Energy Storage News

Lithium Ion Batteries in the Stationary Storage Market

Lithium ion batteries are the dominant energy storage technology for mobile consumer electronics. In addition recent years have seen a tremendous flurry of activity trying to develop large format lithium ion batteres for the EV and PHEV transportation market. Can lithium batteries also compete in the large scale stationary storage market? Here are four manufacturers who seem to think so.

Here are some details from the Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd announcement of its plans to begin producing large capacity lithium-ion battery systems.

Tokyo, November 13, 2009 – SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. (SANYO) is pleased to announce that it has developed two new large-capacity high-voltage lithium-ion battery systems, and will begin mass production of the new products in March 2010. SANYO will launch a lineup of two large lithium-ion battery system models. The Standard Battery System for Energy Storage (DCB-101) can be easily incorporated into existing systems as part of hybrid schemes using solar cells, to store electricity generated by wind power, or for electrical output stabilization. It can also be used as a back-up power source for servers or mobile phone base stations.

Based on 18650-size cylindrical lithium-ion batteries (18 mm in diameter x 65 mm in height), which are most often used for laptop computers, the new products enable several dozen to several hundred battery cells to be used in one system. Normally, the mere combination of single batteries can create problems for safety, reliability, and lifespan. However, SANYO has developed parallel and series battery control technologies for the basic components of the new products, based on years of experience with laptop battery packs. The company has also added more of its own technologies to ensure additional reliability and heat management. After identifying problem points through trial product evaluation and field testing, SANYO has further improved the battery packs, and they are now ready for mass production.

More compact and lightweight units can be realized compared to lead batteries (space-saving) Since the new technology has an energy density that is double or triple that of the lead batteries usually used as large-scale power sources, this results in a much smaller and lighter system (about half the volume and a third of the weight).

- Higher discharge efficiency than lead batteries
In principle the discharge efficiency is higher, which reduces energy loss and saves energy.

- Initial investment cost is low due to the use of existing technology, enabling rapid adoption
Since they are standard systems, there is no need for new development costs even for small-scale mass production or applications under development, and they can be adopted in a short period of time.

The Sanyo strategy of packaging large groups of smaller batteries into a large battery packs in interesting. Naively one would think that in the long run special format large batteries would have cost and performance advantages over large groupings of small batteries. However, this strategy keeps down development costs and allows Sanyo to piggyback on it consumer battery research and development process. It will be interesting to see how they fare compared to manfacturers of custom format batteries.

Enerdel is a large format lithium ion battery manufacturer who is focusing on producing batteries for PHEV and EV applications, but in the application section of their web site they also claim that they are developing batteries for large scale stationary storage applications:

Using the chemistries of our cell designs as building blocks, we are conceiving and developing energy storage with battery management systems to support and advance the next generation of power grids, called “smart grids” for their use of digital technology to route and regulate power. We are developing three basic systems, classified by range capability: the residential system would operate on a single structure; the community system would serve a neighborhood; and the metropolitan would perform on an urban scale.

We anticipate developing our interfaces to regulate power and maintain a crucial balance between supply and usage: they would mitigate the stress of mass usage during peak activity periods and compensate when power input dips while usage is still strong. These systems should also provide a short-term Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS) that would kick in when an outage occurs so that the consumer’s service remains uninterrupted while the problem is addressed.

Electrovaya is another lithium ion battery manfacturer who has been focusing on developing batteries for the transporation market but they have recently announced that they plan to manufacture batteries for the stationary storage market:

Nippon Kouatsu Electric Co. Ltd. (NKE) and Electrovaya have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the development and sales of Electrovaya’s integrated advanced battery storage systems for both stationary power and smart grid systems applications, initially targeted for the Japanese market.

The emerging stationary, smart-grid and electric vehicle (battery and plug-in hybrid) markets require large battery systems that are high performance and cost-effective. This is where Electrovaya’s proprietary battery technology advantages are most evident and are a natural technology market fit,” added Dr. DasGupta. “Our Lithium Ion SuperPolymer® battery technology is distinguished by two critical features: 1) superior energy density results in smaller and lighter battery systems, and 2) our large-format prismatic cell design enables large-system scale up. These two features together enable custom energy storage solutions that overcome the standard challenges of packaging, performance and volume cost,” continued Dr. DasGupta.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industires, Ltd. has developed medium and large format lithium ion batteries but have only made them available on a sample basis. They have recently announced plans to move toward large scale manufacturing of these batteries:

Tokyo, August 26, 2009 - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has decided to build a commercial production verification plant in Nagasaki Prefecture and launch its operation by autumn 2010 in a move toward the company's full-scale entry into the lithium-ion secondary battery market. The new plant, to be built within the company's Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, will have a production capacity of 66 MWh (megawatt hours) of batteries a year, which is equivalent to 400,000 medium-size cells. The batteries were developed in a 20-year-long joint research and development project with Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc.

To date MHI has supplied the batteries for sample use, but now it has opted to place them on the market. The company looks to promote lithium-ion secondary battery business through a companywide initiative and will begin by incorporating the batteries into its various products, such as forklift trucks and wind turbine power generation systems. In conjunction with this initiative, MHI will launch a new Joint Lithium Battery Operations Department effective October 1st.

MHI and Kyushu Electric Power launched joint research and development into large-size batteries for electric power storage in 1988, and successfully developed compact batteries capable of supplying substantial power over long periods. Those batteries are a medium-size cell with energy capacity of 165 Wh (watt-hours), mainly used in vehicles, and a large-size stationary-use battery cell with 350 Wh.

The commercial production verification plant, slated for construction startup this fall, will utilize technologies from MHI's diversified business areas, including technologies related to slurry preparation, coating, and mass-production management knowhow from turbocharger production. The plant will serve to verify and improve factors essential for commercial production, such as verification of operation rates, tact time, battery performance and cost target. MHI's lithium-ion secondary battery business plan calls for the construction of another full-scale commercial plant once all-out entry into the business is decided. The company will make its decision in 2011 taking the market situation, future prospects, and verification results into account.

Besides producing the new batteries, MHI aims, by leveraging its abundant system development know-how, to enhance their value by incorporating them into the company's final products and systems. Specifically, for vehicle applications MHI will mount the batteries on its newly developing hybrid forklift trucks. The company also plans to provide its lithium-ion secondary batteries to affiliated companies and to supply them to other companies for installation in their products as a power train. For stationary use, MHI will incorporate the batteries as electric power storage units enabling stabilization of electricity supply from renewable energy grid systems, such as wind power and photovoltaic power generation. It also will consider, together with Kyushu Electric Power, applications in the emergency power source systems of the electricity providers, as well as an environmental-friendly independent power source at work site and a power source for micro electricity grids on remote islands.

Valence is another company manfacturing large format lithium ion batteries who claims that stationary storage is one of their target markets:

Valence lithium iron magnesium phosphate energy storage solutions offer large format back-up and UPS solutions for commercial and utilities applications including:

Back-up / UPS applications including
  1. back-up servers and data centers
  2. remote base stations and generators
  3. telecoms
  4. switch gear
  • Auxiliary power units (APU)
  • Hybrid Gen Sets
  • Peak shaving
  • Renewable energy back-up (solar, off/onshore wind power and tidal)
  • Starter Units


  • Lead acid has been the only technology of choice up until now. With rising costs of lead, maintenance, safety concerns, size/weight issues and disposal issues, Valence lithium iron magnesium phosphate is poised as a strong candidate to replace the lead acid battery with a lighter, lower maintenance and higher performance solution.

    Features of Valence lithium iron magnesium phosphate energy storage solutions include:
    1. Excellent float characteristics and cycle life
    2. Safety
    3. Reduced size and weight vs lead acid
    4. Virtually zero maintenance
    5. Remote battery status monitoring & alarms
    6. No heavy metals (easier disposal at end of battery life)
    Valence is receiving inquiries from a range of multinational electric / power distribution companies that are looking improve functionality and develop better green credentials.

    Lead Acid batteries along with flywheels, compression, pump hydro etc. have been the only option up to this point. Lithium batteries are now been recognised as a very exciting next generation technology. Lithium iron magnesium phosphate within the Lithium family LiPO4 has emerged very strongly due to its inherit safety, enhanced float characteristics and cycling capabilities. There are many advantages of lithium iron magnesium phosphate over lead acid. Advantages of sealed lithium iron magnesium phosphate over

    I am not sure why a belief now exists that lithium batteries can compete in this market. They have always been much more expensive than lead acid batteries per unit of storage capacity, but their energy density advantage was felt to give them performance advantage in mobile markets. Of course it is life cycle cost that matter, so that if lithium ion batteries have a sufficiently long cycle life compared to deep cycle lead acid batteries then they might be able to compete on that basis. I believe that lithium ion batteries also have higher round trip storage efficiencty and lower maintenance costs. I have some conerns about how far lithium based energy storage can take human civilization due the the relatively low abundance of lithium (17,000 ppb in crustal rocks). However, at present the cost of lithium is a relatively small fraction of total battery costs so that at least in the intermediate term lithium might make a signifcant contribution to stationary storage. Of course if both stationary storage electric vehicle markets were to take off then the pressure on lithium reserves would rise faster than otherwise.

    November 21, 2009

    Energy Storage News

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