Power companies and utilities the world over are beginning to get new options for low cost batteries used for the power grid. This week New Jersey-based startup Eos Energy Storage announced that it will soon ramp up manufacturing of its inexpensive zinc-air batteries in conjunction with manufacturing company Incodema Group.
Eos Energy has been planning to start delivering its first batteries to market in 2014, and its first pilot project will be with utility Con Edison in New York. The batteries are meant to be used on for the power grid to help customers add in solar and wind energy and produce other services like frequency regulation.
Scientists have been working on using air as the cathode for batteries for half a century. A battery is made up of an anode on one side and a cathode on the other, with an electrolyte in between. Air, of course, is abundant, lightweight, and doesn’t require a heavy casing to contain it inside a battery cell. Also theoretically air can achieve a high energy density, or the amount of energy that it can store.
Eos Energy’s zinc-air battery innovation comes from founder and inventor Steven Amendola, who discovered a breakthrough with his original design of the bi-directional air cathode that could last for 10,000 cycles (or around three decades). The company told me that its initial battery could cost $160 per kWh, lasts 30 years and be made up of everyday benign materials.
Other startups like Ambri, which sells a competitive battery, have recently kicked off manufacturing, too. Ambri is backed by Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla and oil company Total, among others. Eos Energy is backed by NRG Energy and others.