• September 27, 2021

Exclusive: New Battery Technologies Are Making Progress

 Exclusive: New Battery Technologies Are Making Progress

The New York Times looks at “a wave of new battery technologies that could lead to novel designs in consumer electronics and help accelerate the electrification of cars and airplanes. They may even help store electricity on the power grid, lending a hand to efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels…”

And a longer-life battery from Sila finally made it into a consumer product — the Whoop fitness tracker, which straps around your wrist, but which can also take the form of a “sliver of electronics stitched into the fabric of clothes.”

Sila’s chief executive and co-founder, Gene Berdichevsky, was an early Tesla employee who oversaw battery technology as the company built its first electric car. Introduced in 2008, the Tesla Roadster used a battery based on lithium-ion technology, the same battery technology that powers laptops, smartphones and other consumer devices. The popularity of Tesla, coupled with the rapid growth of the consumer electronics market, sparked a new wave of battery companies…. Congress created ARPA-E, for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, to promote research and development in new energy technologies. The agency nurtured the new battery companies with funding and other support. A decade later, those efforts are beginning to bear fruit…

Sila is not exactly a battery company. It sells a new material — a silicon powder — that can significantly boost the efficiency of batteries, and plans to build them using many of the same factories and other infrastructure that produce lithium-ion batteries… Today, the company produces this silicon powder from its small facility in Alameda [near Oakland, California]. Then it sells the powder to a battery manufacturer — Sila would not identify the other company — which slots the material into its existing process, producing the new battery for the Whoop fitness tracker. “We are just upgrading the factories that are being used today,” Mr. Berdichevsky said…

Companies like Sila and QuantumScape already have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range… They also hope their batteries lead to new devices and vehicles. Smaller, more efficient batteries could spur the development of “smart glasses” — eyeglasses embedded with tiny computers — by allowing designers to pack a more nimble set of technologies into smaller and lighter frames. The same battery technology could invigorate so-called flying cars, a new type of electric aircraft that could ease commutes across major cities later in the decade.
The Times also notes companies like Enovix and Solid Power have been developing improved batteries “for more than a decade, and some hope to move into mass production around 2025.”

And as the batteries progress, the Times got an interesting prediction from Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in battery technologies. “All aspects of life will become more electrified.”

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