How Enerpoly’s next generation of battery technology can let anyone get access to clean energy
CEO Eloisa de Castro shares insights on today’s challenges for energy storage — and how recharging something that’s been previously non-rechargeable can change everything.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
November 15, 2021
Enerpoly was founded on the research breakthrough of the company’s CTO and co-founder, Dr. Mylad Chamoun (pictured above holding an early prototype, Ed’s note), at Stockholm University. His work innovates on the rechargeability of a previously non-rechargeable battery chemistry: the Zinc-Manganese Dioxide alkaline battery.
— That’s the kind of battery that has dominated the single-use battery industry as a well-performing, cost-effective solution for more than half a century, de Castro explains. Our Zinc-Ion batteries enable the use of these safe, sustainable, and supply-chain stable zinc and manganese dioxide in applications such as stationary energy storage for microgrids or residences that use photovoltaics. Today, these applications are usually not economically feasible due to a combination of battery cost and long-term performance. By innovating with materials that are both affordable and can be sustainably scaled, we’re offering the next generation of battery technology and building a world where everyone has access to clean energy.
Can you explain the general challenges and difficulties when it comes to energy storage? And can you share a forecast on how it will work in the future and be crucial in the required societal transformation?
— Today’s society is being transformed by two trends that amplify the need for cost-effective energy storage. Renewable electricity is set to dominate the global power mix by 2035, and electrification is occurring in all sectors. Stored electricity is needed to balance power supply and demand to ensure this energy transition. Energy storage solves the intermittency problem of renewables to stabilize the electricity supply and drives electrification by managing the increased load on the grid. For example, energy storage can support the charging infrastructure needed for large-scale electric vehicle adoption. Battery storage paired with a charging station assists with peak shaving, thereby reducing demand charges and cutting charging station operations costs, says de Castro. She continues:
— Energy storage is also needed for prosumers — consumers that produce their own electricity. Sustainability-focused homeowners have been installing solar panels on their rooftops for decades, but the majority of the energy they produce is sold back to the utility and not used for their home’s energy needs. To solve this problem, many of these savvy homeowners have evaluated installing batteries to store the energy for when it’s needed, but in most cases, the batteries are far too expensive to justify the investment. The facts speak for themselves — only 7% of residential PV systems are coupled with battery storage in the overall European market.
— The entire battery industry is thus in a race today to achieve low battery costs at a high enough performance to make energy storage economically feasible. There are several issues making this endeavor difficult — there is little potential for disruptive cost reduction from battery production since it has already been scaled and optimized over the last decade, battery raw materials being used today are costly due to limited global reserves and surging demand, and battery performance improvements are limited by advances in electrochemistry.
How do you work differently than other energy storage solutions?
— Our Zinc-Ion is a breakthrough electrochemistry innovation that uses cost-effective, globally available materials to answer the need for affordable energy storage. With our groundbreaking Enerpoly Zinc-Ion batteries, we’ll drive a transition to the electric grid of the future — one powered by resilient and renewable energy, that has the flexibility and reliability to support the growth in electric vehicles and that offers empowered consumers the choice of supporting clean energy sources.
— One way to differentiate energy storage solutions is by the duration of their intended use. Enerpoly Zinc-Ion is intended for medium durations, such as addressing changes in load or tariff rates throughout the day. In our development, we focus on Cost of Storage Per Cycle, the main metric affecting cost-effectiveness of energy storage.
You’ve just secured new investment. What’s required for you before you enter a commercial stage?
— The path to commercializing our technology includes independent certification testing of our battery cells and demonstration of our batteries in various applications. Planned pilot projects include a residential energy storage system and a backup power application. After validating our batteries in the field, our Zinc-Ion batteries will be ready for the market. We have already installed a pilot manufacturing line in our industrial laboratory in Stockholm earlier this year. We expect to produce commercial prototypes on our machinery over the course of the coming year, says de Castro. She adds:
— We are always working towards creating the entire ecosystem for our zinc-ion batteries: from materials sourcing to energy system integration to recycling. One way we’re accomplishing this is by being part of the Zinc Battery Initiative, which comprises companies with the common goal of establishing zinc-based batteries for stationary energy storage applications. We also believe that sustainability starts with supporting the local economy — that’s why even at this early stage, we’re thoughtful in considering the materials we work with and their supply chain. Our choice of materials for Enerpoly Zinc-Ion are globally abundant, including in Sweden. Our aim is that everything in our technology can be sourced and manufactured locally.