Gelion launches zinc bromine gel battery to take on lithium mainstays

The company unveiled the first commercial application of its Gelion Endure battery storage platform – a battery-integrated portable, automated solar light tower – at the home of its conception, the University of Sydney, at a live demonstration on Wednesday night.

The technology was unveiled as part of a $1 million contract with the University – the company’s first such commercial deal – which starts with the installation of battery integrated solar light poles across the Sydney campus, followed by plans to add storage to the Uni’s rooftop solar systems.

And from there, the company’s plans get considerably loftier. With the help of a new $10 million fundraising round – also launched on Wednesday night – Gelion expects to be mass producing its zinc bromine gel battery technology for applications ranging from residential to grid, at a cost of below $100/kWh by the end of 2021.

“Our estimates are, that when we’re mass producing, that will be the price,” said Gelion CEO, Rob Fitzpatrick, referring to the production cost for the battery cell component, only.

“Lithium technology is significantly above that,” he added.

“We hope to generate 5MWh of testing production over next 18 months, over which time we will be proving in our semi-automated and automated manufacturing capability, and testing the use of the technology in buildings and on solar farms.

The company currently has an automated production facility it’s “working with” in Australia, and a semi-automated plant in India, about which Fitzpatrick says there will be “more to talk about” in coming weeks.

“We will be then scaling our manufacturing lines to fit our end-user markets, and producing at a commercial-scale of 100MWh and higher by the end of 2021.”

It’s a big call for what is currently a pretty small concern – the company, as noted above, was only fairly recently spun out of the University of Sydney, and notched up its first fund-raising in 2016with a $11 million investment by UK renewables group Armstrong Energy.

(Gelion is owned by Gelion UK, a joint venture between management and Armstrong Energy, who oversee the corporate governance and funding of the business, as well as assisting in long-term strategic planning.)

But Fitzpatrick says the time and place is right to ramp up, and Gelion’s proprietary technology has plenty to offer where other battery storage chemistries – including lithium-ion – fall short.

“Australia is a fantastic place to be doing this,” he told RE in an interview on Wednesday. “The biggest challenge with this sort of technology is being 10 years ahead of the curve. This market is not that. This market is ready to go.”

As Gelion’s founding chair and “technology inventor” Thomas Maschmeyer explains, the key selling point – aside from price – will be the capabilities and characteristics of the company’s patented gel chemistry; its “re-imagining the internals” of zinc bromine flow batteries.

Read full report here.

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