Conversation with Battery Designer


Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2015
Martensville SK
Anyone who reads my posts knows I am extremely opposed to BEVs in aviation. There is simply no known or even imagined technology that can give sufficient energy density to meet aviation needs outside of extremely short duration/low payload missions. On top of that, the current infatuation with such environmentally horrid, resource critical and proven DANGEROUS Lithium Ion technology has baffled me as being completely illogical.

Knowing this, one of my business associates put me on the line with a designer team leader working on Aluminum/Air technology. There are a number of metal ion tech developments going on, but the whole Lithium thing started when Sony simply wanted a better lasting battery for Walkman tape players. Since it was a significant breakthrough, and seemingly the ONLY one at the time, governments, industry, investors, etc. all piled onto pushing hundreds of billions into promoting a technology fraught with obvious flaws and limits - and the momentum gave us the total crap on the market today. When I gave that schpiel to the battery guy, he was totally in agreement and offered a detailed explanation of how we got here and what was wrong with so much of it.

To try to summarize: the tech ran away from normal industry and government regulation by changing faster than they seemed to appreciate, driven by the mindless flow of government and private money. Essentially we have a global industry that is largely unregulated, so when bottom feeders (such as Tesla) buy a mess of cells from the lowest bidder in China, safety has to come from the BMS as it is not in the cells!

Now, this particular guy and group took a very different approach to metal ion batteries. He explained that the vast majority of people were "liquid" chemists, familiar with and focusing on reactions within the media, but the real action was at the surface where elements interfaced. Their group are 100% "surface" chemists and approach the entire design from a slightly different point of view.

Their first effort was to figure out how to make Li Ion cells a lot safer. It was explained to me that one basic test is to puncture a cell, and see what happens. The usual resulting catastrophic failure I was told could be avoided by better attention to the surface chemistry and physical makeup of the materials that separate conductive components. They have started production of such an improved barrier material and are making headway into the Li Ion market.

I ran this same discussion by a friend who works in energy storage and he told me horror stories of penetration test results and confirmed there was indeed a serious need to both have far better technology within cells and some kind of regulation and control of QA in the industry.

Bottom line to me: Li Ion BEVs are still a really bad way to go on land, sea and air. Help is on the way, but that applies only to one specific shortcoming - not the plethora of other compromises and shortcomings of the technology. Outside of the money-driven, knee jerk world of highly compromised science, there are some genuinely smart and capable people trying to bring some solid discipline to electric storage. I will be watching their Al/Air progress with bated breath.