ZAF starts nickel-zinc battery factory in Missouri

The past few years have witnessed the dawn of energy storage as not only an inevitable part of the clean energy future, but also as a real market in the United States and other nations.

By energy storage, we’ve largely meant batteries, and by batteries, we’ve mostly meant lithium-ion batteries. According to reports by GTM Research, lithium-ion batteries represent more than 95% of grid-tied energy storage capacity deployed most quarters. These batteries have several advantages – they are energy dense, making them ideal for electric vehicles, and their costs are coming down rapidly.

However lithium ion is not the only game in town. Yesterday Montana’s ZAF Energy Systems Inc., a spin-off from award-winning battery maker ViZn Energy, began producing batteries at its new factory in Joplin, Missouri.

ZAF says that the 34,000 square foot factory will have the capacity to produce 50 MWh of batteries annually. And while these nickel-zinc (NiZn) batteries are mostly aimed as a replacement for lead-acid batteries in internal combustion engine automobiles, the company notes that the NiZn batteries have potential uses in a wide range of applications including on boats and renewable energy installations for remote telecom centers.

The Joplin facility is expected to be running at full capacity in Q3 2018, and NiZn is still keeping its main research and development hub in Montana’s Flathead Valley.

While none of the applications that ZAF is targeting are direct competitors to the main markets for lithium-ion battery chemistry, ZAF’s NiZn is one of the many other chemistries which are actively being deployed. According to GTM Research, vanadium redox flow batteries represented 5% of U.S. grid-tied energy storage deployments in the second quarter of 2017, as more direct competition to lithium-ion.

However the lithium-ion (li-ion) industry is not to be underestimated. Li-ion is the chemistry of choice for electric vehicles, and as such cost reductions due to economies of scale in the much larger EV market are rapidly making li-ion batteries cheaper.