Kubis made Gridtential chairman as battery start-up nears production


Lead battery veteran Ray Kubis has been made chairman of start-up firm Gridtential, the bipolar lead battery company. Kubis joined the Gridtential board in October last year after stepping down at ECOBAT Technologies where he was president and managing director.

The news that Kubis has been appointed chairman will be officially announced tomorrow (October 13).

California, USA-based Gridtential has developed a lead acid battery in which the metal grid is replaced with a silicon substrate. The product is called a Silicon Joule battery.

Two US companies will assemble the batteries on semi-automatic manufacturing lines for the first time by the end of this year. Kubis would not reveal the names of the companies. Market rumours suggest East Penn is one of the two.

Previously the batteries have been assembled by hand.

Perhaps most interesting for lead acid battery manufacturers is the fact that making the new batteries requires only minor modifications to the existing production line — the early processes of paste mixing and curing are unchanged, as is the high-investment charging or formation equipment.

The process changes for battery makers occur in the substrate manufacturing and plate assembly, which makes the product a potentially manageable transition for a range of battery makers.

“We think we can deliver a 48V battery the size of a loaf of bread for a third of the cost of a lithium battery by taking advantage of lead’s potential,” he said.

“Automotive is an emerging market, it’s not an immediate one, and the two applications that can take advantage at the moment are UPS and telecoms, and mobility and traction.

“They will be put into validation use, certainly testing in the market, and sample applications will be tested early next year.”

The silicon substrate is a spin-off from the mature production of silicon cells for the solar industry, yielding cost and quality advantages.

The firm says the battery has more than two times the available energy for the same weight, double the cycle life at 80% depth of discharge and twice the discharge speed but with the same efficiency.

Kubis, a much liked and respected veteran of the battery industry, cut his teeth in the business in the early 1980s with General Battery Corp, which was eventually to become part of Exide Technologies. From 1987 to 1991 he worked his way up to senior vice president at Exide.

From 1991 to 1995 he held various senior positions at Johnson Controls. In 2002 he joined EnerSys Europe, where he became an internationally respected authority on the European energy market.  As president of EnerSys Europe he presided over a period of extraordinary growth in the company — doubling the profitability of its European, Russian, Middle East and African operations.

Kubis became president and managing director or ECOBAT in June 2013 before switching — in a surprise move to large chunks of the industry — to Gridtential.

“When I was approached by Gridtential I was intrigued by the firm,” Kubis told Batteries International in an interview at the time.

“Throughout my career I’ve always been interested in new products and positioning of products, and though many of these start-ups don’t stand the test of time, some do. And Gridtential looked as if it had both a great product, a good operations process strategy, as well as great people to work with.

“Bipolar batteries have always struck me as where the greatest potential for lead acid can be found, but also the most difficult to execute — and Gridtential have come up with a product that has overcome these difficulties.”