Five research projects initiated to advance batteries for emerging economies

Part of the Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage – UK international development funding to support the clean energy transition

The Faraday Institution has awarded five battery research projects, representing an investment of £610k, to progress the development of improved and lower cost battery technologies tailored for deployment in emerging economies. They are led by five different UK universities, with input from their industry partners. These seed projects will be delivered over short timeframes and may lead to a larger future research programmes.

This is part of a wider programme focused on expanding energy access, facilitating emissions reductions, and supporting energy transitions in developing countries.
Read more about the Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage.
Ayrton Fund/Ukaid logo
The launch of the projects follows an open call to identify enabling research or understanding that could lead to an improvement in the following areas of interest, or that will overcome a key challenge in the adoption of new technologies.
• Low-cost alternative chemistries
• Optimising systems to maximise performance and improve efficiency and lifetime under typical operating conditions
• Recycling

Introducing the new projects:

ReSTOR: Designing recyclable flow batteries for locally managed energy storage in developing countries
StorTera engineers.

Continuing their successful collaboration, the University of Strathclyde and StorTera will develop simplified processes for formulating and reconditioning the active catholyte in StorTera’s single liquid flow batteries with the aim of enabling battery installation, repairs and recovery to be carried out in-country by local engineers. Researchers, led by Edward Brightman, also aim to develop catholyte and cell characterisation methods to support these processes by identifying key metrics for battery state-of-health, and identify a suitable partner country and site for a field demonstrator and assess recycling process capabilities. A previous project between these collaborators as part of the Ayrton Fund conducted benchmark testing of a graphite polysulfide single liquid flow battery that demonstrated an improvement to the technology’s economic proposition, including reduced production costs of 50-70%, and a 20% increase in durability at small scales.

Picture: StorTera engineers.

SUSLEAD: Sustainable lead flow battery for enabling accessible renewable energy

In a previous project as part of the Ayrton Fund, researchers at Southampton University demonstrated a low-cost soluble lead flow battery technology at kW scale in the laboratory that uses active materials taken from within the current lead recycling process. SUSLEAD will advance the previous research and develop a containerised unit with higher power and capacity and conduct operational testing at system level. It aims to demonstrate stand-alone operation (over 3 months and 100 cycles) at a site in the UK, evidence increased coulombic and voltage efficiency, and provide operational datasets to support a Southampton University spin-out. This will form the basis of a demonstrator system for deployment by project partners for field testing in a representative environment. The project is led by Richard Wills.

Picture: ReLCo-Bat demonstrator built for in-situ testing in 2022/23.


NaBEDA: Sodium-ion batteries for interchangeable e-mobility and stationary storage in Africa

A University of Sheffield team led by Dan Gladwin will assess the feasibility of using commercially available sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) in pay-per-use rental batteries designed and produced by industry partner Mobile Power (MOPO). The project, focused on developing batteries for residential, small business, generator replacement and e-mobility markets in Africa, involves performance testing of various SIBs, replacement of LIB cells with SIB cells in 4-cell battery rental packs, and real-world evaluation. Success could lead to the deployment of more efficient SIB-based products to deliver sustainable and affordable energy solutions in Africa’s battery rental market, which could extend to using SIBs for larger packs in stationary storage.

Picture: Two engineers working on a electric motorbike. 


BRETTER: Battery Repurposing after RETirement through novel TEst Routine
Tuc tucs
WMG, University of Warwick researchers led by Anup Barai will assess retired 2/3-wheeler EV batteries through the development of a rapid, low-cost method, incorporating non-destructive tests (NDTs) including X-rays and ultrasound. Batteries from the Indian market will be aged and analysed, correlating NDT data with cell conditions using machine learning and image processing. The project aims to provide insights into cell conditions at end of life beyond those provided by traditional electrical tests, and to identify an optimal test matrix, balancing cost and time constraints for Indian end-users. Successful validation will open avenues for commercialisation, impacting the battery community through the involvement of industry partner Coulomb AI.

Picture: Four tuc tucs. 


MaxBatt: Squeezing the max from battery systems in sub-Saharan Africa

This project, led by David Howey at the University of Oxford, addresses the challenge of maximising the life and performance of Li-ion cells in developing countries, where off-grid solar-battery and e-mobility applications commonly use low-cost lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells that are not manufactured to the same standard as Tier 1 automotive cells. The project aims: (1) to demonstrate accurate, rapid battery health screening techniques for Li-ion cells to ensure that second-life or poor-quality new cells with unacceptably short lifetimes are not used in products; (2) to increase the lifetime of cheaper LFP cells by controlling charging conditions and moderating storage temperatures. Through collaboration with Bboxx, MaxBatt could result in substantial financial savings, and contribute to more sustainable battery practices in sub-Saharan Africa.

Picture: An engineer working on BBOXX batteries bPower50.


“The Faraday Institution is well positioned to effect global change,” comments Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution. “Decarbonising electricity provision in communities in the global south with low or no connectivity is a multi-faceted challenge. Working collaboratively with multiple partners, the ACES programme will move the dial, bringing reliable access to clean energy sources to communities, changing lives and livelihoods.”

The Ayrton Fund is a commitment by the UK Government to spend up to £1 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) on the research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of clean energy technologies and business models for developing countries over five years (2021-2026). This includes the partnerships and associated skills needed to deliver Sustainable Development Goals 7 and 13. The Ayrton Fund is managed and delivered jointly between the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, and the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, via a portfolio on ongoing, new, and scaled-up clean energy innovation programmes.

Posted on April 8, 2024