July 07, 2016

When we started selling our Pulse battery in 2010, we met occasionally fierce opposition from just about every corner of the motorcycle industry. According to the naysayers, lithium had too many technical issues, it was too expensive, it was too dangerous, and there was no need for it.

Well, we figured that everyone was just behind the curve on lithium. Now, six years later, it should be obvious that we were right, and all of the naysayers were wrong.

This shouldnt be at all surprising; in the early-1990's, the CEO of AT&T told shareholders on a quarterly earnings call that AT&T would not be getting involved in the mobile market in any significant was for the foreseeable future. He pointed out the tiny user base of mobile, and lack of infrastructure, and the technical issues. How many people still use a land line, or pay for long distance calls?

So, how is it that we are still using the same lithium chemistry that we were using in 2010? Well, the truth is that there is no genuine alternative currently available, nor is there one on the near term commercial horizon. There are certainly plenty of stories in the media about "battery breakthroughs" and "next gen tech", but they are- at this point- complete vapor.

At least once a week, I get asked, "what do you think about ________ batteries? How are they going to affect your business?" The short answer is that as soon as someone comes up with a significant improvement in cell technology, we plan to test it, and if it works, incorporate it into our products. This is the beauty of being an integrator- rather than a cell manufacturer- we can change things without worry about losing $400m in chemistry development and so forth.

The longer answer is more a demonstration of "Next gen battery tech" BS than anything. Since we dont see any of the really large, well capitalized companies using any of these new batteries, do they exist? If Tesla or Apple, or Samsung thought that the newest/latest/greatest was going to be available shortly...why would they all be heavily investing in lithium? They wouldnt be, obviously. Lithium is going to be the dominant portable battery technology for at least the next decade or two, in our opinion.

This opinion is not at all self serving; again, we have no investment in cell manufacturing, so as soon as there is a replacement for lithium that works better/costs less, we are on it. Rather, we have seen years of articles about these breakthroughs that just never happen.

Today, I saw this:  http://www.hybridcars.com/next-gen-batteries-approaching-commercial-scale-to-compete-with-lithium-ion/

Last week it was this: http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/130380-future-batteries-coming-soon-charge-in-seconds-last-months-and-power-over-the-air

Of course if you actually read the articles, and do a search on the companies, you quickly find that this is all snake oil. The graphene battery in the second link is especially dubious.

Unfortunately, these press releases-masquerading as news articles- are doing a real disservice to the battery industry, and the investment community. Go back through Google News by week, and search "battery" and you will find that these same articles have been appearing for years...and yet I cant get my phone to last more than a day without a recharge. Go figure.

So, in summary- there are no "next gen battery" type products on the near term (decade) on the commercial horizon. I am hopeful that this will change, and I am proven wrong. If I am wrong, and I can reduce the cost of our products, while increasing performance...I will welcome this with open arms- and checkbook. Until that happens, lithium is king.


Update 07/20/17:

Since I never managed to spend the time for a "part 2" for this topic, I am going to add links to articles purporting to show WOWOMG?!?!? "breakthrough battery changes world" type of things. 

Today's update courtesy of INC magazine


Hint- it really isnt the tipping point, but is rather a call for investors to help fund additional research that could, some day possibly, lead to a commercial product.

Update 07/25/17:

Graphene, Nano, and other "super battery breakthrough OMG!!!" stuff in the news again today. As Ive pointed out, none of these technologies are commercially viable just yet, and Fisker Automotive seems to agree with me (and Elon Musk). They have decided to ditch their partnership with one of these not-ready-for-prime-time suppliers, for LG Chem...Lithium.

Again, Im going to be thrilled when one of these new battery technologies becomes a commercial reality, but that isnt going to happen any time soon.