Competition is Heating Up in Battery Systems: the Rise of Sonnen

by Sharon Ha

Sonnen, a German start-up that specializes in battery systems, is rapidly growing and challenging established companies in the energy storage market, such as Tesla. Sonnen’s product, the sonnenBatterie, is available in a range of capacities for home and businesses. In addition to producing and storing solar energy, it detects optimal times to store energy or to draw down the battery, and saves energy in case of a power outage. While the system and installation starts at $10,000, Sonnen promises a return on investment since the battery cuts back on utility costs. Sonnen has sold over 10,000 batteries, and started its expansion into the US—they recently launched their LA headquarters, have partnered with 30 local solar installers in the area, and are ready to start installing systems in Hawaii. In a strategic move, Sonnen is focusing on locations where electricity is expensive, such as Hawaii and California. Furthermore, Sonnen continues to grow in European countries, Australia, and the Philippines. Continue reading

Energy Storage Breakthrough Aims at $54 per kWh

by Dion Boyd

An interesting article on the Clean Technica website, posted by Tina Casey on February 26th, discusses the development of the next generation’s low cost high capacity battery. A company called BioSolar is set to surpass the previous goal of $100 per kwh, set by researchers a few years prior, by achieving $54 per kwh. The company recently completed an international patent application by filling out applications for what they call a “multicomponent-approach to enhance stability and capacitance in polymer-hybrid supercapacitors.” [http://cleantechnica.com/2016/02/26/new-energy-storage-solution-could-hit-magic-54-mark/] Continue reading

UK’s First Home Installation of Tesla Powerwall

by Dion Boyd

In an interesting article posted on The Guardian on February 5, 2016, blogger Steven Morris discusses the UK’s first home installation of a Tesla Powerwall by a company based in Port Talbot called Solar Plants. The Tesla Powerwall is a wall-mounted 7kWh or 10kWh lithium-ion-battery system that works by absorbing solar energy from exterior panels and then storing that energy for later use. It was first launched in California in May of 2015 with a price tag of $3000 or $3750 depending on the battery capacity. All orders sold out within the first 10 days and Tesla is now working on fulfilling backlog orders in 2016. They are also planning to release a second version of the Powerwall in July or August. Founder Elon Musk has not specified the details of the updates but has stated that the battery cells used in the updated model will come from the Gigafactory rather than their current dispenser, Panasonic. [http://www.fastcompany.com/3056330/fast-feed/tesla-will-launch-a-new-version-of-its-powerwall-battery-this-summer] Powerwall is not the first of its kind as there are other battery systems on the market, but its sleek, slim, and simple design makes it very attractive to consumers. According Mark Kerr, the owner of the Powerwall installed in this article, “its design is very sleek and minimalistic and something you can hang on the wall like a piece of art, definitely nothing like some of the other clunky looking batteries.” [http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/welsh-home-installs-uks-first-tesla-powerwall-storage-battery] Continue reading

Swedish Research Project Proposes Electric Car Batteries… Made of Wood?

by Gage Taylor

These days, it seems rare that a week passes where we don’t hear about some new kind of exotic or outlandish approach to electric car construction. With technology moving at a breakneck pace and interest in the field at an all-time high, concerns over range, power delivery, and cost are to be expected. But where most announcements seem to revolve around nanotechnology or other synthetic materials, a team of researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden announced this week that they’d constructed a small-scale model of an electric vehicle battery pack made from wood. By developing a new carbon-fiber material which has lignin, a natural polymer found in nearly every dry-land plant on earth, as its main ingredient, they’ve made a big step toward cheaper, more energy-dense batteries. Continue reading

A Very Special Clay

by Hannah Brown

Children grow up making little animals, cities and civilizations out of clay and play-dough. They mold the flexible material into new worlds with ease and joy. What if materials of that same plasticity could be used in other ways? To power the lights that these children use to make their creations by? Or your smart phone, your computer, your home? While in its first stages of development, researchers at Drexel University are one step closer to making a malleable, and conductive, power source. Called MXene, this material consists of electrodes made up of two-dimensional titanium carbide particles, made from etching aluminum from titanium aluminum carbide. This material is made using lithium fluoride and hydrochloric acid. When introduced to water, it becomes flexible like clay. This means that the material can be shaped and rolled out, as thin as tens of microns thick, to create any shape necessary for the product at hand. Once it dries, after being molded, it is highly conductive. (nature.com) Continue reading