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Author Topic: Batteries  (Read 10576 times)

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March 30, 2020 by Sponsored

Determining Value in Energy Storage

Comparing total cost of ownership against bare cost of batteries

Written by Brent Perry, CEO, Sterling PBES



In the 10 years since I started the first company dedicated to producing specialist lithium ion batteries for the marine industry, there has been a huge uptake from the market. In the very early days, I would tell people that their vessels would be able to run on battery power and they would look at me with disbelief; at that point in time, land based electric propulsion was rare and – in many cases – people’s experiences of it painted a picture of inconsistency and unreliability.

KOTUG Hybrid fleet – the world’s first hybrid workboats. Source: KOTUG.com

Fast forward and the electric ⚡ cars are here to stay. With few exceptions, western countries are committing to exclusively use electric or hybrid electric vehicles in the medium term. Lithium battery power taken hold in other industries in a similar way, especially commercial shipping. Commercial mariners the world over have fully embraced the use of the technology. They are cheaper and cleaner to run and, most importantly, they outperform conventional vessels with very short-term payback. 

Today, most vessels being built either use energy storage in some way or have the provision for it. They are being built to future proof their investment.

The Apples to Apples comparison

At the beginning of the age of megawatt scale lithium energy systems, it was determined that cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) was a good way to measure the value that lithium could be evaluated. In the years since, there have been many articles, white papers, and countless conference speeches about the goal of reducing the cost of lithium batteries to below $100 USD/kWh. This may be an arbitrary number largely driven by the stationary grid and automotive suppliers, but suppliers were trying to use this measure to identify when lithium would be cheap enough for these industries to be successful. 

The problem with using an arbitrary metric like cost/kWh is that it assumes that all lithium batteries are equal. In the commercial marine space, that assumption is simply not true. The concept of cost/kWh is further complicated by the engineering requirements of marine systems, driven by the flag authorities and classification societies.  Things like safety, reliability and risk a far greater real-world influence on the cost of building batteries for the marine industry and all of the associated systems involved. But, how do we create an “apples for apples” comparison that supports rational commercial decision making?

The Challenge:

Power systems on large vessels are highly complex and it is not easy.  At Sterling PBES, we have taken the decision to measure the cost of an installation and its payback by including all of the elements necessary to offer a complete installed system. Batteries (priced per kWh) are a part of this – but certainly not all of it.  For customers to make a sound decision and understand the overall financial impact, everything needs to be considered.

How do available batteries differ?

There are several versions of battery chemistry available to the battery manufacturers; the dominant chemistries are NMC, Titanate, and LPO or Iron phosphate.  Each of these chemistries have different energy densities (energy density is the amount of energy stored for the volume of the cell. Systems with lower energy density tend to be heavier as well as larger while higher energy density systems are usually lighter). Different battery systems have different lifecycle characteristics, age in different ways, and charge/discharge characteristics.  The marine industry has gravitated towards NMC as a dominant chemistry but even in one chemistry type there are variations in performance existing from one cell manufacturer to the other, principally focussed on whether the cell is a power cell (instant power) or an energy cell (a larger gas tank).  Even the form factor of the cells has a lot to do with the managed risk and performance of a battery. ... ...

Sterling PBES battery render featuring CellCool liquid cooling technology. Source: Form3 Designs – Form3.com

30-year batteries

Most commercial vessels built today have a lifespan of around 30 years, but the propulsion equipment onboard will require maintenance or rebuild several times. In fact, a vessel may require several rebuilds of machinery over its lifespan, yet most current battery technology only allows for full replacement.

On this hypothetical 30-year vessel, there will be anywhere from 3-6 battery replacements and subsequent electronic waste entering the recycling stream. Anything that can be done to reduce the environmental impact of the battery should be done.

This happens against the backdrop of increased regulation on the disposal of lithium ion batteries, especially in the EU, which will undoubtedly impact costs for the supplier and subsequently the end user. Sterling PBES’ proprietary CellSwap technology allows the battery to be rebuilt with new cells as required, usually on a 5-year cycle. This allows for a far more accurate prediction of lifespan and required system size as the battery doesn’t need to be oversized to compensate for variables like changes in route, duty, heat or even ownership and maintenance intervals. In fact, a battery that is designed for a 5-year lifespan with CellSwap may be only 30-50% the size of a battery designed for a 10-year life. If that hypothetical 10-year battery is air-cooled, then the size of an alternative liquid cooled system with CellSwap is even smaller. This, in turn, increases value again for the customer.

Full article:

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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