Eco Investor December 2018
Three Battery Developments
Three pre-revenue companies have made significant steps towards developing and commercializing their new battery technologies. The companies have leading edge technologies and one of them says it has achieved a world first.
The companies are: Lithium Australia, Protean Energy, and Magnis Energy Technologies.
Lithium Australia is aiming to become a vertically integrated lithium company. It is a lithium explorer and mine developer, and it is commercializing lithium technologies including the SiLeach process for more economically recovering lithium chemicals from lithium concentrates, recycling used lithium from batteries, and developing its own lithium battery.
On the battery front, its subsidiary, VSPC Ltd has produced lithium-ion battery cathode material and lithium-ion batteries from tri-lithium phosphate that was produced from mine waste using the company's SiLeach process.
Lithium Australia said that mine waste to lithium-ion without the need to produce a lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate precursor is a world first.
The process removes the requirement to generate high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate, which has long been one of the most cost-intensive, and challenging steps in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, said managing director, Adrian Griffin. The tri-lithium phosphate was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material at the company's electrochemical laboratory and pilot plant in Brisbane. The process to generate the lithium-iron-phosphate nanoparticles is covered by patents to VSPC.
Coin cell lithium-ion batteries were produced and tested, and achieved equivalent performance to VSPC's advanced cathode powders which use lithium carbonate as the manufacturing feed. Battery performance compares very favourably against cells using standard VSPC cathode material produced with industry standard lithium carbonate.
The ability to bypass the lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide precursors provides the potential to significantly reduce the cost of battery manufacture; while the use of mine waste can provide greater sustainability. "This has the potential to provide a commercial outcome to many stranded resources creating ethical and sustainable supply in the process," said Mr Griffin.
The material feed used in the pilot plant was lithium micas from mine waste near Kalgoorlie. The micas have similar metallurgical properties to the micas in Lithium Australia's Sadisdorf project in Germany. Sadisdorf is an old tin mine where the tin has pervasive lithium-mica. The SiLeach process could realize the value of the lithium and the tin. The mine is close to planned lithium-ion battery plants that are aimed to service the European electric vehicle industry.
Lithium Australia is also developing a process for the direct production of cathode powders from lithium brines that will not only eliminate the need to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate but also reduce the requirement for evaporation ponds. (ASX: LIT)
Protean Energy has signed a term sheet to sell its Wave Energy Converter technology to Pearl Clean Energy Pty Ltd and is focusing on commercializing its vanadium redox flow battery systems and its patented V-KOR stack technology for vanadium batteries. The company is also developing a minerals project in South Korea through its 50 per cent holding in Stonehenge Korea Ltd. This joint venture with Korean company DST Company Ltd owns three projects in South Korea including the flagship Daejon Vanadium Project.
Last month Protean said it had successfully integrated a 25 kW/ 100 kWh V-KOR vanadium battery with the Western Power electricity grid at an OzLinc Industries trial site in Perth. This was Protean's first Australian grid connection, and demonstrated the battery can cycle through two charge/discharge cycles per day while charging from solar only, grid only and both solar and grid.
The next step is the development of a larger 25 kW stack, rather than two 12.5 kW stacks, and a scalable containerized battery for hybrid grid systems that incorporate solar PV, wind turbines, gas or diesel power generators. Protean's 60 per cent subsidiary is receiving interest from multiple parties to supply the 25 kW stack in south east Asia, said Protean's chairman, Bevan Tarratt.
"The Project has been extremely valuable for understanding the implementation requirements for projects in the Australian region and has provided important insights into the development of our flagship 25kW stack development," he said. "We have identified target customer segments that can benefit from the Company's unique value proposition and this is now helping refine the commercialization program for the 25kW stack. We are focused on delivering a highly efficient, low cost 25kW stack that will competitively position V-KOR for large scale battery configurations."
KORID Energy has also commenced work on a 1 MW/ 4 MWh vanadium redox flow battery project with the Korean Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP). Protean has a project funding commitment of $3 million to install and run its patented V-KOR stack technology as part of a $9.7 million vanadium battery project in South Korea.
Protean says the V-KOR stack technology stacks repeating cell frames to form a number of cells within the battery. This improves performance and lowers manufacturing costs compared to conventional vanadium redox flow batteries. KORID is developing its battery stack technology for large scale electricity grid battery installations and Protean said that the commencement of the KETEP 1 MW/ 4 MWh battery is a significant milestone.
The project is expected to run for eight years. The aim is eventual mass production in South Korea, although the company did not give a time frame for this. (ASX: POW)
Magnis Energy Technologies
Magnis Energy Technologies, which recently changed its name from Magnis Resources, aims to become the world's largest producer of next-generation lithium-ion battery cells. It sounds ambitious and its plan is to do this through mining, processing and supplying the key raw materials and through building gigafactories with alliance and JV partners to supply high performance lithium-ion cells.
The company has the Nachu natural graphite project in Tanzania, which is at the development stage, and it is developing gigafactories in New York, Townsville and Germany that will use its Gen II and Solid State Lithium-ion Battery technology.
Manufacturing equipment has been installed at the New York site, and a significant portion of the planned production has been presold to clients mainly in the automotive and renewables industry. Further agreements are expected. The company said domestic and international institutional investors recently visited the facility and it expects to announce a definitive investment in the March quarter.
At Townsville, the Queensland Department of State Development has approved a $3.1 million grant towards the Detailed Engineering & Feasibility Study, which should be finalized in the first half of next year. The Study is needed to progress the global funding discussions now underway and for the final investment decision to be made. The Townsville City Council is assisting with planning and rezoning the Woodstock site as an industrial technology precinct.
Magnis wants to exploit what it says is its competitive advantage through its graphite/ silicon anode intellectual property. It is exploring options to have these materials manufactured for its lithium-ion batteries and to sell them into the global anode market.
With its partner, Charge CCCV (C4V), Magnis said their joint testing programs on the commencement of lithium-ion battery manufacturing are well advanced and they have made significant progress in qualifying patented next generation materials for leading battery performance and commercial supply chain partners.
"Recent test programs utilizing silicon enhanced graphite anode materials have delivered major advances in both anode performance and the cost of its manufacture. In particular, the patented nanostructure silicon composite material can now be manufactured at a significantly lower equivalent cost to graphite after allowance for its increased capacity," it said. For an electric car, increased capacity means more kilometres can be traveled than using a battery pack with similar size dimensions.
Original Equipment Manufacturers qualification began with battery cells being recently sent to OEMs in the US, it said. Larger volumes of samples will be prepared and sent to European OEMs. Magnis said discussions so far have been promising and it expects to reach forms of agreements before the end of 2018.
C4V recently completed what they say is one of the world's first working prototypes of a solid state battery. The prototype replaces over 80 per cent of the liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte. This produces a lower cost battery with higher capacity, higher density, higher performance, and significantly reduced charging times. Also important, the C4V battery does not require cobalt, which reduces costs and metal supply issues.
The prototype has volumetric capacities of 380Wh/ kg and 700 Wh/ L which is expected to increase to 400Wh/ kg and 750 Wh/ L over the coming months prior to commercial production by the second quarter of 2019.
Magnis said the C4V solid state battery will be able to deliver a 70 per cent increase in the range for electric vehicles compared to other batteries, so an electric car with a 400 kilometre range would run 680 kilometres on the same charge.
Magnis has entered a joint development agreement with Dendrobium Automotive Ltd (DAL), Dendrobium Advanced Technologies Limited (DATL) and Charge CCCV LLC (C4V) to produce what the partners call the next generation of high performing batteries including semi-solid state batteries using technology developed by C4V and Magnis. The partners are looking at battery packaging solutions, battery hybrid systems, battery management software, battery performance testing and battery development materials.
The C4V Generation II and semi-solid state battery technologies are aimed at DAL, an electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid vehicle developer and producer. It has all-electric hypercar, the D-1. DATL is an engineering company specializing in performance technology and component design including battery development and packaging systems for electric and hybrid vehicles. (ASX: MNS)
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