Spending on battery start-ups has boomed to $1.5 billion in the first half of this year. Not all projects will survive.
Some of the latest battery technologies may become obsolete before reaching the market because of the breakneck pace of advances in the industry.
Teams of scientists from San Francisco to Shenzhen are experimenting with new chemical processes to improve the traditional lithium-ion cell and find new ways to bottle up electricity for use at another time. Investors in those projects are starting to worry that they might have picked the wrong technology.
That’s turning the debate about so-called stranded assets on its head. To date, the term has been deployed to refer to fossil-fuel projects that may turn unprofitable as pollution regulations tighten. In the future, upheaval in the way energy storage devices are made mean that investments in batteries may turn unprofitable even though they’re at the heart of transforming the way the energy system works.
“If you suddenly have a step change in technology that offers higher energy density, people will want to adopt that quickly, which could mean that they’ll have to reinvest in manufacturing equipment again,” said James Frith, energy storage analyst at BloombergNEF. “Worst case, you may have to redesign entire factories.”
Investment into start-ups developing new types of batteries rose to more than $1.5 billion in the first half of the year, almost twice the level in 2017, according to data from Cleantech Group.
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