt’s batteries are available in various countries around the world. Through another agreement with Africa Green Tec, systems are being supplied for a project to bring solar power to 25 villages in Mali.

Tesvolt also has been awarded the contract to deliver what is claimed to be the largest decentralised off-grid storage system in the world to a solar PV installation in Rwanda.

The project, comprising 2.68MWh of storage, provides emergency power to the water pumps of an agricultural project in the country’s Eastern Province.

The investment from IBG of “several million euros” will go towards the further development of Tesvolt’s technology.

In addition, the production lines will be expanded to be able to meet increased demand. Further resources will be used to finance national and international marketing and sales activities.

With these activities, and the growth in the storage market in general  Tesvolt CEO and co-founder Daniel Hannemann comments: “Against this backdrop, it is all the more important to put forward quick additional growth and to expand on our existing competitive advantages in a targeted fashion.”

As an example of this growth, in Germany alone, the number of installed electricity storage systems is estimated to double every two years until 2020.

Active battery optimisation

Tesvolt’s claimed ‘secret sauce’ is its Active Battery Optimiser technology, which ensures equal charge distribution in all interconnected cells in the battery.

This leads to an increase in the efficiency and a total efficiency that is 5% to 15% higher than battery systems with conventional battery management systems, according to the company.

The newest technology is based on Samsung SDI’s new prismatic lithium cells, which BMW has recently introduced into its latest electric vehicles (EVs). With their high energy density, they can almost double the range of EVs.

With Tesvolt’s technology each cell is monitored individually in order to optimise the charging currents not only between the cells within each battery module, but also between the battery modules.

The system is based on 4.8kWh modules, which can be integrated up to utility scale.

Tesvolt claims it “raises the bar” on lifetime and safety with a 30-year service life and integrated cell safety and overcharge protection. It promises around 6,000 full charge cycles with 100% depth of discharge.

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