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Will the slow-down of world-wide electric vehicle sales help battery storage system projects?

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Energy Global,

Anticipated new battery manufacturing sites expected to launch online soon, the continuing price reductions of lithium batteries across the industry, in conjunction with power density becoming more efficient and positioned to improve in 2024, should give rise to another uptick in the growth curve. This certainly sounds like good news; however, it might not be so easily fulfilled. This could be signalling that these are issues in the US have slowly infiltrated into the construction industry, and could continue to persist.

Will the slow-down of world-wide electric vehicle sales help battery storage system projects?

Visibly multiple indicators – such as higher interest rates, growing inventory, long supply chain challenges, slower sales, and squeezed investment funding – have facilitated the need to temper expenditures. So, it appears that consumers and corporations are on the same path. Although seemingly the mirroring of challenges for both consumers and corporations have their reasons for the recessionary reactions, which defines each market segment differently, they are inexplicitly connected because the changes in consumer needs and preferences will require new solutions and innovations. For businesses, this push and pull assists with risk diversification by expanding the product portfolio and reducing dependence on a single product. This enables and presents the construction industry with an opportunity to step back and slow down, to discover and understand, then evaluate and compare, finally implementing new products in the market.

As is the case for a few equipment suppliers in the energy sector, hybrid technologies very well can be one competitive advantage that would bring about great change for multiple industries, especially for construction. Initially, if the focus is on inverters, or power conversion systems. These power conversion systems are one of the key components that are vital for each solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage system. This is true whether it is connected to, or not connected to, the electrical grid. Since lead time requirements range from 14 – 28 weeks or longer, depending on IGBT supply, the inverters could cause production deficits and or delivery delays. That is a primary concern to consider for procurement teams when developing a product planning road map. Neglect and or not being aware is not an excuse for a key component to be the cause or an inevitable delay that forces them to scramble around the backfield like a quarterback who cannot find an open player.

Current innovations as it pertains to inverter design and power switching technology holds the key to increasing power for both charging and discharging battery storage systems within high power density packaging. Many systems today are designed, customised, and manufactured with multiple DC and AC ports, providing greater options to build fully integrated hybrid systems that include EV charging, harnessing solar input, and possibly encompassing differing battery technologies that can accommodate various situations depending upon the need. Liquid cooling vs convection (air) cooling is also a major consideration when designing a system for multiple applications and environments. Either option can lead to significant design challenges that may require developing and implementing additional rugged testing.

Moving forward, there are a myriad of customers requesting more power, but not always necessarily needing that much energy on a 24/7 basis. This has prompted many businesses to develop multiple solutions in order to satisfy their perceived needs. Storing excess energy in lithium batteries, and discharging that energy to supply enough to sustain their particular electrical load, has become the holy grail for not only grid support, but also for micro grid and even some mobile applications. This is where proper battery selection and the appropriate kWh size play a delicate balancing game of the five C’s: Cost, Chemistry, Cycle life, Charging/discharging, and Celsius degrees of operation.

  • Beginning with Cost or more specifically the dollars per kWh, this has always been the most critical factor. However, with the current conditions in a more surplus and production position, costs are trending downwards, and selections are becoming more abundant.

  • Chemistry of the batteries, (the combined elements), has become more of an exploration of the periodic table to determine which combination of lithium, cobalt, magnesium, copper, iron, sodium, aluminium, graphite, titanium, and niobium can be utilised to provide the best for less.

  • Cycle Life, or the number of times the batteries can fully charge and discharge, is increasingly becoming a more considerate factor as differing battery chemistries continue vying for the top spot in the long-life department.

  • Charging and discharging (or C Rate) is basically how quickly can batteries charge and discharge vs time. Depending on the application, a slower C rate aids in maintaining a more controlled and steady state of charge. In essence, it keeps the batteries happy, and they will last longer. However, driving faster, supercharging them often, or using power heavy surging loads, etc. will shorten their life span or potentially even worse, create thermal runaway and perhaps ignite the battery.

  • Celsius degrees or Fahrenheit batteries perform best within a range of operating temperatures. The wider the range, the better with lower temperatures causing charging and discharging issues and higher temperatures causing a shorter life. This factor may add costs due to heating and cooling, as well as the various power draws.

While considering all of these factors in determining an energy storage solution, there is an important issue that might not have been considered; how will this hybrid technology fit into an enclosure, and how will it be moved around (because it needs to be mobile)?. Most businesses prefer the sleekest, most compact package possible; that, however, comes with a cost. Especially in construction, pump and power, mining, and oil and gas, the hybrid energy system must be built to withstand harsh road conditions, varying degrees of temperatures, and years of continued use and potential unintended abuse. So, an elegant, stealthy, lightweight enclosure would not last a week at a remote construction site or rural hospital. It might be presented well at a concert, movie set, or sporting event, but nowhere else. These are all criteria to understand as the life span of equipment is a large part of the return on investment.

To bring things back full circle from the beginning of the article, whatever it is, lower battery prices, more availability, and a diverse range of chemistries should lead to more exciting energy storage product solutions that will satisfy expectations, thereby creating new consumers and more responsible ESG companies. The fact that a product that extends the life of power generation equipment can now be designed lowers emissions and fuel consumption, and provides a battery system that will last longer than 25 years, keeping it out of the landfills or worrying about recycling. With the recent discovery of two new lithium deposits in Nevada and California, this will create less dependence on foreign resources, thereby making the future for US-based energy storage systems even brighter. That, however, is a topic for another article.

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