Which new energy storage technologies might outcompete lithium-ion in the 2020’s?



Lithium is king of batteries, today. Plain and simple.

That’s, for today …

Wood Mackenzie reports that batteries made up 99 percent of [compound ] battery deployments at Q4 2018. 

Technology dominance is a understatement.

But nobody is ideal.

Hence, lithium batteries — with its six major chemistry variants — have problems with the following weaknesses.

Security — Overheating and exploding (“Uh, honeymy hoverboard is on fire. ”-RRB-
Duration — Maximum discharge length of four hours
Performance over time — 10-year life span, also round trip efficiency declines Costs — High energy density comes at a cost too high for mainstream use
Material accessibility — Uncertainty about lithium and cobalt (“Slavery in the distribution chain? No thank you. ”-RRB-

In reaction to these Achilles Heels’, entrepreneurs, angel investors, billionaires, venture capitalists, chemists, physicists, and even a former theology student (“God, help us? ”-RRB- are hard at work producing non-lithium battery solutions.

Three main Kinds of technology that are non-lithium are showing the most promise:

Thermal storage — that is, water heating (heaters) or heating (frequently into ice)
Flow batteries — typically between vanadium, but occasionally zinc or iron chemistries
Long term batteries — off-the-wall thoughts like molten salts or underground fluid compression

Can we actually need anything?

On one hand, the answer is no. 

Lithium-ion’s energy density and safety continue to increase, while its costs continue to decrease, roughly 85% because 2010. As the car market develops, it brings more lithium-ion manufacturing online to further lower costs and enhance performance. Regrettably, we’ve got no idea where the EV marketplace will property: Bloomberg sees EVs as 55 percent of new car sales globally in 2040, whereas OPEC and oil majors think the number is approximately 10%.

On the other hand, lithium won’t reduce it. 

With analysts projecting that solar and wind plants are more likely to get 73 percent of new power capacity investment internationally between now and 2050, we need to span days, weeks, or months together with stored power, not just minutes and minutes.

Case in point: From 2017 to 2018, Wood Mackenzie demonstrates that energy storage in the US grew by 44% concerning MW but 77 percent concerning MWh. The sector is demanding release durations. 

As their analyst Mitalee Gupta puts it“Four decades back, we weren’t talking about 4-hour duration. ” But today we’re speaking about 4 hours of release duration.

The marketplace for energy storage is changing rapidly. Forget about it, if you thought you understood it six or even twelve months before. It’s time to Combine with the most recent Lazard accounts on the Levelized Cost of Energy Storage, today on version 4.0, with new developments released each Fall.

For example, at 2017, they noted that lithium ’s 5-year price reduction could be 36 percent while circulation battery costs would drop 19% and 28 percent for vanadium and zinc bromide chemistries, respectively. 

However, the report shows the reverse: flow battery costs are projected to drop 38% and 45 percent, while costs may fall 28 percent.

To a degree that is to be anticipated: The speed of price decreases can’t continue to drop in exactly the same rate for a technology reaches maturity. 

By comparison, we are still in the first days of circulation battery creation and installation, and the corresponding price decreases that may come.

With Bloomberg projecting $620B spent in energy storage between this past year and 2040, there’s plenty of time and room for non-lithium technology to grab market share and develop into serious companies solving energy issues at scale. 

So which firms might lead that charge? Let’s have a peek …

List of tech leaders that are non-lithium

(as measured by funding increased, deployments, or grade of the group )

Flow batteries

Advantages over lithium:

(according to manufacturer claims)

Discharge interval = 4 to 12 hours
No safety issues 
Potentially 20+ year lifetime vs. 10 years to get lithium
No lack of performance with Time

Vionx Energy

Vanadium flow battery
193M raised
Partnerships with Siemens, Jabil, 3M, and UTC
Insurance innovation with New Energy Risk and XL Caitlin to back up energy, power, and round trip efficacy with Time

Primus Power

Bromide stream battery
92M+ increased

Lockheed Martin

“Proprietary battery chemistry comprising metal ligand coordination substances ”
Part of a $100B+ publicly traded aerospace and defense contractor

UniEnergy Technologies

Vanadium flow battery
40M+ increased to date

Thermal energy storage

Advantages over lithium:

(according to manufacturer claims)

Decades of installation Safer
Longer lifecycle

AO Smith

Smart water heaters as energy storage
Public company with a 6B+ market cap


Smart water heaters as energy storage
Private firm with 7,000+ employees


Retrofit way to create “stupid” water heaters “smart”
$4M+ increased

Ice Energy

Conversion of water into ice throughout peak for air-conditioning $130M+ increased, such as $40M from private equity investor Argo Infrastructure Partners, together with $2B in resources and [assumed 


Optimized storage for food distribution series $16M+ increased

Axiom Energy

Manages onsite renewable tools to decrease peak demand prices $10M increased, for example strategic investors Evergy Ventures (formerly GXP) and Shell Ventures

Long duration storage

Advantages over lithium:

(according to manufacturer claims)

Longer release duration = days to months
No safety issues 
Potentially 20+ year lifetime averaging 10 years to get lithium


Storing energy in sexy molten salts or chilly antifreeze fluids 26M increased

Form Energy

Electrochemical, aqueous sulfur-based
$9M raised 
“10-year play”
Industry leaders in Tesla, Aquion, MIT, along with A123

Quidnet Energy

Converting “employed oil & gas wells into subsurface pumped hydro storage”
$8M+ increased

Miscellaneous category

Energy Vault

Programs “intelligent cranes” to maneuver 35-ton blocks down and up Fast Company “World Changing Idea” 2019
4 MW / 35 MWh capacity units
Strategic investors include CEMEX Ventures

EOS Energy Storage

Zinc hybrid cathode technologies 4-hour release period $64M+ increased, plus Holtec International (equipment supplier) 

Highview Power

Cryogenic liquid air energy storage 
24M+ raised 
Deployed 5 MW / / 15 MWh+ in UK


Compressed air storage underground
25M+ raised 
Beginning a large deployment at Australia

Nant Energy

Zinc-air batteries
220M+ increased, plus acquired by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong 
55+ MW installed on and offgrid

Thanks to Pitchbook and GTM Squared for info about the companies above.

In the event that you’re perplexed with any of the specialized terms within this discussion of next generation batteries, don’t worry. You’re . I’m with you.

But actually, who cares? Investors and job programmers don’t even need to be chemists or physicists. 

Instead, for storage technology to be set up, we simply need to understand that it does what it states it will, over a definite period of time, at the right price. 

And who knows, maybe insurance, not technology innovation, is going to be the alternative that substitutes “credit risk for tech risk” also makes non-lithum bankable. Contemplate headlines about Vionx Energy and ESS Energy Storage along those lines.

In the Event That You ’d like to learn more about who’s investing in energy storage and , here are some other related posts:

Who’s investing in energy storage companies?
Private equity investment in storage anticipated to increase as ECP buys Convergent
To be bearish or bullish: Big oil & gas investing billions in new energies
Energy storage: 5 failures, 10 lessons learned


Lead image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay 

The article Which new energy storage technology might outcompete lithium-ion in the 2020’s? Appeared on Renewable Energy World.

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