Atraverda has created a new type of lead battery, offering performance similar to that of lithium cells, but at a fraction of the cost.
Atraverda’s ceramic lead batteries have been in development for ten years and are now being touted commercially for the first time. The firm revealed to BikeBiz that it is currently in discussion with five or six companies in the electric transport sector, with a view to signing a deal to put its batteries into transport products.
“We have three fundamental USPs,” Atraverda CEO Graham Ryan told BikeBiz. “One is energy density performance at low cost, and I think that’s crucial that we are at low cost.
“The second is the form factor – we can make our battery any shape we want – so if you wanted a battery to fit between the seat tube and the back wheel for instance, we could actually make a triangular battery.
“Thirdly, we at Atraverda can add layers onto the battery to produce batteries of different voltages.”
The Atraverda boss explained how the gap in the battery market arrived: “There was an initial feeling that lithium batteries would take over the whole space. But it’s quite interesting as the e-bike market mirrors what we’re seeing in the overall electric vehicle market – that yes there’s a place for the lithium high-end, but the vast majority of people buying e-transport can’t necessarily afford it.
“The other problem is that traditional lead acid is too heavy and bulky, so with our technology we’re able to bridge the gap between lead acid and lithium batteries – we’re extending the performance envelope of lead acid batteries. The performance isn’t as good as lithium, but it’s pretty close. As the markets mature I see that there will be an increasing need for that advanced lead acid technology, so I see a great opportunity for us.
“Inside it’s still a lead battery. The key point is that our price is a quarter to 20 per cent of lithium batteries so you can have four changes before you spend that kind of money,” Ryan added.
Read the full interview online with Atraverda CEO Graham Ryan, below
Can you give us some background to the company?
We've been around a number of years and basically started out as a materials company and ended up with a product which is basically a ceramic powder. Because it is ceramic it doesn't break down in acid, so at the time the guys felt it could be used with batteries to make a lead acid battery more effective.
We've spent the last ten years or so developing it into an all bells and whistles advanced lead acid battery, which we now have.
We've just started commercialising it and obviously in the e-mobility and e-bike markets there is huge potential for it. We're based in Wales and we have an automated production plant running now so we're well past the lab scale and we have a programme now to really scale that up.
We're looking at two markets; one is stationery power and the other side is the electric vehicles as a generic term. That's everything from e-bikes, wheelchairs, low speed electric vehicles right into hybrid electric vehicles, so there's a complete stretch.
There was an initial feeling that lithium batteries would take over the whole space. But it's quite interesting as the e-bike market mirrors what we're seeing in the overall electric vehicle market is that yes there's a place for the lithium high-end, but that the vast majority of people buying e-transport can't necessarily afford it.
The other problem is that traditional lead acid is too heavy and bulky so with our technology we're able to bridge the gap between lead acid and lithium batteries - we're extending the performance envelope of lead acid batteries. The performance isn't as good as lithium, but it's pretty close. As the markets mature I see that there will be an increasing need for that advanced lead acid technology, so I see a great opportunity for us.
So the advantages are that the batteries perform almost as well as lithium, but how is it better than lead batteries?
Basically we talk about energy density - the amount of energy you can pack into a certain weight or size. The most energy dense battery we can use at the moment is lithium and traditional acid is not very energy dense, but it's cheap. So there's always a trade off between price and performance.
What we do is we extend the performance envelope of lead acid - we can fill the gap between traditional lead acid and lithium.
We have three fundamental USPs: one is energy density performance at low cost, and I think that's crucial that we are at low cost.
The second is the form factor - we can make our battery any shape we want - so if you wanted a battery to fit between the seat tube and the back wheel for instance, we could actually make a triangular battery. You could get the weight low down on the bike.
Thirdly we can add layers onto the battery to add to the voltage. A traditional lead battery is far more limited but we can produce a 40V battery, a 36V and 24V battery, etc.
How about the longevity of the battery?
We're exactly the same - inside it's still a lead battery. The key point is that our price is a quarter to 20 per cent of lithium batteries so you can have 4 changes - before you spend that kind of money.
The other point is that 96 per cent of battery units are recycled so it's actually one of the most heavily recycle product in the world, despite the fact lead is not the best substance in the world, it is more green than people assume.
What are you looking for from the bicycle trade? Partnerships? Investment?
We are looking to do is to target replacing the use of lead acid. It is a performance boost over traditional lead acid.
We are speaking to five or six companies. What one of the firms are really interested in is that form factor, where we can make odd shaped batteries. One manufacturer is talking to us about that. It would certainly be a year before we see anything.
The technology is all developed and we have our first commercial battery which is 24v and 15 amp unit and we are using that to take to OEMs so they can test and understand the technology and from that we're talking to them about developing a battery for each application. We're trying to cover all the bases in the electric transport market.
Atraverda: 01495 294 026
This article was first published in the May edition of BikeBiz. Read the rest of the e-bike section, and the rest of the mag, here.