November 22, 2019: Gridtential, the US bipolar technology developer, announced mid-November that Hoppecke, the European battery manufacturer, was about to conduct an evaluation program for the company’s silicon joule technology.
There are five other undisclosed firms that are evaluating the technology before potentially acquiring licences.
“The purpose of the program is to allow customers to evaluate the technology before they commercialize the process and agree to be licensees,” says Ray Kubis, chairman of Gridtential.
Three firms, Crown Battery, East Penn and Leoch International, have already agreed to be licensees and are progressing with the technology.
Gridtential is in the middle of what it calls the ‘industrialization’ of its technology — effectively converting what can be done manually into automated processes to achieve the costs and process control such advanced batteries will need.
The first part, high speed precision pasting on to a carrier rather than a grid, has been accomplished using pasting tools developed by Wirtz Manufacturing.
The second component, assembly of the battery, is being looked into.
In October, the firm presented a manual assembly of the battery at Crown Battery to MAC Engineering, Sovema Group, TBS Engineering and Wirtz. The objective was to let main-stream equipment companies see first hand the components and sequencing needed in planning a high-speed assembly line.
“We expect some form of robotic pick-and-place solution will be developed,” says Kubis. “The assembly is like adding layers of salami, as you move from 2V cells up to 12V, 24V, 36V and 48V designs.
“We are hoping to see proposals from these firms for the mechanized assembly of batteries by early next year.”
The third component of the industrialization is the issue of sealing — traditionally a difficult problem for bipolar batteries.
“We’re progressing well at the sample stage,” says Kubis, “with laser welding seemingly the most likely case seal solution, though some licensees may use over-moulding or other suitable options.
“The cell wafer seal, with high-quality gaskets, has been well accepted.”
Kubis says he hopes to have some products in the field by 2020 and with licensed partners manufacture them by 2021.
Gridtential was founded in 2011 to develop its silicon joule bipolar technology, which replaces the lead grid and cell connecting lead-strap material inside a traditional lead battery with a silicon substrate that can be inserted without altering much of the existing production line.
The early processes of paste mixing and curing are unchanged, as is the more expensive charging and formation equipment.
Gridtential says its technology removes up to 40% of the lead required in a traditional battery and the associated weight by eliminating the lead grid and strap material.