The mysterious US startup Form Energy finally revealed the secret of its new battery, which is engineered with the iron-air battery technology to cut the cost to only 10% of lithium-ion, making it possibly the most inexpensive battery in the world.
Investors of Form Energy include the founder of Breakthrough Energy Ventures Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Italian oil and gas giant Eni, and Macquarie Capital. ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel manufacturer, also invested US$25 million in the company. Additionally, Form Energy has recently launched a US$200 million financing round.
Form Energy has been low-profile about its research and development progress and has kept itself away from media attention for an entire year under an NDA. The company finally indicates that its iron-air battery is able to achieve low-cost, long-lasting power storage by 2025 with only a tenth of the cost of lithium-ion and 150-hour storage duration.
Such a cost-effective and long-duration storage battery is arguably a “giant leap” for the renewable energy industry, which can solve the intermittent supply problems of solar and wind energy at a low cost.
According to a report on electricity generation and storage cost compiled by the French investment bank Lazard, the levelized cost of storage (LCOS) of a large-size lithium-ion battery storage system is US$132–245/ MWh. If Form Energy can cut the cost to 1/10 of the original cost in practice, the company’s iron-air battery is going to be the cheapest battery in the world.
Form Energy specified that the battery can run for numerous days and can help create a reliable, safe, and fully renewable electrical grid.
Greg Lydkovsky, global head of R&D at ArcelorMittal, indicated that the technology “holds exciting potential to overcome the intermittent supply of renewable energy”. The company’s president and COO Ted Wiley added that since scientific research was accomplished, they can begin applying the prototype to grid-scale power plants.
As the energy news website Recharge reported, Form Energy’s battery is fabricated based on “reversible oxidation of iron”. During the discharge mode, thousands of tiny iron balls are exposed to the air, rust, and become ferric oxide. After the battery begins to charge, the oxygen is removed from the rust, making the components turn back to iron.
In 2020, the US-based startup signed a partnership agreement with Great River Energy, the second largest power company in Minnesota. The two will work to build a 1MW/150MWh grid-tied system with 150-hour storage duration. As Wiley indicated, the partnership has been expanded, whereby Great River Energy’s 300 MW pilot project is scheduled to be put into use in 2023.
Attention has recently been drawn to the development of air batteries. For example, Canada’s startup Zinc8 first launched a commercially available zin-air battery in 2019, claiming that the storage capacity can reach more than 100 hours.
(Image source: Form Energy)