117: Battery Streak Interview - Fast Charging Batteries
On today’s episode of Still To Be Determined I’m going to be interviewing Dan Alpern from Battery Streak about their new fast charging battery technology that uses Niobium.
On Today's episode on today's episode of still to be determined I'm going to be interviewing dan alpern from battery streak about their new fast charging battery technology that uses niobium as you can probably tell not Sean Ferrell writer of scifi and kids books. Sean was traveling. It wasn't able to record with me this week so I thought it would be the perfect time to share a larger excerpt of my interview with Dan Alpern from battery streak I use portions of this interview from the undecided video this battery breakthrough let's EVs charge in minutes. now I'll include a link in the description if you haven't seen it yet but part of what fascinated me about this battery chemistry is that it uses niobium. There's also a lot of really interesting feedback on that video a lot of people made the argument that they'd rather have longer lasting batteries versus faster charging ones but I kind of fall on the camp of having my cake and eating it too like I'd like to have both so tech advances like this are exciting to see hitting the market now. Already published this full interview on Patreon. So if you're interested in seeing undecided videos without ads getting them early and seeing full interviews just like this 1 consider becoming a patreon I have a whole bunch of cool interviews that are lined up over the coming weeks and months now I'll include a link in description for that too so without further ado here's my interview with dan.
To start things off I was hoping you could just kind of introduce yourself and give me a little brief introduction to your company.
Great I'm Dan Alpern I'm the vice president of marketing for battery streak and battery streak is a company that's commercializing a technology that was developed at Ucla and we're bringing to market fast charging at room temperature. With longer life.
That's great, um, actually could you do 1 thing could you move your camera down just a little bit I just notice you're a little there you go perfect all right? So first things off would be like what sets battery streaks technology apart from other batteries that are available today.
Absolutely is that? Okay, okay.
Well I think the key difference is sets battery streak technology apart from existing technology is our process. Our Nanos structurectured material process that allows batteries to charge without a chemical phase change that. Is the unique value proposition.
Right? And this is basically a replacement for what the anode side of the battery.
Both the anode and the cathode.
Okay, and what are the what are the main benefits of the system is it mainly for power capacity heat generation or heat preventing heat from.
The the primary benefits are are the fast charging Capabilities. So the ability to charge a battery like a capacitor and release energy like a battery a byproduct of this is that this material has a longer cycle life than traditional Lithium ion batteries and. Because of the lack of heat being generated. It's a safer battery.
Right? So in comparison to something like a lithium ion battery. What would the be the big differences be like as far as like heat differences like heat generated differences.
Well as an example, our technology ah can accept we shared some data with you where we can charge at a 6 C rate and the ambient temperature only increases by °cOr°f so during the fast charge and discharge cycle the whole battery's not even getting above body temperature.
Right? And that holds true for depending on basically true across all temperature ranges and during the entire charge cycle.
It holds through through the entire charge cycle and the testing that we've done both at lower temperatures and at higher temperatures that same constant has held true the °C increase during the fast charge and discharge cycles.
Right? and to get to get to the technology of like the main the main element that you're using which is Niobium.. There's always a ton of buzz around the future like bunch of companies going into Silicon and using it other technologies and other elements that are supposed to give much higher capacity and. Charging times. But there's a lot of challenges around those but they seem to be getting all the buzz. Why aren't we hearing a whole lot about Niobium like why? Why is it like not catching as much buzz as those other ones. Do you think.
That's a great question Matt and that's one of the reasons why we reached out to you. Um, for the first time publicly last week I presented our technology at natbat international the organization that's designed. Around advanced battery materials and the north american supply chain. So for a long time. We haven't been talking to too many people about this technology. So I think that's probably why there hasn't been the buzz you mentioned silicon sodium sulfur other types of technologies. But I think the key element is that we've been quiet and carrying a big stick. Our technology is out of the lab we are working with Prototypes we are doing product demonstrations and testing with our future customers and partners.
Right now when you're when you're comparing things like silicon to this. There's obviously pros and cons to every technology so like Silicon probably has its place and its its purpose. What what makes niobium.
Different and what do you think the ideal use cases are for this.
That's a great question I Think what makes Niobium technology different is the the chemical properties without going into too much depth. What we're able to do with the Niobium Technology. Makes this very exciting and I think I mentioned to you that cbmm one of the large miners of Niobium is supporting our efforts in this regard I think the uses the the right use cases for our technology are. Like we talked about medical devices drones tools warehouse Robots we've we've had a lot of activity in those areas and as we go towards the Ev market and the higher current charging that's available. It's exciting for that. But. In the beginning at this stage. What I'm talking to a lot of the automotive companies about is the energy recovery the ability to recover energy without heat as fast as it can be developed and for energy storage systems. Maybe a hybrid model that will alleviate the peak loading and off. You know Discharge harm that it does true to to traditional Lithium Ion battery systems.
Right? So that those heat benefits like you've you brought up earlier specifically for evs and fast charging. That's obviously one of the biggest issues you have to have these very complex battery management systems to keep the packs cool and maintained properly. And manage that charge where where will ramp down over time as it gets closer to fully charged. How does how would this change that from a user experience point of view from a customer point of view.
Well I think from the customer experience all they're going the difference. They're going to see is they can pull up to a charger and and get a full charge or close to a full charge in 10 minutes right now. I don't think they're too concerned with all the internal whether there's a thermal management system. We know that there are companies on working on managing the heat of the actual chargers themselves that's going to be outside of our area of expertise and we know that they're developing that. Same thing with the battery management system or the thermal management system I think there will be companies that are reluctant to dismiss their thermal management but I think as we prove our technology and they see that it's not needed. They'll start saving more space and we'll see an increase in energy density just from. The size that's created by not having to have so much equipment and a harness for thermal management.
Which could also probably help reduce some of the costs associated to the battery manufacturing right.
Absolutely So I think the right way to look at it is our battery may be the right battery for certain applications and in other applications. Maybe we're part of a hybrid battery system.
Right? So what about the ah impact you you talk about Cycle life a little bit like you sent me some decks with that showed showed it but I was like I would like to have you talk about it a little bit more in detail of like the benefits that you're seeing over the lifespan of a battery How many cycles these batteries can go through.
We're we're seeing 2 really exciting benefits. So the first is most most batteries are judged by when they get to 80% of their capacity and most lithium ion batteries get to about a thousand cycles to 80% our technology our testing has shown that we're getting to 3000 cycles at eighty and we've gone as far out as 9000 cycles to 60 so what's really interesting about it though is that this material. It's a very linear and predictable progression. So there are some applications. Where 60% capacity will work fine and knowing that it's going to be a constant decline is something that the engineers can work around. For example, your home energy storage for your solar system that would be fine for you.
Right? right? Exactly you can and you can plan for that ahead of time so you get a little more capacity than you need in the beginning and by the end it's still more than enough to get you through at the end.
Yeah, and that and that linear predictable nature is is very interesting and to be talking right out of the gate about a battery that has 3 times the cycle life of current technology I think is a good first card for us to lay down.
Right? You also mentioned that you're you're out of the pilot fate I mean the the bench lab scale phase and you're you are in the pilot commercialization of your product right.
Yes, we're we're thrilled to be able to share this information publicly like I mentioned for the first time in some cases we're accepted for the advanced naval technology exercise by the navy. We'll be demonstrating our technology to some of our potential partners and to the Navy. And our de infrastructure themselves so we have made we are currently making test pouch ah pouch cells and prototype batteries. We have some right now we're working with 1 amp hour prototype test cells we have. 2.55 amp hour test cells that are currently being produced for us and our partners as we ramp up our production and the technology that goes hand in hand with that we are a long way away from just making a lot of coin cells and looking at the taste data from those coin cells.
Right? And one things I thought was interesting when you last time we talked you showed me the the one of the pouches and the tabs were much larger than I you typically see on a pouch and is and that's for handling the extra power that these batteries can take correct.
Yeah, we're doing. We're doing 2 things right now we're using Aluminum instead of Copper and we're using the wider tabs to handle the higher current and as we go forward. There are little structural engineering considerations that we're going to have to. Um, educate our our end users in terms of dealing with the potential for the higher current to come through.
Right? to circle back to niobium just for a minute. Um, like you mentioned you your your investors is cbmm which is one of the biggest niyo boom suppliers in the world I asked you this before but like. When you're talking about supply chains. This is one of the biggest issues right now. Obviously for the pandemic as well as for ramping up battery production at large trying to secure enough nickel for battery production like Tesla is getting their own nickel supply. It's like companies are trying to corner the market now since cbmm is your. 1 of your investors you have a direct line to 1 of the largest suppliers but 1 of the things I was curious about was how does that supply compare to what you will need like if you're forecasting 5 years down the road is there enough of supply and a supply chain in place to be able to to handle the amount of but battery production that. You envision.
That's a great question and and we've looked and in partnership with Cbmm we've had a Mckinsey study done to look at those projections both on the markets themselves and the availability. Um. Meeting that I sat in on with Cbmm that was exactly the question that I asked our partner and they have no concerns about the future supply the five-year outlook they're ready to ramp up production of their minds and ship tons and mega tons of material out. Ah, soon as we deliver the customer base with our technology so we are not concerned about that supply chain moving forward and I also mention that we received an nsf grant. We're currently working on a cobalt free cafe and so that'll help with our next generation battery. With the materials and as the varying costs of materials change in the market.
Right? And how does how does switching to your technology from a more traditional like you know graphite or other materials. How does switching to this affect costs for the battery manufacturing does it increase the costs about the same like.
Well, our financial people are still running the numbers on on what the final costs are going to look like when we get to a full production right now we're moving to a new facility. We're currently in that process right now. That's my my office is naked right now and. We're going to go to a facility that has more space. We have new reactors coming. We'll increase our production from hundreds of grams of material a day to over four kilograms a day so that'll help and as as we go forward in time and. We start to fine tune the numbers. We'll be able to give a better answer to this but I would think right out of the gate in the conversations that I'm having the 3 times longer cycle life the faster charging the lack of heat. What cost would you put on a product that's safer that you can bring to a consumer market.
Right? Exactly? Okay and what but the um, you've also mentioned before about why you are manufacturing batteries today like these pouches and stuff like that. You're gonna be ramping up how much you can produce you yourself are not looking to be a massive battery producer but to license out the technology and the.
Yeah, at this time our company plan is for the largest customers. Let's say an automotive customer will will license the process for smaller customers will sell material and in very rare cases when I'm working with the Dod.
We are actually getting involved in the battery production with some third and fourth parties to meet their needs but like anything in business that may change 5 years down the road but our current plan is not to get involved in the actual production of cells and I'll mention we're here in Southern California California maybe isn't the friendliest place to make batteries so we'll ship our material to people that are going to make them in other places.
And and when you partner with somebody. Let's say you're Martin I'm not I'm throwing out names not suggesting this is who you were working with but like a Panasonic or ah Lg chem or something like that where they have massive facilities where they're pumping out lots of batteries is there going to be a huge capital cost. They have to spend to switch over.
Thank you for asking the question Matt that that's one of the great benefits of our material is that there's going to be 0 cost for them to switch to our technology this material can be used on existium I'm sorry this material can be used on existing http://lithiumion battery lines with.
Today's equipment there's no need to retool or create a new factory to handle this. It's a material my understanding of how the process works is they just need to clean everything off from the old batch before they start with our material.
It's really just the supply just the material itself.
Right now. Also one of the things I'm going to talk about is like 1 of the potential not take not a con but like I said there's different batteries for different use cases. Not every technology is going to satisfy everything but like what are the differences like.
Compared to something like what's being used in a tesla model 3 today for energy density things like that.
In terms of energy density. That's the biggest difference we have a little less energy density than some of the top battery technologies maybe 20% less but our thinking is that the paradigm is already shifting in the ev market that we're talking about. That cars will become lighter and everybody's racing to a higher mileage capacity battery but most drivers don't drive that far most most daily driving is seventy miles around trip. So while people are pushing. They're currently around three hundred miles and they want to get to seven hundred miles what's really important is the charge time versus the runtime if I give you a battery they can go two hundred and twenty miles and you can stop and charge it in 10 minutes do you care that your that your mileage isn't going to go seven hundred miles we don't think so and we're already seeing that from tesla in china they have designed. Ah, lower capacity battery to make that available to the market with success mercedes and fiat are talking about the same game that you know in changing the paradigm they're working with lighter materials and working on increased efficiencies in other areas to make a smaller. Energy density battery go farther.
All right? And what? what do you think is the biggest challenge or limiting factor in ramping up your company and getting this more out there. What do you think is the biggest challenge for you.
I think I think the biggest challenge for us has been trying to develop this startup through the pandemic. So all of our problems are are really logistic problems. Our ramp up is going a little slower than we wanted to because of the supply chain issues. So we have a long line of potential customers that are ready to accept test cells and validate our technology and that's what we're looking at for the next six to twelve months is going through that process and getting our technology into as many hands as possible. So that they can validate and continue these conversations that we're having.
Yeah, you may not have a good answer for this but like when I was thinking about the biggest challenge for myself. You've got this amazing battery technology that you can produce. But then there's this other side of it which is the charging infrastructure like there's. Lots of flat fast chargers out there. But you're talking typically about fast chargers that are 250 to 350 kilowatts for charging and you have this battery that could theoretically take that and more and do it in record time. Um.
It it. It is another piece of the puzzle that needs to be figured out but like I said the the Ev market especially we're starting those conversations now because the lead time for a new battery technology to go into a car is so long.
It feels like another piece of the puzzle that needs to be figured out I Mean do you have a take on that.
And the infrastructure we know that Tesla is already revamping their superchargers to handle higher voltage or higher watage levels. So we're not going to get too worried about that. We'll start the conversations with the ev with the auto people now with thumb. Understanding that that's going to be a challenge for them as we get down the road and get close to our battery actually being in an navy but in the meantime there's a whole host of applications like medical devices and drones and tools that that high charging infrastructure isn't going to be necessary for so. You could start to see this technology in the commercial landscape by next year
Right? That was going to actually be 1 of my following questions which was we've talked a lot about evs. But if you're talking about commercial applications or even consumer applications like power tools to phones. Are you talking to people beyond the commercial like tool are you looking at.
Talking to people about consumer tech like laptops and phones and things like that as well.
I Obviously I can't talk too much about specific companies. But I think it's fair to say that whether it's medical devices hand tools Phones Computers. There's a lot of interest and we're talking to a lot of companies in that Arena and. Something that we haven't even touched on yet. But that makes this conversation more interesting and that we're seeing a lot of interest when you talk about the computer guys I'll just say the the pseudo capacitance of our material is something that they're very interested in as well. So again, this technology. It's not a super capacitor. But it has Pseudo Capacitance features so it charges like a capacitor it holds energy and can release it like a battery and that's creating a very interesting nexus of where the applications in the commercial market are going to be for this technology.
That's really interesting. So when when you're also talking about like this is gonna be a wild prediction for you to to say this. But when do you think we would start to see your battery in use in the public like when would I be able to say oh see oh that battery is now and this is a niobium battery in this. X device that I could buy or I could use. Yeah, it's gonna be hard. Yeah.
Well let me let me look at my crystal ball Matt and I'm gonna say I'd I'd like to think the track that we're on right now is 2023 is our target for when you will start to see some commercial applications in the wild very soon and and that's.
Very soon then? Yeah, okay.
Like I said the key difference we are out of the lab we are in the process of commercializing this now and it's just a matter of generating enough material to make the cells to get into people's hands.
Right? Is there anything we haven't talked about that. You'd want to bring up or cover.
I think I think the only thing that I'd really want to share is that we we just presented at an app at like I mentioned we're going to go to the international battery seminar next month and present again. Our technology as we're talking to some of our partners. Our team from Cbm Cbm M is up here. Working with us to introduce the technology to some of the larger companies. So. The only thing that I'd want to say is if you're somebody out there. That's looking for this technology is pick up the phone and let's talk because we it's it's very important for us to get to the right partners to bring this technology to market.
Thank you so much for taking the time again to talk to me about this.
I hope you enjoyed that interview. So what do you think does that tech sound promising to you if you're on Youtube drop a comment down below if you're listening to the podcast. The contact info is in the description and if you'd like to support the podcast. You can also toss a few coins that are heads Sean likes to say, by going to stilltbd.fm. It's also extremely helpful if you review and rate us wherever you found the show like Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts thanks for watching and for listening I'll see you in the next one.
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