New battery technologies are among the most hyped. Most disappear, never to be heard of again, so take everything with a pinch of salt. This one claims to be going into manufacture immediately, with ten commercial customers this year, two hundred units to be built next year, and licenses to manufacture in Europe issued.
It’s for stationary power, not automotive, intended for short term (< 48 hours) grid storage. It’s based on thermal energy storage using molten silicon. Claimed advantages are:
- more than a dozen times the volumetric energy density of lead acid, and six times that of L-ion
- cheaper than L-ion (60-80% of the price)
- scalable from kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts – just add more units
- storage from hours to a couple of days
- can be charged and discharged at the same time
- expected life of 20 years – not limited by number of charge-discharge cycles
- very low maintenance – three moving parts per unit
What’s not clear is the efficiency. The article refers to a “heat engine” for extracting stored energy, and the manufacturer’s site mentions a “thermic generator”. The compactness and low number of moving parts would seem to preclude a steam turbine, but solid state thermoelectric generators have efficiencies under 10%. The other things not mentioned is how quickly it can be brought online, and whether it is therefore a suitable standby for despatchable power.
Could be an interesting one to watch. Tesla has already demonstrated that you don’t need huge amounts of grid storage to offset a huge amount of the cost of peaking power and load smoothing.