Bipolar technology firm Gridtential won the 2018 Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Innovation Award for its silicon joule technology at this year’s BCI convention in Tucson, Arizona on April 30. Pictured left to right are Collin Mui, John Barton, Ray Kubis, Dan Miksiewicz, Dan Moomaw and Tim Miksiewicz.
The technology replaces the lead grids used as current collectors in traditional lead-acid monoblocs with silicon wafers. The associated boost in performance and reduced need for lead means that silicon joule enabled batteries can compete with lithium in emerging 48V automotive and other applications, the company says.
Gridtential chairman Ray Kubis told BESB after the conference that the most important thing about winning the award was the recognition for the technology in the industry, which gave commercialization a real possibility.
“It’s clear that we have real chances to change the business and the industry can recognize that,” he said.
Gridtential is working with partners Crown Battery, East Penn Manufacturing and Leoch as licensees to the technology with a view to them producing it on their own manufacturing lines. Distribution company Power-Sonic is also a partner.
Apart from this insertion of the silicon wafers, the rest of the manufacturing process is unaffected meaning that this technology can be slotted into existing battery manufacturing lines.
“It’s in pilot production, it’s not yet for commercial consumption,” said Kubis, who admitted that progress had not been as swift as the company had initially hoped.
“With some of these new technologies it’s two steps forward and one back,” he said. “Last year we had some issues with temperatures and performance, and there’s no question this has taken longer than we would have liked, but we now have industry recognition that this is one of the most important developments in advanced lead batteries.”
Kubis said that where the technology would be particularly capable was the 48V range of hybrid vehicles.
“Realistically it will be hard to compete with EVs but this will come into its own with hybrids and low-speed vehicles,” he said.
For each of the four partners there would inevitably be different focuses, said Kubis.
“With East Penn it’s likely to be autos and mobility; with Leoch, more likely to be back-up applications in cloud computing; Crown is a mid-segment player, and Power-Sonic is a distributor, so it’s slightly different. But each of these major manufacturers can test distinct applications that require particular expertise.
“They bring what they know to the party, and the licensing model means that they can take the technology and deploy it to let them cement their position in the various market segments.
“We’re not going to build a battery factory — we can’t compete with these players. Some companies raise money and build factories and claim to be the be-all and end-all, but customers want to buy batteries from someone with a balance sheet that stands by their warranties. They can do the high-speed manufacturing, and we can provide the advice.”
Kubis said the supply chain had also evolved so costs were much lower, and by late 2019 the existing pilot production would have shifted to commercial production.
“Looking at the schedules you are going to see products on the market later in 2019. It might not be a high volume, and it is likely to be in the US and China first, but we are already moving out of the R&D stage towards commercialization,” he said.
Speaking at the Tucson conference after being handed the award, Gridtential CEO John Barton said: “It’s an honour to be recognized as a leader in innovation. The advancements we have seen in the industry, as demonstrated by fellow innovation award entrants, prove that the industry is growing and building its future in the midst of new technologies and developments.”
The other entries for the innovation awards, which were launched in memory of the late East Penn CEO Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz, were Daramic, for its coated separator technology; GMB Industrial Power, for its TENSOR batteries; Abertax, for its one-valve battery lid; HighWater Innovations, for its GoBattery; Terrapure, for its so-called LI Detector; UNISEG Products, for its battery transport and storage container; and UK PowerTech, for its improvement to the formation part of the manufacturing process.