Rupert Holmes investigates a new type of Lithium-ion battery that really can have a longer life as the new Aceleron Essential offers servicing, repair and recycling
We are increasingly turning to lithium-ion phosphate batteries to power our boats’ systems. Yet despite their many advantages they can also be associated with a number of potential problems that are rarely discussed.
In particular, a single faulty cell can result in premature failure of the entire battery, even if the unit has completed only a small percentage of its rated number of charge/discharge cycles. Granted, this doesn’t appear to be a common problem, but it’s by no means unknown.
A second issue is that the components of conventional lithium-ion phosphate batteries are welded or glued together. Unlike traditional wet lead acid batteries, where recycling is easy and commonplace, this makes them next to impossible to recycle.
These factors led Carlton Cummings, a mechanical engineer with long experience in renewable energy, and Amrit Chandan, who has a PhD in fuel cell technology, to develop a fundamentally different way to produce batteries. Their aim was to create a serviceable product right down to the individual cells, the battery management system and even the elements of the outer case.
“We had to invent a new method to build batteries that doesn’t involve bonding the elements together,” Cummings tells me. “We started by considering the whole life-cycle of the battery.”
The core of the solution was to use mechanical fasteners to hold the cells and other components together in compression. “The individual cells are industry standard units – our expertise is in how you assemble those cells into a battery,” Cummings says.
The result is a range of batteries designed from the outset for a circular economy, with recyclability claimed to be 99%.
The vision is that repair or servicing will be undertaken by distributors. However, given the example of an expedition yacht venturing to remote locations, Cummings says they would be able to train a crewmember with engineering knowledge to diagnose problems and replace the necessary cells in the field.
On the downside, existing units of Aceleron’s Essential range are not waterproof, although some users have placed them in fully waterproof third party cases to overcome that problem. Aceleron is also working on a IP67 version.
Aceleron’s Essential batteries are also bulkier and more expensive than standard lithium-ion batteries.
Physical dimensions conform to the common Type 31 battery size and configuration that’s typically used for conventional 100-120Ah deep cycle batteries. They are available in 12V, 24V and 48V versions, with 100Ah, 50Ah and 25Ah capacities respectively. Distribution for the marine market in Europe is by Merlin.
Find out more at aceleronenergy.com
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