Battery Maker Boston Power Secures $250 Million In Funding – Plans For Giga Factory To Compete With Tesla

JUN 29 2014 BY MARK KANE 17

boston-power-logo-630The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on Boston Power, a lithium-ion battery developer and manufacturer born in Massachusetts.

From the early beginning (ten years ago), Boston Power had solid technology with energy density exceeding 200 Wh/kg on the cell level and a wide operating temperature range.

A few years ago, after securing over $100 million from venture capital, Boston Power moved most of its operation to China, where in 2013 it launched a newly built lithium-ion battery plant (for cells, modules, packs and systems) located in Liyang Zhongguancun Science & Technology Zone, Jiangsu Province. At the time, Boston Power stated that the new facility would more than double the company’s current Asian-based manufacturing capacity (whatever this means).

Today, we learn that the annual capacity of Boston Power’s factory is about 300 MWh. This is about 3,500 85 kWh battery packs for Tesla Model S. Why such comparison? Well, just because the WSJ article indicates that with a new $250 million injection from investors, Boston Power would like to compete with Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory.

Sonny Wu, Boston Power’s chairman and acting chief executive stated:

“Somebody has to compete with him [Elon Musk],”

“Mr. Wu declined to name the investors in the Boston-Power financing, saying they are Chinese and global institutional investors. A person familiar with the situation said that the investor roster includes a Chinese bank that will likely help provide credit to Boston-Power as the company plans to build two more factories.”

Boston Power plans to triple its manufacturing plant output to ~ 1 GW in 2015, while this year sales are expected to reach $100 million. This is still far from the 35 GWh from the Tesla Gigafactory, but the Gigafactory will not produce that many cells anytime soon.

In the near term, Boston Power is considering IPO in the US, which potentially would make it the largest in lithium-ion battery manufacturer to do so since A123 Systems’ IPO. Success probably depends primarily on finding customers among Chinese carmakers.

Mr. Wu said that he expects Boston-Power to become profitable “in a couple of years.””

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Categories: Battery Tech, General


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17 Comments on "Battery Maker Boston Power Secures $250 Million In Funding – Plans For Giga Factory To Compete With Tesla"

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Correct me if I’m wrong but those specs look a lot like Tesla’s battery on wh/kg and C rate. Not a very high discharge or charge C rate but what maybe a factor of 2 on cycle life. (and maybe more heat tolerance).

If someone really does do a 35 gwh plant in China then Elon will have a hard time competing because the labor is so much cheaper in China.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

With the level of automation expected, I highly doubt the difference in the cost of labor trumps expenses in shipping or logistical issues.

Tesla/Panasonic et al are not investing $5 Billion in the Gigafactory hoping there are no Chinese competitors. They are expecting/hoping others will join in.

Tesla/Panasonic have done the math regarding cost of 18650 vs prismatic cells. I have heard Elon say the ideal battery form factor for automotive use is “a little larger” than 18650. That is what I expect from the GF, maybe 26650?

The only way the prismatic/pouch batteries become superior is if they invent a chemistry so stable that TMS is no longer a benefit.

Again, Tesla has said they expect current Lithium-ion chemistry to remain dominant for ~10 years. They expect the need to revamp the GF production lines in the not too distant future. They don’t expect battery technology to remain stagnant for 25-30 years.

“The only way the prismatic/pouch batteries become superior is if they invent a chemistry so stable that TMS is no longer a benefit.”

Not sure how you come to that conclusion. If anything, thermal management is easier for prismatic cells than for cylindrical ones. The main reason why Tesla went with 18650 cells is because they were cheap due to the relative high production volume for computers and electronics. In most other respects, prismatic or pouch is better. JB Straubel has stated that Tesla is “not married” to the 18650.

I could see a Prismatic form factor ending up in a smaller Tesla, because of a number of advantages…

It’s cylindrical + small that has an advantage.

The cylinder format has slightly higher surface area to volume ratio, but not enough to be a huge advantage. The main advantage is that it provides a mechanically stable structure that can withstand high internal pressures without deforming. It comes with its own external heat dissipation surface with good thermal conductivity (the metallic outer shell). The cylinder also allows relatively simple safety fuses near the top and bottom of the cell. The shape also makes it so that there will always be a gap between cells for heat dissipation (even when put into a “honeycomb” configuration). It’s these characteristics that make them suitable for less thermally stable chemistries (typically the most energy dense). That’s why the most energy dense cell currently available is still a cylindrical cell despite the overhead weight of the cell cylinder.

Small cells:
Smaller cells mean much higher surface area to volume ratio for better thermal management. They also allow better containment during failure and a more uniform temperature distribution within a cell.

Tesla is saying something roughly twice the size of a 18650 is probably the best compromise between thermal dissipation and energy density.

I believe battery production is highly automated, so labor cost shouldn’t have too much of an effect.

Another interesting aspect: Perhaps this means that there will be a “gigafactory” making prismatic or pouch cells, which could mean that these form factors may become price-competitive with the 18650s. That could be a major advantage, because non-cylindrical cells are better for building automotive battery packs given equal cost (easier cooling etc.).

Why are they trying to compete with Elon? They are competing with Panasonic and LG Chem. It seems like they’re throwing around Elon’s name to attract attention and investors.

Elon is at the top of “BEV Mountain” ATM, so he is the one that competitors will call out…

good point!

Typically, it is not wise to believe the claims of battery manufacturers, because they have huge incentives for the exaggeration of the potential of their technology, because their primary business plan is not to sell batteries, but to attract high risk venture capital.

Tesla is of course an exception as a battery manufacturer, because its rationale for existence is to sell cars rather than to attract high risk capital. They already get from markets whatever capital they dare to ask!

The people who say things, “Uh oh… Telsa can’t compete with this!”, just make me shake my head.

Don’t you get it? This is *exactly* what Elon wants to happen. Tesla is simply the means to bootstrap the electric transportation economy.

And it’s happening.

The amount of batteries that long range EV’s need to eat up will keep the battery supply market in short supply for years to come.

A example is say a Chinese Car company starts building 30,000 cars a year that use these batteries then it could easily eat up a factor with ten times the production of this factory.

Agreed, in theory there is high risk for glut similar than with solar panels there was overcapacity problem. The price war of solar panels settled in 2013 and now the strongest solar panel manufacturers are again profitable. But I guess that with batteries, the demand for batteries will grow much faster than with solar panels. Therefore it is likely that the scaling up the battery production capacity will be the limiting factor. In EV battery business there is also quite strong negative feedback mechanism that stabilizes the markets. That is that if there is overcapacity for batteries, then the prices will fall more rapidly, but this again expands the grid storage markets that are too in a brink of parity. Therefore it is very likely that there is thread neither for overcapacity nor undercapacity, but battery supply and demand will be balanced due to this negative feedback mechanism. Therefore today investing on battery gigafactory has much lower risk than analysts actually expects. Because we are dealing here with completely new technology that follows new kind of market mechanisms. And analysts are notoriously bad in predicting novel future. They are good in predicting if the future resembles the past, but if… Read more »

I think falling battery costs are what most likely helped the Mitsubishi i-miev drop $6000 dollars off of it’s price. Along with the Nissian leaf offering a new battery back for $5500. In that I remembered a few years ago that there were stories that the Nissan leaf’s battery coasted over %10,000 dollars.

Correct me if I wrong, but the 5300 mA cell pictured above looks to be 2x 18650 cells at 2650 mA each wrapped in parallel?

An 18650 cell is 18 mm x 65 mm. 0.5 mm heat shrink packaging would bring dimension to 19 mm. What would be more impressive is 3100, or 3700 mA 18650 cells. While they would cost a bit more per cell, a reduction in number of cells an related weight would be a major advancement for battery design in BEVs.

These are NOT two 18650 batteries, it is a single battery in the form of a cylindrical shape of two 18650s. One reason early on that this design was chosen is because it allows use in laptop battery packs. And they can meet their claims on battery life, I know because at one point I was doing the testing myself. If Saab hadn’t gone belly-up, there never would have been any question there…. 🙁

Stopped reading at “China.”
I’ll wait for the TSLA batteries.