The internationally renown battery expert, despite being in the middle of the Israeli Power Source Conference organization, found time to have an interview with us. We spoke about the international battery market, new energy storage technologies as well as Germany and battery production. Of course, we also touched on new developments in the E-mobility and electric vehicle sector, Tesla's Giga factory and grid storage.
Developments in the global battery market with EV, Tesla and grid storage
Arnbjörn Eggerz (AE): You are in contact with thousands of battery and material suppliers. What global trends have you observed in the last 2-3 years? Are there new challenges/issues?
Shmuel De-Leon: The market is growing and we see some recovery – European and North America manufacturers face strong competition from Far-East Manufacturers.
AE: Globally, where do you see potential game changing new battery technology?
Shmuel De-Leon: Solid Electrolyte Lithium rechargeable cells, High voltage Li-Ion cells, Lithium ion cells with Silicon Nanostructure anodes and Lithium Sulfur are technologies that may bring about the change we are looking for.
AE: And what are the three hottest start-ups companies?
Shmuel De-Leon: Phinergy, Oxis Energy, Toyota on Solid Electrolyte Cells
AE: Before we come to Germany in particular, how is the overall battery EV market doing? What is the state of the companies?
The EV-market is still a pure niche market.
Shmuel De-Leon: Pure EV market is still a niche market – sales are growing but overall numbers are still not significant. The success of the pure EV luxury car segment (Tesla, BMW) surprises many and it seems that will continue to lead the market. The PHEV market is much more promising – we can see a much better market growth there.
AE: Talking about applications, is energy storage for the grid therefore more important than e-mobility for battery manufacturers?
Shmuel De-Leon: Grid storage and E-mobility progress are strongly correlated. The needs for electricity demand balancing between day and night will increase with E-Mobility penetration – Both segments are driving the battery industry.
AE: Do you see any new technology that could have a profile to combine EV and grid storage in a secondary life?
Shmuel De-Leon: Basically any EV battery can be used for Grid storage after ending life as an EV battery. Cost effective battery dis-assembly, screening and new battery assembly processes should be developed. Safety is also a subject of concern since used batteries are less safe than new ones.
AE: The German focus in battery technology is in particular on EV and grid storage – how do you assess the German market in terms of innovation and new developments here?
Shmuel De-Leon: Germany is the leading country in Europe in Battery development – [Germany has] excellent universities, a multitude of companies involved and government support are driving R&D.
AE: When it comes to automotive applications, battery suppliers and companies are now focusing on Li-ion, but with no real progress. Can you comment on that?
Shmuel De-Leon: Li-Ion is the technology of choice for E-Mobility – No other technology seems to lead in the near and mid-term. Progress is being made with Electro Chemistry, though in small steps as always.
AE: Since costs matter most for the EV battery and there are many numbers out, how far down are prices in this area now, globally? How much further can they go down?
Shmuel De-Leon: We can see an E-Mobility battery cost of $350-700 per kWh as reasonable for now. We can project seeing costs of ~$200- 400 per kWh in 2020.
AE: Batteries are however not the only deciding factor for Electric vehicles, since other mobility expectations [by customers] as well come into play. You mentioned above the disappointing EV sales that resulted into over-capacity. How do you evaluate the latest Tesla move to build a gigantic factory?
Shmuel De-Leon: Tesla Giga factory will allow battery cost reduction. That, in turn, will allow overall car cost reduction since the battery cost is a significant part. It seems to me that the Giga factory is the right way for cost reduction but not the only way needed.
AE: I agree. At least from a strategic industry analysis point of view the Tesla move makes sense, since it is heading in the right direction to bring costs down, what other producers have always planned but never attempted.
Therefor it is important to ask from a German standpoint: Would you recommend that German car manufacturers like BWM or VW do the same? Should they all become battery manufactures to some extent to have a better control of the value chain?
Shmuel De-Leon: Batteries are the bottle neck for E-Mobility. It makes sense that an Automotive OEM would like to have the cell/battery manufacturing under his own control if he wants cost reduction. That is the trend, globally. I expect German car maker to follow that trend.
AE: Germany is investing significantly in battery research. Gabriel (minister of economics) just voiced the desire to see battery production return to Germany. Since you know the global value chains, where would you recommend German companies and research position themselves to capitalize on the research investments?
Shmuel De-Leon: It seems to me that the key for battery production in Germany is the production cost in comparison to the Far East production cost. Germany is a strong country in industrialization and automation. That should bring some advantage and together with Government subsidies, it may work. It is important for local German electric car makers to have cells and battery manufacturing in Germany to save transportation costs.
AE: You will soon be back in Germany for a seminar. What can participants expect?
Shmuel De-Leon: We regularly review most worldwide event presentations – we are in touch with many cell makers and update our seminar materials almost every week. We will present the latest updated information. Prof. Aurbach also will update on most advanced battery materials.
AE: Thank you very much.
See also the interview of March 2015 about the German battery market and battery produktion
about Shmuel De-Leon:
Shmuel De-Leon is the Founder and CEO of Shmuel De-Leon Energy, Ltd. Shmuel is a leading international expert in the field of Power Sources.
Prior to founding the company, Shmuel held various positions as a power sources, engineering and quality control team manager for over 20 years. Shmuel holds a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from Tel-Aviv University and an M.Sc. in quality control and reliability engineering from the Technion Institute in Haifa as well as an Electronic Technician's diploma.
Shmuel De-Leon Energy Ltd. provides unique tools for the energy sources industry, such as the Energy Sources Database, Battery & Fuel Cells Seminar, Energy Sources Solutions, Industry News weekly newsletter, and consultations.
about Arnbjörn Eggerz/Interviewer:
Arnbjörn Eggerz has several years of startup/SME and institutional project consulting in Germany, Italy and Iceland (7+). He is owner of IceVenture in Munich, Germany. He started his career in banking holding the title "Bankkaufmann". Arnbjörn has a B.A. in Economics from the Free University of Bolzano. His focus today is on innovation, business development and technology transfer in e.g breakthrough technology in energy storage or SaaS form the commercial side. Competencies include SaaS, financial services and national/local innovation systems and innovation processes.