Category Archives: Energy

Innovating Under the Trump Administration: Early Winners and Losers

All eyes have been on the U.S. since Donald Trump won the election last November. So far, outcomes have been mixed: on one hand, the Dow Jones Index has witnessed a historical surge since his election win, rising from just below 18,000 to above 21,000. The U.S. Dollar Index has seen similar benefits, strengthening from just below 97 to nearly 102 in early April. While these factors play along with Trump’s campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again,” not all policy changes were welcomed and many have seen substantial criticism. Continue reading

Forecasting Next-Gen Li-ion Application Fit in Electric Aviation: Finding Space in Aerospace for New Battery Chemistries

The fossil fuels that enabled the jet age due to their considerable energy density may soon be yielding to electric aircraft for the same reason. Thanks to the increasing energy density of new battery chemistries, electric aerospace has received considerable attention as the future of flight. Today, most consumer and commercial drones are electric for weight and simplicity (see the report “UAV Landscape and Market Size: The Impact of Technology and Regulation on Commercial Applications” [client registration required]), and startups like Zee Aero and upstarts like Uber and Airbus’ corporate incubator A^3 have all announced they would be pursuing electric aircraft for transportation. Electric aircraft seem like a perfect fit for new energy-dense battery technology, with the aerospace industry being less sensitive to cost and cycle life considerations than the automotive sector, where these factors are key inputs to vehicle cost. However, a closer look at cell-level requirements for different aerospace platforms shows that it may not be plane sailing after all. Continue reading

Toyota’s Misguided Chase After the Mirage of a Solar Vehicle: Panasonic’s HIT Cells Don’t Get the Car Too Far

The idea of a solar-powered car has drawn another attempt from an optimistic manufacturer. Toyota has announced an optional 180 W Panasonic HIT (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer) module for the roof of its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the 2017 Prius Prime. This comes as Toyota’s second attempt; the 2010 Prius infamously could not connect its rooftop panels to the drive battery without strangely broadcasting radio signals, so the 50W panel only powered a fan to cool the interior. With more than triple the original wattage and new optimism from Toyota, the new module is intended to charge the drive battery and power unspecified car accessories. Toyota estimates that the module will add about 3.7 miles daily to the PHEV’s current range (25 miles electric, 615 miles gasoline). Continue reading

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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