New Batteries, Battery Safety, Inspiration — Interview with ZapBatt CEO Charlie Welch, Part 2

ZapBatt CEO Charlie Welch recently discussed batteries, solving climate change, and battery recycling with me. He shared some of the problems that led to him starting ZapBatt, which specializes in more than just EV batteries. This is part 2 of our interview. If you haven’t read part 1, you can read it here.

In this part we talk about:

  • Overlooked technologies
  • Industries that ZapBatt wants to impact
  • Availability & sustainability

Overlooked Technologies

Charlie mentioned that there were many technologies overlooked in favor of the race for battery energy density. Lithium titanate (LTO) is one of these technologies. Wikipedia notes that these batteries are faster to charge than other lithium-ion batteries, but their disadvantage is having a much lower energy density.

Charlie noted that lithium-iron-phosphate batteries faced the same challenge initially, but today it’s being adopted much more heavily (such batteries are used in some Tesla models as well as various other electric vehicles, particularly some Chinese models).

“The two drivers of battery technology 10 to 15 years ago were really portable electronics like laptops and cellphones. They had the biggest budgets and were setting the requirements. And then early EVs. So, they adopted the main chemistries that we use today. Then all these other chemistries like lithium-titanate and lithium-iron-phosphate found niche markets, which are where I worked in the military.

“But now we’re seeing that those chemistries are much more ready for prime time than people give them credit for.”

Another challenge, Charlie said, is that companies trying to invent brand new chemistries such as solid-state are a lot further out than people realize. There’s an astronomically huge difference between a battery in a lab and a battery in the real world. And this is mostly why getting a technology that is brand new can take 10 years.

“We’ve seen that people want to adopt a better battery today, and I think, environmentally, should be adopting better batteries today. And that’s why we focused on that overlooked category. How do we build better hardware and software to get these different chemistries to be in somebody’s product today?”

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