Category Archives: Energy

Artificial Intelligence Cannot Make Better Batteries Just yet, but Stanford Researchers Are Making Progress

Stanford University researchers have published a new study in Energy & Environmental Sciences that applies artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to accelerate the development of advanced batteries. Specifically, they looked to improve solid-state battery electrolytes, which are a very promising class of materials that could potentially improve the safety, performance, and cost of energy storage, affecting important applications like plug-in vehicles. While this initial Stanford study did not physically result in better batteries yet, it does present an early and important case study in how AI will impact how science will be done in the future, and how it can accelerate progress on open problems like next-generation battery development. Continue reading

Dramatic Shift in China’s Plug-In Market Makes 2016 Another Record Year

Lux recently updated its Automotive Battery Tracker (client registration required) product to include vehicle sales through 2016 and the data revealed impressive, albeit expected, results – another record-setting year for plug-in vehicles and Li-ion batteries. Passenger plug-in vehicle sales were up 40% globally in 2016 compared to 2015, as sales jumped from 523,000 to 711,000. More notable growth came from overall battery demand, which grew by 72% in 2016 compared to 2015, as demand reached 21.2 GWh globally. Most of this growth came from the strong growth of battery electric vehicles in China, which is now the world’s largest passenger plug-in vehicle market with 49% market share. Continue reading

Kurita Leverages Synergies Between Its New Chemicals and Smart Water Investments to Grow in North America

Water chemicals specialist Kurita marked the beginning of 2017 with two big deals to accelerate its business in North America.

  • Smart water company APANA (client registration required) announced last week that Kurita led its $3.5 million Series A round. With about 140 installations in North America, the majority of which are with wholesale giant Costco, APANA has found quite some traction since its inception in 2012. APANA offers its customers hardware, such as high resolution flow sensors and meters, as well as automatic meter reading (AMR) from third-party vendors, and bolts on its wireless gateway and telemetry equipment. Its innovation is in software algorithms, where it takes baseline water usage data for a large store or facility and optimizes operations to locate water leaks/bursts, identify waste signatures, and equipment malfunctions. APANA leverages both cellular communications and LoRa (Low Power Wide Area Networks) to collect and analyze data in real time. Customers using APANA see above 20% water savings and reduction in associated maintenance costs, with an expected payback within 24 months. While long payback periods can be a hurdle for adoption, the company has been delivering operational benefits to customers. Its recent traction has seen the technology implemented at large university campuses, car washes, cooling towers in industrial facilities, and wineries, to provide both energy and water savings annually.

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Fiat Chrysler Follows VW Into Dieselgate II, Potentially Handing Auto Industry Keys to Tech Giants’ Autonomous Car Programs

In an echo of the multibillion-dollar emissions-cheating “Dieselgate” scandal that has engulfed Volkswagen (VW) for more than a year and is now leading to possible years in jail for its engineers and executives, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accusing Fiat Chrysler (FCA) of using hidden software in its vehicles’ emissions systems in order to skirt environmental regulations. About 100,000 Jeep and Dodge vehicles are implicated, a small fraction of the 11 million VW vehicles involved in that company’s misdeeds. While much more information is sure to come – the extent of VW’s scandal stretched months past the initial announcement – it’s still clear that FCA’s situation has alarming parallels and key differences that Lux readers should be aware of. Continue reading

Quality Over Quantity: The Complex Case Behind Present and Future Li-Ion Battery Manufacturing

Driven by global EV adoption, Li-ion battery manufacturing is expected to expand significantly in the next three years. A Lux analysis of the larger Li-ion battery manufacturers’ capacity and expansion plans found that current Li-ion manufacturing capacity may triple by 2020, from 73 GWh to 238 GWh globally. Major growth is planned in China by BYD and notably CATL; however, it’s worth taking these projections with more than a grain of salt, as the markets of Li-ion batteries are changing significantly.

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The Five Start-Ups and Mid-Size Companies of 2016 Driving Evolution of Photovoltaics

The maturation and scale of the silicon photovoltaic industry have resulted in a decline in attention from corporate and venture funding for solar-related start-ups. Mercom Capital reports a tepid $1.7 billion in corporate funding, a year-on-year drop of 71%, and $174 million in venture funding – a quarter-on-quarter drop of 57%. The drying up of available funding has led to a fairly sparse landscape of solar start-ups with a handful of remaining companies developing innovative technologies in each area of the solar taxonomy. While the quantity of start-ups has decreased as low-cost crystalline silicon panels pour out of China, the potential impact of those that remain could still prove to be as dramatic a disruptor to the solar industry as solar is to the broader power industry. In this light, Lux Research has determined five solar start-ups we spoke with this year that have achieved the most progress: Continue reading

Fulcrum Puts All the Pieces Together in Preparation for 2018 and Beyond

Last week, BP announced its $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy. In addition to an equity stake in the company, BP secured an offtake agreement of 500 million gallons over 10 years, and Air BP will become a distributor and supplier of Fulcrum’s biojet fuel in North America. This is just one of numerous announcements from Fulcrum, as its momentum has remained strong and kept it in the headlines over the past 18 months (client registration required for both). Fulcrum has put in place all the strategic pieces along its entire value chain, securing a strong foundation as it competes with many of its peers vying for position in the biojet fuel market. Below, we visualize Fulcrum’s strategic partnerships as it prepares its 10 million gallons per year (MGY) Sierra Biofuels Facility planned for operation in 2018.

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Execution Is Key as ExxonMobil’s Academic R&D Partnerships Present Numerous Opportunities in Scaling Emerging Technologies Outside of Its Core Competencies

In an era of cheap oil and falling profits, the oil and gas industry must prepare itself for the future. The energy landscape is quickly evolving with the emergence of potentially disruptive technologies and regulatory pressure to reduce carbon emissions. One strategy the oil and gas industry has taken in developing novel technologies is through corporate venture capital (CVC). Earlier this year, we analyzed CVC portfolios in the oil and gas industry and found that ExxonMobil is absent with no public indications it will start in the foreseeable future. Continue reading

When Will Cars Powered by Internal Combustion Engines Become Illegal to Sell?

As interest in electric vehicles (EVs) continues to rise, stakeholders still frame these cars’ emergence in terms of consumer choice, taking into account factors like purchase price, driving range, infrastructure availability, and other near-term issues. Essentially, the debate has centered around whether EVs are compelling enough for car buyers to choose them over their internal combustion engine (ICE) competition. However, that narrowly-scoped, short-sighted debate is subtly changing, as two very long-term and disruptive trends begin to emerge. First is the possibility that governments will one day make the ICE illegal. Second, there is the likelihood that one day the ICE will be priced out of the market. Continue reading

Case Study: North American Consortium Aims to Prove How Distributed Energy Can Be Valuable for Utilities in Three New Demonstrations

Key Players

Opus One Solutions (client registration required), a developer of distribution system optimization software for utilities, recently announced that it will lead a demonstration to apply its software to microgrid and distributed energy resource (DER) integration in North America. The demonstration includes three separate projects for three utilities – Nova Scotia Power, Emera Maine, and Toronto Hydro – each of which will use Opus One’s core technology. Three other consortium partners will also support the projects: distributed storage project developer Advanced Microgrid Solutions (client registration required), distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) developer Smarter Grid Solutions (client registration required), and the Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University. Key players and their roles are shown in the figure below.

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