#62 Meet the company refusing to accept when a lithium ion battery is ‘dead’

Aceleron co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins

Aceleron co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins

Lithium-ion batteries continue to be the technology of choice for all the major consumer gadget players, including Apple, Samsung and Lenovo – and it is absolutely no wonder that the market is set to explode in the next few years thanks to the inevitable continued growth in consumer electronics, as well as electric cars and home energy systems.

The global lithium-ion battery market is set to jump from almost $30 billion in 2015 to more than $77 billion by 2024.

But what happens to these lithium-ion batteries when they reach the end of their life?

This time, we caught up with Amrit Chandan (below right), co-founder of Aceleron – a business that hopes to revolutionise the way people use and think about low-cost energy storage.

It is a business dreamt up by Amrit and his partner and co-founder Carlton Cummins during their lunch breaks working for a management consultancy. As you’re about to find out, this is a company with a technology that can efficiently test which lithium-ion batteries are good and still have some life, perhaps for use in another application, and which ones are not so good. And it takes the good ones and packages them in a way that is safe, cost effective and useful again.

Amrit and Carlton are on the mission: to find a solid replacement for the traditional 12-volt lead acid battery, something that could truly revolutionise the way people use batteries, particularly in the developing world where 25% of deaths are attributed to industrial gases, including lead poisoning, from lead batteries being burned, according to World Health Organisation statistics.

Enjoy the conversation.


For more on Aceleron (with just the one 'c'), visit the website.  And you can follow Amrit and Carlton on Twitter too.

You can read one of Amrit's articles here.

 

Episode #53 - Ridding the world of dirty kerosene, one slum at a time

Show notes

Globally, there are more than 1.3 billion people that do not have access to electricity – 300 million of those people are in India, a country so often talked about as being in the midst of rapid economic development. Yet, 25% of people there still cannot get on to the electricity grid.

As a result, kerosene fuel still dominates, particularly across slum communities. A breakthrough discovery when it was invented by Canadian physician and geologist, Abraham Pineo Gesner, Kerosene was cheaper and cleaner burning than its existing counterparts and far easier to source. That was in 1846, almost 170 years ago.

Today kerosene has been rightly displaced by modern energy services, which provide far superior heating and lighting. However, hundreds of millions of people across India still rely on kerosene as their primary source of light.

Burning kerosene for light, particularly in the poorly ventilated confines of a tent home, contributes to indoor air pollution. This pollution causes respiratory illness, which is the second largest cause of premature death in women and young children in Indian slums.

When kerosene is burnt, it releases particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and various nitrogen oxides – seriously bad news for our health and wellbeing.

It is not just the fuel source, but also the quality of light which is important to a person’s well-being. Quality of light greatly effects the type of activities that can be performed with the available light.

A typical kerosene lamp delivers between 1 and 6 lux of light (lux is measured as 1 lumen per meter square). In contrast, typical western standards suggest a minimum of 300 lux for tasks such as reading.

To make matters worse, the flickering quality of a kerosene lamp affects the ability to read by such light, and over time, blacking of the outside of the lamp’s plastic container further reduces the effective light output.

With hundreds of millions of people across the globe relying on kerosene as a fuel source, many millions of tonnes of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere every year. As with any combustable fuel, the efficiency with which they are burnt largely dictates their emissions intensity. The typical kerosene lamp found in a community is inefficient, which means that for every litre of kerosene burnt, around 2.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced.

Kerosene is also somewhat unique in that a relatively large percentage of emissions, around 7 to 9%, is in the form of black carbon. Green house gases (GHGs) are often described in terms of their forcing effect, which relates to their ability to trap heat when suspended in our atmosphere. The higher the forcing, the more potent the GHG. Black carbon has a significantly higher forcing than regular carbon, and it is estimated that 1kg of black carbon in the atmosphere for a month contributes as much warming as 700kg of CO2 in the atmosphere for 100 years.

So, what can be done to turn the tide on the use of kerosene and dirty cookstoves in slums across the world. Our guest this week believes she has at least part of the answer.

Pollinate Energy’s mission is simple – to improve the lives of India’s urban poor by giving them access to life-changing affordable products. With a focus on sustainable solutions, such as solar lights, water filters and improved cookstoves, people are able to reduce indoor smoke, have better quality light, use less fuel and save money.

Of course, it is no walk in the park, as co-founder and CEO of the organisation Alexie Seller tells me.

Episode #13 - Tumalow, saving you energy like never before

Show notes

Talking about energy efficiency is the least sexy of all sustainable business subjects. And, frankly, its a hard sell.

But then you start talking numbers and suddenly operators of mid-size companies start to pay an interest. That's certainly the case for William Gathright, CEO of Tumalow (right) (I'll let him explain what the name of the company actually means) – a company that is trying to shake up the way it helps companies reduce electricity costs and earn extra revenue for commercial properties through an intelligent battery energy storage system (BESS) software.

With most energy firms billing companies on both their consumption and their load (demand), commercial properties pay hundreds of times more than needed for electricity. In fact, the demand charge can account for 70% of a properties’s electric bill. Gathright and his team want to change all that.

"Commercial solar PV systems alone cannot reliably reduce demand charges, because a property's peak power usage frequently occurs during times the sun isn’t shining," says the company's website. That's where Tumalow’s BESS software comes into play.

You can find out more about Tumalow on the website, or follow the company on Twitter.

This video offers a useful introduction to the business too:


Elsewhere on this week's show, we chat with Jake Backus, the former customer sustainability director at Coca-Cola in Europe – a man who knows a thing or two about how you should talk to Joe Public about sustainability issues. You can find out more about Jake here.