Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Silicon Savvy

The flight from climate-damaging fossil fuels and the electrification of vehicles have manufacturers scrambling to design and produce efficient energy storage.   So far that has meant the lithium ion battery.  Unfortunately, many view the lithium ion battery in its typical configuration as inadequate to power electric vehicles for the mass market.  The primary obstacle is delivering adequate power at an affordable cost.
The recent post Better Battery described the efforts of one company to improve the lithium ion battery with more efficient and lower cost materials.  Sila Technologies touts its silicon-based anode as significantly more efficient than the graphite anodes currently in use.  BMW has agreed to put Sila’s silicon-based anodes in batteries planned for BMW’s 2023 electric vehicle models.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Better Battery

It seems like everything runs on a battery.  Cell phones, tablets, cameras, watches, even cars bring convenience to our lives and nearly all run on the ubiquitous lithium ion battery.  Critical to even the most basic human needs (a new mobile phone app was recently published to help with birth control and fertility management) these devices run out of ‘juice’ when it is least expected -  and potentially most disastrous.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get your electronic devices charged in just a few minutes and ready to work for days or even weeks? 
There has been progress on improving the power output and energy life of lithium ion batteries.  A good share of the work by scientists and product developers is on reducing faulty chemical reactions that erode capacity.  Others are exploring better materials to replace or complement the usual cathode, anode and electrolyte materials.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Battery Bonanza

The first lithium ion batteries were brought to the market over a quarter century ago in a camcorder made by Sony.  Since then the technology has gained widespread adoption for all sorts of electronic devices and most importantly for electric vehicles. In 2016, lithium ion batteries were sold with a total of 70 gigawatt-hours storage capacity, just over a third of which ended up in electric cars.  There are plans afoot to eclipse that production level.  The top lithium ion battery makers are reportedly posed to expand manufacturing capacity that together could triple production of lithium ion batteries within the next couple of years.
Popularity should not be confused for full satisfaction.   Battery manufacturers are under pressure to improve performance.  Higher capacity, shorter charge time, slower discharge, and longer life and just a few of the characteristics that electronics producers would like to get in the battery.

Friday, August 03, 2018

More Than Ethanol at Green Plains

Earlier this week ethanol producer Green Plains (GPRE:  Nasdaq) reported financial results for the quarter ending June 2018.   As expected the company reported a net loss, but actual results were far better than expected.  The news gave traders a reason to celebrate with bids that led to a gap higher at the opening on the first day of trading following the announcement.  Cooler heads came into the market as the day wore on and the stock closed below the open on heavy volume.  Nonetheless, the stock finished the week higher and appears prepared to challenge lines of volume-related price resistance in the trading sessions ahead.

There may have been more in the quarter report than just earnings news.  Management just disclosed the acquisition of a cattle-feeding operation.  Yes, that is right.  Green Plains has become a beef producer!