Voltaiq and Siemens Partner Up To to Make Batteries Better, Sooner
As battery manufacturing facilities spin up, there tends to be a lot of waste. Actually, according to Siemens, more than you would think. When a gigafactiory starts building batteries, for the first year only 10% - 20% of the batteries built meet the minimum standards to be useful. In other words, at least 80% of those initial battery runs are scrap and tossed out.
That's a harrowing figure that eats into profit and, more importantly, yields a huge amount of waste that can still not be fully recycled as companies still determine the best way to make that a reality. Siemens and Voltaiq believe they have a solution. A way to increase the yields of new factories quicker than what we're currently seeing in the market.
The partnership announced at CES 2024, integrates Siemens' Insights Hub with Voltaiq's battery monitoring and advanced analytics. The result – according to the two companies – is a more streamlined approach that finds issues in battery manufacturing much quicker than what is currently deployed and can be used to adjust equipment in a way that's repeatable across multiple lines.
For Voltaiq's part, the company has a system that can detect issues with battery production that can pinpoint issues before the batteries are sent to the charge/discharge test. This can potentially shave weeks off the inspection of battery cells, modules, and packs. It could also reduce the problems that arise years later.
The system also tracks battery production so that if an issue does arise, only the batteries produced within a facility at a certain time would need to be recalled, versus the unfortunate recall that GM and LG Chem had to put into place for the Chevy Bolt.
The partnership with Siemens brings another level to the system. Battery production requires multiple machines from multiple manufacturers. Many of these devices don't "talk" to each other. So if there is an issue, a facility might spends weeks tweaking each machine individually trying to find the correct solution. Siemens' IOT solution links these machines and allows for changes that are logged and repeatable. Adjustments can be made to the entire line and fine-tuned at a facility level versus at a machine-by-machine level.
During a briefing Voltaiq co-founder and CTO Eli Leland noted that the internal combustion engine is an engineering marvel that took 125 years to get to where it is today. Automakers are trying to do the same thing with batteries. "Basically, it's a similar scale of complexity and engineering challenge and they've tried to compress that into just a couple years and figuring that they get to the same level of competence without bringing in these additional new technologies, new expertise, and really respecting the scale of what they were trying to accomplish," he told the assembled press.
Unlike, say an engine, a battery cell is a combination of mechanical and chemical engineering and there needs to be hundreds of them working in harmony to deliver power to an EV. It's a huge technological lift and one that replies on a workforce that just doesn't have the experience. Those that have been in the industry for decades are few and far between so the need for training is paramount.
But it's more than just having the right people on staff according to Leland. "It's really part of a cultural transformation and the ability and the willingness to be open to learning and becoming more agile and iterative."
If it means making a profit quicker and hiring trained staff to make that a reality, the cultural transformation is likely to happen very quickly.