SECTIONS - The Hot List
February 02, 2017

IoT Batteries


Battery issues are the Achilles’ heel of the IoT. Whether you are trying to manage remote sensors with a small battery, or you want to harness the power of the sun and store the energy in the smart grid, battery solutions represent the driver for your network architecture and your cost models.

As usual with The Hot List, we have to talk about what is included and what is excluded. The theme of The IoT Battery Hot List is power storage, so power converters and uninterruptable power supplies are excluded. The result is that several brand names are not included in this specific discussion. Included are batteries using various chemicals, fuel cells, and power cells. This means that alternative energy is not specifically in this discussion, while traditional battery companies are included.

In some ways talking about The Hot List with batteries is a bad idea. We all know about the Samsung Galaxy 7, whose lithium Ion battery would catch on fire. While Samsung is the latest news, the problem with battery fires and general recycling was the catalyst for many start-ups and failures. Moving away from lithium was the vision for A123 Systems, which was a flagship for U.S. government and MIT technology. However, the advances and immediate buzz was short lived. The delays with battery research turning into products sales resulted in a lot of acquisitions. The result was that the company that was to be a flagship crashed and was rescued by a Wanxiang Group. Almost all the companies involved with battery research are now in privately-held funds.

A123 Systems is a leader in mixed materials Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) and Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC); it is not a market leader. However all the applications A123 Systems is focused on are IoT related. Warren Buffet, who already owns Duracell, put his battery investments into BYD, a Chinese company that focuses on the needs of the electronic vehicle market. The research has yielded more opportunities and expanded storage into alternative markets.

One of the largest markets for batteries these days is the emerging space of electronic vehicles.

Panasonic is Tesla’s partner in battery development, and the new factory being built in Reno, Nev., is innovating on product size if not chemical materials. According to a Fortune article, Tesla looked at how to bring the cost of batteries down and decided that conventional size (i.e., 18-650) of lithium-ion batteries was too small. “For example, if you make a lithium-ion battery bigger, it could store more energy and produce more power. However, longer and wider batteries could mean that the battery pack (which collects individual battery cells together) could be wider or heavier, which could constrain the design or range of the car. But the Tesla team seams satisfied with settling on the 21-70 formats for its lithium-ion batteries for its Model 3 cars. In fact, Tesla fancies the 21-70 formats so much that it could even consider one day using those batteries for its older car models. Musk said that after Tesla gets the Model 3 out the door it will revisit whether or not it wants to make new Model X cars with the 21-70 batteries.”

Supporting the charging of electronics cars makes the smart grid distributed solutions in smart cities critical. This means a change in the peak usage hours with the need to charge auto batteries and store energy. According to Tom Rebbeck of Analysis Mason, “More utilities will embrace energy transition fundamentals and adopt new operational and service models, supported by new technology. Advances in technology have fundamentally changed the economics of providing energy and are disrupting the historical model for distribution through development of the distribution service operator or on-demand utility model. Cities represent 78 percent of global energy demand at present, placing the smart-city concept at the heart of the climate change agenda.” This will translate into more energy storage by transmission sub stations and on-premises offerings by the utilities for large facilities. Rebbeck goes on to point out that “advances in technology have fundamentally changed the economics of providing energy and are disrupting the historical model for distribution through development of the distribution service operator or on-demand utility model.”

One company that recognizes its role in IoT is ABB, which acquired Power-One and has been integrating its battery solutions into the smart grid. ABB did a recent survey of utility companies, and it’s clear that battery storage within the grid is going to increase significantly. Doosan Fuel Cell was established in 2014 when Doosan Corp. made two strategic initiatives in the fuel cell market – acquiring the assets of ClearEdge Power, a fuel cell technology leader in the United States, and merging with Fuel Cell Power, a residential fuel cell leader in Korea.

Off-the-grid environments like remote monitoring solutions for oil and gas equally want to reduce the cost of transmission. Enabling remote devices to stay connected without truckrolls and hands-on maintenance is an essential element to widespread adoption of IoT. The result is that low power wide range and alternatives solutions like Sigfox, and RPMA from Ingenu are being deployed. This represents the second new market and is one of the reasons new categories of antenna have been created for LTE deployments as well.

Markku Rouvala from New Nordic Engineering shared that battery- powered ultra-low power electronics processes have created a new class of electronics devices. In this new world, tiny processors with smart electronics are drivers instead of maximum processing power. “While low power sensor radio technologies are enabling sensor nodes to be connected within tens or hundreds of meters to each other, ultra-low power sensor technologies are enabling these nodes to run for years, even tens of years on the primary battery, i.e. without charging.”

Protocol selection sensor node battery life depends on the radio transmission distance. At the moment, IoT radio protocol standardization is experiencing such hype, that it is almost impossible to predict the winner of it all, and it is necessary in many cases to support multiple protocols.

For very small power requiring sensors, like 1uA or below, 100nA in the idle, even small batteries, the size of CR2032 can power the sensor device for a very long time, like five to 10 years, or more. When more than 10 years of lifetime is be required, the battery chemistry itself becomes more important, and special chemistries are needed to make the shelf life long enough.

What is clear is that battery strategies are driving IoT solutions out into field and on the road.

Here is The Hot List
A123 Systems LLC develops and manufactures advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and energy storage systems that deliver high power, maximize usable energy, and provide long life, all with excellent safety performance. A123 Systems is a TS-16949 and ISO9001 certified supplier of advanced lithium ion cells and systems designed to help customers quickly and cost effectively take engineering breakthroughs from conception to commercialization.

ABB is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility, industry, and transport and infrastructure customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in roughly 100 countries and employs about 135,000 people.

BYD is the global leader and innovator in battery technology and one of the top three largest battery manufacturers in the world. It develops large-scale, grid-connected, energy storage systems, distributed energy storage systems, and micro-grid storage systems for commercial and home customers around the world. BYD’s unique battery chemistry makes it the safest choice for energy storage available on the market today. The BYD Iron-Phosphate battery passes every international standard for battery safety testing available – an accomplishment it says is unmatched in the industry.

C&D Technologies Inc. produces and markets systems for the power conversion and storage of electrical power, including industrial batteries and electronics. This specialized focus has established the company as a leading and valued supplier of products in reserve power systems and electronic power supplies.

Cummins Power Generation Business is a global provider of power generation systems, components, and services in standby power, distributed power generation, as well as auxiliary power in mobile applications to meet the needs of a diversified customer base. Cummins Power Generation also provides a full range of services and solutions, including long-term operation and maintenance contracts and turnkey and temporary power solutions.

Doosan manufactures and markets high-performance fuel cell solutions that provide combined cooling, heat, and power. In the United States it provides cost competitive, clean, reliable energy solutions for customers that need secure uninterrupted power, even during blackouts, for their commercial buildings, industrial plants, data centers, hospitals, and universities. In Korea it produces compact fuel cells for residential use, while strengthening its position in the large power generation sector, in line with government policy on renewable energy provisions.

Started in the 1920s, the Duracell brand and company was recently acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and has grown to be the leader in the single-use battery market in North America. The iconic Duracell brand is known the world over. Its products serve as the heart of devices that keep people connected, protect their families, entertain them, and simplify their increasingly mobile lifestyles. It also offers recharging technology. Berkshire Hathaway is a $210 billion holding company owning subsidiaries that engage in diverse business activities.

EaglePicher Technologies is an industry leader in integrated power solutions. Demands on technology call for batteries and devices that are both smaller and lighter, yet deliver more energy while increasing safety. EaglePicher meets these needs.

EnerDel designs, builds, and manufactures lithium-ion energy storage solutions and battery systems with a focus on heavy duty transportation, on- and off-grid electrical, mass transit and task-oriented applications. EnerDel’s product suite delivers energy-dense solutions for both high-power and high-energy applications, including one of the highest energy-dense cells in the industry. The company says it uses superior materials for added safety and better performance.

EnerSys is the global leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications. It manufactures and distributes reserve power and motive power batteries, battery chargers, power equipment, battery accessories, and outdoor equipment enclosure solutions that are used worldwide. It also manufactures and sells related direct current power products including chargers, electronic power equipment, and a wide variety of battery accessories.

Energizer offers a full range of long-lasting miniature batteries for use in watches, cameras, glucose monitors, pedometers, remote control or other small devices.

Exide Technologies is a global provider of stored electrical energy solutions – batteries and associated equipment and services for transportation and industrial markets. The Exide Transportation business manufactures and markets starting, deep-cycle, and micro-hybrid batteries for automotive, light and heavy-duty truck, agricultural, marine, military, powersport, and other specialty applications.

The power of Panasonic Industrial Devices brings strategic innovations to customers’ product development processes. Many products sold by Fortune 500 companies are by Panasonic technology.

Valence Technology Inc. is a privately held corporation organized under the laws of the State of Delaware in the U.S. Founded in 1989, Valence Technology developed the industry’s first commercially available, safe, large-format family of lithium iron magnesium phosphate rechargeable batteries.




Edited by Ken Briodagh


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