Currently, batteries are only one of many technologies to store large amounts of energy gathered from renewable sources, such as wind generators or utility-scale solar technologies. But, as many new materials and technologies are being pursued to create more efficient batteries, opportunities for plastics manufacturers are increasing.
The automotive and transportation industries are driving improvements to battery technologies as they address the worldwide transition towards electric vehicles. Technologies serving hybrids, EVs, and EV infrastructure are producing lightweight options with longer lifetimes and many other improvements.
Plastics are typically used in some EV batteries as separator films between electrodes, and are commonly used for custom designed molds, covers, cases, battery clips, housing, doors, connectors, or as parts of advanced battery cooling systems. Plastics also help integrate EV with charging and other infrastructure systems, such as smart meters and digital control panels.
As technologies are improving, costs are falling, and given the benefits of mass production, battery makers are beginning to give more attention to grid integration. There are several ways to locate developers or manufacturers who need to integrate plastics into new battery component, system, or infrastructure designs for products that can be powered by renewable energy or that may become part of the renewable energy grid.
Targeted Online Searches
Companies who have recently received funding to develop new designs or products can be found in several places:
- Department of Energy's Aarpa-e sponsors workshops and funds development projects for batteries and grid storage
- CleanTech venture capital investors such as Sequoia, battery.com or other funds
- Government research laboratory battery tech transfer programs, such as Sandia, NREL, or Argonne
Google searches will lead you to a wide assortment of manufacturers in various stages of development using keyword combinations such as: energy storage, renewable energy storage, oem battery technology, battery manufacturers, charging, charger systems, EV home chargers, or cleantech batteries.
Battery, EV and Grid Industry Groups
Trade associations for renewables, batteries, EV, or grid storage, such as the EDTA, the International Lithium Alliance, or the Battery Council, provide company directories of their members and can be found on the Energy Source Guides or in other trade association lists, and even on Wikipedia.
Findsolar.com from the solar energy industry ASES provides lists of solar installers who can recommend battery manufacturers that are compatible with the residential or commercial systems they install.
Universities and research labs allow you to connect with other interested parties at events that demonstrate their technologies, such as Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory's Energy Innovation Showcase, or MIT MPC's Materials Day.
Browse sponsors, advertisers, or attendees, network, and learn about market opportunities at these upcoming related conferences:
- Battery Power 2011 and its sponsors
- Greentech Media The Networked EV 2011: Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles
Customized News, Reports, and Meeting Online
You can also meet battery manufacturers, researchers, and designers in many other places online. Pose questions, meet, or follow discussions from them on many relevant LinkedIn groups, or read about them in:
- Blogs and forums such as the Evbatteryforum or Fisker Buzz
- Customized news feeds from sites featuring renewables and battery technologies such as Gigaom and SmartGridNews, or by following industry leading manufacturers directly
- Market research reports such as Pike Research or LUX (summary by Gigaom).
The opportunities for plastics processors to participate in the development and manufacturing of new battery technologies are great now and increasing almost daily. Look at your own company's skill set and determine if you too can participate in this fast-developing industry.
About the Author: Debbie Sniderman writes, owns, and consults with VI Ventures, an R&D and manufacturing consulting company for renewable energy products and technologies. She can be contacted at [email protected].