Designing the battery of the future

EU battery research initiatives and a new investment platform will drive innovation and further cost reductions.
Published: Fri 13 Sep 2019

As more renewables are integrated into Europe’s grid to meet increasingly strict carbon reduction targets, batteries could prove to be one of the most disruptive technologies as the need to align periods of plentiful generation output with peak demand becomes more urgent. Commercial projects are in operation around the world but many challenges remain, with high cost, efficiency, sustainability and safety all areas that need to be addressed.

Two EU initiatives are focussed on doing exactly that, one looking at short term actions under BatteRIes Europe and one looking out ten years ahead called BATTERY 2030+.

The aim of BATTERY 2030+ is to invent the batteries of the future, providing European industry with disruptive technologies and a competitive edge across the full value chain. BATTERY 2030+ will pursue ultra high-performance, reliable, safe, sustainable and affordable batteries, by a cross-disciplinary, transformational research approach, leveraging advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors and smart systems. The groundbreaking science and technology developed by BATTERY 2030+ will have an invaluable impact on the ongoing transition towards a carbon- neutral and circular economy.

A workshop will be held in November and the project consortium will publish a roadmap in the first half of 2020, says Patrick Clerens, secretary general of the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE). ‘There are a lot of different elements when going to the battery of the future – it’s not about the chemistry as such, it’s more as issue of materials for beta separation, housing material, interfaces with the grid, etc.”

 

The MAP to the holy grail

A Materials Acceleration Platform (MAP) will be set up to enable the accelerated discovery of new materials, specifically the control of reactions and mechanisms at interfaces within the battery cell. The MAP will use artificial intelligence to analyse computer simulations to determine the next generation materials composition or structure. The ‘holy grail’ will be to develop smart batteries and intelligent design with embedded sensors to monitor reactions within the battery, leading to more durable chemistries.

“What we see now is the materials of the cathodes and anodes – cobalt, nickel or other – is changing, and could become new materials such as graphite, silicone, manganese-rich layered cathode materials (HENCMs) or high voltage spindles,” Clerens tells Engerati.

Lithium-ion batteries are by far the most prevalent application currently being deployed. A recent Engerati survey found that over half of respondents were using or developing lithium-ion batteries, and less than 10% said they were involved with other battery technologies. But it is very important not to pick winners at this stage and to keep a technology-neutral approach to research, Clerens says.

Organic flow batteries using salt water or other natural elements in a process known as aqueous ion exchange present a promising alternative with easier to access and less polluting raw materials. These are for utility or domestic application rather than for vehicles due to their size – one module is around 2.5-3kW but these can be stacked together.

The next generation of solid state batteries with lithium metals and lithium sulphur is not quite commercial yet, Clerens says.

The EU launched BatteRIes Europe at a forum in June to bring six working groups of stakeholders together to discuss medium term research and innovation issues such as recycling of raw materials, manufacturing and identifying funding and research priorities, with the electrification of road transport playing a major role. It will become the research and innovation ”leg” of the European Battery Alliance.

Vice president of the European Commission’s Energy Union Maros Sefcovic said at the launch in Brussels:

“From the outset we have recognised that the industry was in the driving seat. Your leadership is illustrated by all the flagship projects that are now taking off (Northvolt, Saft, Umicore, BASF, and many more).

“We therefore have an ambitious agenda ahead of us but the industrial lead combined with political momentum makes us unstoppable,” he said.

InnoEnergy investment platform

InnoEnergy, an organization driving innovation with support from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, involved in BatteRIes Europe and leading the European Battery Alliance industrial stream, is about to launch an investment platform to match battery project promoters and investors which envisages an additional deal flow of €70 billion (financial transactions) in the next three years. InnoEnergy estimates the potential market at €250 billion/yr by 2025, when there will be a “hockey stick on EV sales” Sefcovic said. The investment platform will be officially launched at the EBA250 meeting organized by InnoEnergy on 25th September in Brussels.

Diego Pavia, InnoEnergy's CEO tells Engerati: “Energy storage is the linchpin technology for the clean energy system of the future, from grid storage to electric vehicles and cordless tools. It is essential that research and innovation agendas are closely aligned with those in industry to make a seamless transition from concept to reality. BatteRies Europe will bring about a step-change in the way we collaborate, from mining, refining, design and manufacture, to digitalisation and recycling. By ensuring research and industry actions are taken in tandem, the platform can fast-track our progress towards a sustainable and competitive battery supply chain in Europe.”

Storage is taking a more prominent role in research and development activities at the EU level, such as the European Technology and Innovation Platform (ETIP) Smart Networks for Energy Transition (SNET) project which will release a roadmap defining medium term priorities and a shorter term implementation plan at the beginning of next year, Clerens says.

Its most important activity is to develop system integration between the gas and electric industries as heating and cooling becomes decarbonised, to determine research and demonstration requirements as part of its Vision 2050 plan, by when Europe is likely to have a zero carbon target.

Policy makers are getting bolder with decarbonisation and renewable goals due to lower projected costs, faster than expected renewables penetration and more public support for climate change mitigation, Clerens says.

Tighter emissions standards for example a new limit for capacity payments of 550g CO2/kWh knocks coal plants out of those markets, making storage a key resource to plug that gap.  Further work on implementation of these new requirements will need to be tackled but it is now about the “how” rather than the “what”, he adds.

ETIP-SNET is hosting a webinar on best practices for modelling, simulation and optimization for the integration of energy storage to maximize renewables in Europe on 25th September: https://www.etip-snet.eu/register-upcoming-smiles-project-webinars-maximisation-renewables-europes-energy-mix/

To find out more about how InnoEnergy is supporting innovative technology download the special report: https://www.engerati.com/energy-generation/company-resources/emissions-carbon-trading/supporting-innovation-low-carbon.

Regarding batteries, InnoEnergy has also created a website: www.eba250.com 

You can find the ETIP-SNET Vision 2050 plan here: https://www.etip-snet.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/VISION2050-v10PTL.pdf

 

 

Batteries that meet these specifications will revolutionize the current energy system and open the way to radically new applications, some of which can only be imagined today.
BATTERY 2030+ manifesto

The launch of BatteRIes Europe