Chalk another one up for EnerDel.
The Indianapolis-based battery company will supply the lithium-ion batteries for a vehicle-to-grid project in Tsukuba, Japan that comes online in March. EnerDel will supply the batteries for retrofitted Mazdas that can be rented on demand at select outlets of Family Mart, a ubiquitous convenience store in Japan. (Grab a can of Boss Coffee while you're there.) The Family Marts will be equipped with solar panels, rapid chargers and stationary battery arrays. The battery arrays will effectively allow the cars to be rapidly charged by solar power.
The battery cells in the 24-kilowatt battery packs in the cars will also be removed when they age. The battery packs can then be recycled for the stationary applications. Several companies and analysts believe that electric and plug-in hybrid cars will become more economical if old battery packs – or simply battery packs that don't store as much power three years down the road as they did at the beginning – can be resold for less-demanding applications. Think, the Norwegian car maker that is returning from a near-death experience, will provide the drive trains for the project. The Itochu conglomerate, an investor in both EnerDel and Family Mart, will participate in the project.
Although based in the Midwest, EnerDel is somewhat of an international affair. The company's basic technology was coined by Peter Novak, a scientist and former member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The batteries also rely on technology from Japan and packaging know-how from Delphi. The company's battery relies on a lithium-titanate chemistry. CEO Charles Gassenheimer has stated that this allows EnerDel's batteries run at lower temperatures than competing types of lithium batteries and thus makes EnerDel's batteries more safe. Lower operating temperatures also mean that car manufacturers won't have to include additional cooling systems for the battery alone. Most laptop batteries rely on lithium-cobalt batteries. Tesla uses these types of cells in the Roadster but may move to other types of chemistries in the future. Other chemistries include lithium potassium, lithium manganese and someday, maybe lithium air.
The company has not received the lavish amounts of VC funds like Boston-Power or A123 Systems. Nonetheless, it has persevered and appears to be on a streak. After Tesla Motors cancelled plans to sell batteries to Think, EnerDel took over the project. Its parent company Ener1 also invested in Think. Then in August of this year, EnerDel received a $118.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
It also landed research and development deals this year with Nissan, Volvo and Fisker Automotive. It is unclear whether any of these deals will lead to production contacts, but often they can.
Meanwhile, Imperial College in London unfurled a startup called Nexeon that claims it can increase the amount of energy stored in lithium-ion batteries and extend the number of times the cells can be recharged with a silicon anode. Silicon anodes allow batteries to store more charge than carbon ones. Although Nexeon said in its release that it came out of stealth mode today, executives discussed the technology and $14 million in venture investments in February of this year.
Photo of EnerDel's E350-25, which is used by Think, via EnerDel.