Zap! This new battery might soon power the world

Officials at a startup based in Carlsbad, California, expect a battery technology they have engineered will transform the way e-bikes and electric-powered hand-held tools are charged. And once it’s scaled up, they believe the technology will reshape even more sectors of the economy.

“We unleash batteries here,” said ZapBatt president Daniel Glenn. ZapBatt engineers have designed a battery operating system that acts as a universal adapter for devices that run on electricity.

At his lab bench, company cofounder and chief technical officer David Felzer takes a 12-volt battery and, through a process using ZapBatt’s software and hardware technology, increases the effective voltage level to 25 volts – enough to power a cordless vacuum cleaner – within seconds.

“Traditionally, you can’t just plug in a 12-volt or 18-volt battery to the vacuum; it just won’t work,” Felzer said. “But we’re manipulating the voltage so that it gets whatever it needs.”

ZapBatt’s technology uses trademarked SCiB Toshiba lithium titanium oxide battery cells.

And ZapBatt officials say their battery operating system opens the door for different battery chemistries to easily integrate into all kinds of consumer products – from electric power tools and appliances, to e-bikes, to industrial robotics.

“This is really the starting gun for us,” said Glenn.

Already in partnership with Toshiba, ZapBatt and the Japanese electronics giant recently announced an expansion of their collaboration efforts.

“Breaking through technological and cost barriers to enter markets previously out of reach, our technology can now be applied across a wider spectrum of markets,” Toshiba vice president and general manager Greg Mack said in a statement.

One of the selling points of Toshiba’s SCiB technology is its safety. Most electronic devices use lithium-ion battery chemistries, which have resulted in instances of fires breaking out. While relatively rare, excessive heat or circuit malfunction inside a battery can lead to a chemical chain reaction that spreads in what’s called “thermal runaway.”

But Glenn said LTO batteries that ZapBatt concentrates on have zero documented cases of thermal runaway. “This is a major, major point of advantage.”

In addition, LTO batteries boast of operating at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

ZapBatt’s battery operating system also touts achieving 80 percent charge in less than six minutes, and extending battery lifespan to more than 20,000 cycles, even with fast charging and discharging.

“With LTO, instead of 1,000 or 1,500 cycles, you’re getting 20,000 cycles off of these (batteries) with almost no degradation,” Glenn said.

That would have major implications in a variety of settings, including warehouses and distribution centers that increasingly rely on robots and automated systems to move equipment and transport materials.

Felzer envisions the advancements in battery technology growing from e-bikes, appliances and manufacturing to electric cars, autonomous vehicles and even airplanes powered by electricity.

“What’s unlocked is a very interesting business model,” he said. “Because now you can scale across (battery) chemistries, you can scale across producers and manufacturers – into all the markets you can conceive of in terms of rechargeable batteries.”

A study by the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimated the global battery market will grow 30 percent annually, as governments try to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and transition to electrification.

ZapBatt was founded in 2019 by Felzer and chief executive officer Charles Welch, whom Felzer credits with coming up with the company’s name.

“It sort of makes sense,” Felzer said, because of the emphasis on batteries that charge quickly. “It’s like zap – just plug it in and, poof, it’s fully charged.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune (TNS)

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