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Swedish Firm Nilar Receives EUR 47 Million Loan to Demonstrate Viability of NiMH Batteries

published: 2020-10-28 18:30

Sweden-based battery developer Nilar International AB has received a loan of EUR 47 million (USD 55.45 million) from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to expand its production capacity and boost its R&D capability. The signing of the loan agreement took place on October 5.

The European Commission has established a funding program known as Horizon 2020 to foster technological collaborations between the public and private sectors in many fields such as renewable energy. The loan that EIB is providing to Nilar comes from the budget of Horizon 2020 and is the result of InnovFin, which is a joint initiative of EIB and the European Commission to support technology firms in the region. Nilar’s efforts to commercialize its advanced battery technology are designated as an InnovFin Energy Demonstration Project.

Nilar’s offerings are nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries with an improved bipolar design. NiMH batteries on the whole have several advantages. They have an energy density comparable to that of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and are environment-friendly due to lack of toxic metals. Furthermore, they are profitable and easy to recycle. In terms of drawbacks, NiMH batteries have a high self-discharge rate and are subject to voltage depression that has the effect of “capacity loss” over time.

Nilar claims that their bipolar modular NiMH batteries experience less capacity loss and are also less energy intensive to manufacture than Li-ion batteries. The company further says that its technology is suitable for the mainstream market segments and application areas. Energy storage systems based on Nilar’s technology can be deployed in homes, businesses, factories, and power grids. For now, Nilar is focusing on renewable energy systems, backup power equipment, and electric vehicles.

A Nilar battery module comprises 10 cells, each having a positive electrode, a separator, and a negative electrode. The reason why it is called “bipolar” is that cells are laid on top of each other horizontally with a metallic bi-plate in between. Nilar points out that this configuration leads to uniformity in heat generation, current, and resistance paths. The module therefore has a relatively long lifespan since all of its cells age at the same rate.

Headquartered in Stockholm, Nilar began product development in 2001 and set up its first serial production line in 2014. According to the company’s website, its first commercially available bipolar NiMH battery was developed at its R&D center in the US city of Denver. It also has a sales office there. Presently, Nilar’s main laboratory and state-of-the-art production plant are located in the Swedish city of Gävle. The plant is touted to be powered 100% by renewable energy.

Nilar plans to use the loan to accelerate the development of commercial production and lower costs by expanding the scale of its operations. In particular, the facilities in Gävle will undertake further upgrades and capacity expansions thanks to the funding and support from the European Commission.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, commented that projects under InnovFin and Horizon 2020 can make enormous contribution to the advancement of renewable technologies. Gabriel noted that many services and products related to renewable technologies and used by today’s consumers were just theories or concepts a few years ago. In the near future, homeowners will be able to store excess renewable electricity and use it later for purposes such as charging their electric vehicles. All in all, Gabriel believes that R&D and innovations have led to rapid progress and will continue to play a vital part in the de-carbonization trend.

Thomas Östros, VP of EIB, was at the signing ceremony and stated that the loan to Nilar follows the bank’s support of Northvolt AB in its debt financing. Northvolt is another Swedish battery manufacturer that sought funding to build two gigafactories for Li-ion battery production.

Östros added that EIB is glad to back another Swedish project, and that Nilar’s innovative battery technology is expected to make a significant contribution to the adoption of renewable energies in people’s daily lives. As an institution that aligns with the EU’s climate policy, EIB is fully behind Nilar’s efforts.

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