Lithium-ion batteries appear to be taking over, but a few lead battery startups still think conventional batteries have some punch left.
When it comes to batteries, the lithium-ion variety appears to get most of the world’s attention these days. However, there are a few startup companies out there that remain focused on the humble lead battery.
Certainly, lithium batteries are important to a number of modern technologies, from cellphones to laptops to electric vehicles manufactured by the likes of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA). Tesla even announced a new suite of residential lithium batteries this April, in part aimed at allowing individual households to store renewable forms of energy such as solar.
However, as Fortune notes, it’s the lead battery that’s largely been used to store solar energy thus far — even though lead-acid batteries have a lower energy density than their lithium counterparts, a lead battery is still cheaper. Companies such as Outback Power and Princeton Power Systems have implemented larger lead battery projects.
Still, lithium is definitely moving in on the lead battery’s market share. Fortune also notes that Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is replacing the lead-acid batteries at its Texas wind farm with lithium ones. Certainly, if the lead battery space wants to stay in the game, it’s going to take some additional R&D to keep up with the falling costs of lithium-ion energy storage.
Here’s a look at two startups looking to make advancements in the lead battery space. These startups are currently private, but for lead investors, it’s worth keeping an eye on new lead battery technologies being developed.
Based in California, Gridtential is advancing its proprietary technology for an improved lithium battery. The company’s design replaces the metal grid in current lead battery designs with a silicon substrate, resulting in higher energy density and a longer life. As a recent article from Energy Manager Today notes, Gridtential’s lead battery also uses 40 percent less lead.
The company has been selected by the US Department of Energy to pursue validation analysis, and has been funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission’s Energy Innovations Small Grant Program. Long term, Gridtential expects to license its Silicon Joule™ technology to existing lead battery manufacturers.
“Tesla is not the only company capable of producing a smart, sexy battery; the difference is ours is safe and scalable today,” said Gridtential President and CEO Christiaan Beekhuis in a recent press release. “Via our battery manufacturing partners, we have access to hundreds of operating ‘gigafactories’ that can bring our Silicon Joule™ technology to market without retooling or massive investment.”
Energy Power Systems
Another company looking to shake up the lead battery space is Energy Power Systems, a Michigan-based startup focused on developing its planar layered matrix (PLM) battery. According to the company, the PLM battery features a substantially longer life, plus a higher charge and discharge power compared to traditional batteries. It’s also fully recyclable and relatively cheap to produce.
“[W]e can provide our batteries at costs that lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)-based systems will not be able to match for the foreseeable future,” the company states on its website.
Energy Power Systems is targeting commercial applications for its PLM batteries, such as transportation, utilities, green buildings and automobiles. According to Fortune, the company is planning to start making PLM batteries next year, and has shipped samples to potential customers.
Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no investment interest in any companies mentioned.