India looks to locally-made batteries for an energy independent future

India looks to locally-made batteries for an energy independent future

An Interview with Michael Burz, President and CEO

The future of the planet depends on moving rapidly away from polluting fossil-fuel-based energy systems, and nowhere is that need for an energy independent future more apparent than in some of the fastest developing countries in the world. Nearly one in five people on the planet live in India or Bangladesh, and both countries have their sights set on decarbonizing their transportation systems and building a more resilient grid to serve their burgeoning populations. We asked Michael Burz, President and CEO of Enzinc, for his observations after returning from a ten-day whirlwind tour of New Delhi and Hyderabad, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. 


Michael Burz on stage at the International Zinc Association Global Summit 2023 in New Delhi

What took you to India?

We were asked to speak at the International Zinc Association’s fourth global zinc summit on the use of zinc for advanced batteries and decided to take advantage of the fact that we would be in India to meet with additional potential Industry Advisory Group (IAG) members. So, we combined the conference with a trip to talk to some of the largest lead acid battery companies in India and Bangladesh.

What surprised you most about the market and the companies you met there?

First, how large they are. As you know, India has about 1.4 billion people and it’s projected that, by the end of the year, it will have more people than China. Bangladesh itself is approaching two hundred million people. It’s one thing to talk about the aims and growth of a country, but it’s another to be there and see how rapidly they’re moving. To see how committed they are to the electrification of both mobility and stationary and storage was very inspiring. If you look at what they intend to do, they are a model for rapidly growing markets in the 21st century: rapid deployment of electrification for both mobility and stationary energy storage with a focus on safety, high performance, and recyclability.

What did you see in the mobility market there? Many of us have an image of Indian transportation including rickshaws, are you seeing those being electrified? Are you seeing other modes get deployed?

There’s an intent on the part of the Indian Government to electrify as much as possible. At the moment, the three-wheeled market is very large, but most of those come from China and are powered by internal combustion engines. The Indian government’s primary focus is to take the mobility arena—two-wheelers and three-wheelers, and urban four-wheelers or what one of our IAG members calls Last Mile Mobility (LMM)—and electrify all of them.

What about stationary storage? What are some of the differences that you see there versus the U.S. market?

It’s interesting: their version of residential energy storage is not the same as ours. In the United States, we tend to think of residential energy storage on the multi-kilowatt hour scale, say 15 kWh batteries to provide backup power for six to eight hours, overnight. In India and Bangladesh, what they’re interested in is essentially grid stability: batteries that can recharge quickly and be used for when the power drops out, with only two to four hours of discharge time. It is not just the way in which they want to use it, but how affordable it needs to be for people buying small backup battery systems for their apartment or house.

decarbonizing transportation systems and building a more resilient grid to serve burgeoning populations.

There have been a lot of news stories about fires caused by cheaper lithium-ion batteries, such as a tragic fire that engulfed a hotel above an e-scooter shop in Mumbai. Can you talk about the concerns you’re hearing about lithium in that market?

It’s obvious when you take a look at photographs of large-scale Indian and Bangladeshi cities that they’re very, very dense, so safety is absolutely critical. We heard that a number of times: for this highly dense urban environment, safety is absolutely paramount.

If you combine that, with wariness of the supply chain from China—whether it’s the materials to make lithium batteries or the offer to build the factories for them—the Indians and the Bangladeshis are very, very keen on domestic control. What they recognize is that if China controls, as they do, 60 to 80% of the battery materials, they’ll actually be building batteries domestically that will compete with batteries from their very suppliers: the Chinese manufacturers. They want to decouple that.

What they were looking for is something that they can build domestically under their own control, using their materials. And that offers them both safety and affordability. That’s why they were interested in Enzinc’s nickel zinc technology.

You spoke at the Global Zinc Summit in New Delhi. Do you think the global zinc industry understands the potential of zinc as a battery material?

Frankly, up until we presented at the conference, I don’t think that the potential for zinc to be used as a high-performance battery that is equivalent to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) was even on people’s radar. In fact, Andrew Green, who is the Executive Director of the International Zinc Association shared a chart that was done by Bloomberg, which showed that zinc batteries could require almost one million tons of additional zinc by the year 2030. But all of that assumed that zinc was relegated to small-scale or niche markets around stationary energy storage. The fact that batteries with “Enzinc Inside” can offer an equivalent performance LFP opens up so many more applications that we estimate that it can quadruple that million tons of demand and add somewhere between $20 to $40 billion in additional value to the zinc industry.

Any closing thoughts?

What was encouraging was the national commitment in both India and Bangladesh to move aggressively to bring high-performance batteries that were safe, recyclable, and don’t rely on Chinese products or materials to their respective nations. We hear that they’re interested in additional technologies, but to see how fast they want to move—probably quicker than even the United States—was both encouraging and surprising.

Image: Photo by Akshay Nanavati Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Leading Clean Energy Companies Team with Advanced Energy Storage Innovator Enzinc

Leading Clean Energy Companies Team with Advanced Energy Storage Innovator Enzinc

Enzinc names key teaming partners for advanced zinc battery testing through the CalTestBed program

RICHMOND, Calif.: Enzinc Inc., an advanced battery technology developer bringing rechargeable zinc batteries to market, announced today that it has teaming agreements in place with leading energy companies for its third-party product testing. The testing is being done at University of California Riverside’s facilities through a CalTestBed award valued at $292,000.

The teaming partners include power backup provider to the global telecom industry BASE Technologies, EV charging SaaS company ChargeNet Stations, as well as a global battery manufacturer, a leading electric bike brand, and an international waste and recycling provider, which are teaming with Enzinc confidentially.

“It’s a vote of confidence in this technology’s potential that a number of companies are teaming with Enzinc during its testing phase,” said Danny Kennedy, chief energy officer of New Energy Nexus. “We’re thrilled that our programs are giving startups like Enzinc a leg up to innovate the way batteries are manufactured and deployed. We need to see more of this if we’re to accelerate the clean energy transition and electrify our economy.”

“Our teaming partners will ensure that our battery’s testing protocols reflect many of the use cases expected for advanced batteries with ‘Enzinc Inside’,” said Michael Burz, Enzinc founder and CEO. “The CalTestBed award will enable us to test how batteries with our exclusive zinc microsponge anode perform in key applications including e-bikes and other electric mobility, stationary power back up, and grid-tied and microgrid energy storage.”

Enzinc has been awarded a voucher near the maximum $300,000 value, which enables Enzinc to work with the expert team at U.C. Riverside’s battery testing facility. The third-party testing program both ensures Enzinc’s advanced battery design will be shaped by real world needs and demonstrates each partner’s commitment to innovation.

Rebecca Wolkoff, CTO at ChargeNet, looks forward to testing their software with the Enzinc hardware, “We are both committed to creating safe, affordable and sustainable energy storage. We appreciate that our ChargeNet team can provide guidance and feedback on the application of Enzinc’s technology.”

The competitive CalTestBed initiative is funded through California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program to speed the commercialization of clean energy technologies. It funds third-party testing at world-class facilities at nine University of California campuses and one national laboratory. The program is led by New Energy Nexus in partnership with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Enzinc’s zinc micro sponge anode will power a family of high-performance rechargeable batteries. The anode’s structure allows the battery to provide more than three times the energy and have three times the lifespan of lead acid batteries while costing about the same, and it operates through a wider temperature range than lithium-based batteries. The battery is totally recyclable, much safer to use than either lead- or lithium-based batteries and uses zinc, a common material with no supply chain constraints.

This comes after the recent announcement that former president of Robert Bosch GmbH’s Powertrain Solutions Division and chief of its Progressive Mobility Players team, Stefan Seiberth, joined Enzinc’s senior advisory team.

Enzinc: ‘Zinc batteries go where lithium-ion cannot’

Enzinc: ‘Zinc batteries go where lithium-ion cannot’

By Robert Malthouse, Energy Storage Report

Could zinc batteries usurp lithium-ion’s strong market position and become the storage technology of choice?

Could zinc batteries usurp lithium-ion’s strong market position and become the storage technology of choice?

The potential certainly exists and Enzinc CEO Michael Burz is on a mission to make it happen.

Headquartered at the University of California in Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station in the San Francisco Bay area, Enzinc’s engineering team has developed a sponge-type anode technology made from zinc, and says it will be the first company offering a rechargeable zinc-based battery that can compete with lithium-ion.

Who’s backing Enzinc?

Enzinc created the anode using technology developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory. So far, Enzinc has raised north of $1.3m, mainly in the form of grants from the US Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission, as well as investments made by founders, senior advisors and angel investors.

The company recently completed 1,000 cycles of its test anode and is beginning to scale the technology into a small battery for commercial testing, which is scheduled to take place in the second quarter of next year