The battery industry has a mining problem and the one technology startup, Lyten, is opening a new factory to help solve it.
On Wednesday, Lyten (backed by FootPrint Coalition Ventures) announced the opening of its first automated battery manufacturing facility aimed to take cobalt and other toxic materials out of the battery business.
Launched six years ago to commercialize a revolutionary new battery chemistry that removes cobalt and other toxic chemicals from batteries, the company's batteries will be safer, longer-lasting, cheaper to make, and have an ability to charge faster and store more power than the lithium ion batteries used today.
The manufacturing facility, in San Jose, Calif., is also home to Lyten's breakthrough graphene production technology, which is at the heart of the company's battery breakthrough.
With the factory up and running, Lyten will be. able to provide new batteries to the automotive, aviation, defense, and satellite companies who want to integrate and use its batteries in their vehicles, planes, devices, and satellites.
While the new line is only for pilot production, the company expects to deliver its first batteries before the end of the year and will ramp up to making 200,000 next-generation batteries for its initial customers.
Lyten has already inked some deals with massive manufacturers including Stellantis, the automaker behind brands like Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Mopar, Opel, Peugeot, Ram, and Vauxhall.
“Lyten’s materials platform is a key investment for Stellantis Ventures, in line with our Dare Forward 2030 goal to accelerate deployment of innovative, customer-centric technologies," said Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO, in a statement last month announcing his company's investment in Lyten. "Specifically, Lyten’s Lithium-Sulfur battery has the potential to be a key ingredient in enabling mass-market EV adoption globally, and their material technology is equally well positioned to help reduce vehicle weight, which is all necessary for our industry to achieve carbon net zero goals.”
Lyten isn't the only company racing to bring this technology to market. Other players in the battery space include BYD, A123 Systems, K2 Energy, Our Next Energy, and a host of others.
Everyone in the industry is clamoring for a replacement to traditional lithium-ion batteries and the reasons are best spelled out by Celina Mikolajczak, Lyten's chief battery officer (it's a thing).
“Lithium-Sulfur is the battery chemistry that has the potential to electrify everything. A simplified and 50 percent lower cost bill of materials compared to conventional lithium-ion chemistries enables significantly lower-cost automotive battery packs, making an all-electric automotive fleet economically achievable. The high energy density of the chemistry makes it appealing for application in heavy vehicles such as delivery vans, trucks, buses, and construction equipment, as well as in aviation and satellites," Mikolajczak said.
Not only are the batteries simply a better chemistry, but they reduce American reliance on raw materials sourced from other countries -- something that's critical for U.S. energy independence.
"The raw materials for this chemistry are abundant throughout North America favoring a domestic sourcing supply chain and domestic manufacturing, supporting a strong American electrification industry. The higher energy density enables reducing battery pack weight by 40- 60 percent," said Mikolajczak. "These features, combined with a significantly reduced risk of thermal runaway, enable a battery perfectly suited for use in automotive, trucking, aviation, satellites, and further
What makes Lyten's technology so interesting to customers is the fact that it rids batteries of the nickel, cobalt, and manganese that are hard to process and mine and typically found in nations rife with corruption and human rights abuses.
Getting those materials out of the supply chain means that the company's batteries are cheaper to make.
The company's not-so-secret ingredient is graphene, which is manufactured by taking methane (a greenhouse gas) and converting it into carbon and hydrogen. The carbon is captured in graphene and the hydrogen can replace fossil fuels in industrial processes and transportation.
"Lyten is fundamentally making a battery with a lower carbon footprint using readily available materials sourced in North America," said the company's chief sustainability officer, Keith Norman.