Batteries for Emerging Economies – Details

Over 600 million people across Africa have no access to electricity. 60% of African businesses say access to reliable power is a constraint on their growth. Power outages cost African countries 1 to 2% of their GDP annually. It is estimated that energy storage technologies could save up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by replacing 25 million diesel and gasoline generators in developing countries.

Four projects funded from a £3 million grant provided to the Faraday Institution from UK Aid as part of its Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme intend to contribute to realising that future. The TEA Programme supports early-stage testing and scale up of innovative technologies and business models that will accelerate access to affordable, clean energy-based services to poor households and enterprises, especially in Africa.

Led by researchers from the University of Southampton, University of Strathclyde, Queen Mary University London, and University College London, these projects will focus on developing technologies that could accelerate the uptake of batteries and promote inclusive, reliable and affordable energy access to enable the clean energy transition in emerging economies.

RELCo-Bat: Reclaimed Electrolyte, Low Cost Flow Battery

Electrochemical energy storage systems can provide grid stability and efficient energy vectoring in areas where demand is increasing but supply is restricted. RELCo-Bat is developing a soluble lead flow battery to promote grid stability and secure, clean supply in off-grid generation in developing economies in Africa, including Botswana and Sierra Leone. The project is being led by researchers at the University of Southampton, who have built the first kW demonstrator for in-situ testing in 2022/23 at
the Botswana International University of Science and Technology. A unique advantage of the prototype battery is the ability to use recycled conventional automotive batteries for its manufacture, thereby creating a local supply chain and servicing capability. To guide system design and aid in cost reductions, a technoeconomic assessment of the soluble lead flow battery is being led by the University of Sheffield. In addition to recycled lead waste forming a low-cost feedstock, the system reduces costs by using
standardised components for the reservoir and pumps along with incorporating a novel stack design that minimises shunt currents and pumping losses. Work undertaken within the project suggests a system cost of below $100/kWh is achievable with the current design. The project is being further supported by an industry advisory group including Mobile Power, Exawatt, HJ Enthoven and CTEch Innovations.

Low Cost Graphite Polysulphide Single Liquid Flow Battery for Developing Countries

Researchers at Strathclyde University have been working with StorTera to reduce the cost of a highly innovative graphite polysulphide single liquid flow battery (SLIQ). The SLIQ battery offers an opportunity for a low cost, durable and low carbon solution to the challenge of energy development in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions where distributed micro-grids based on solar+storage can replace diesel generators with less capital investment than a centralised national grid network would require.

The team at Strathclyde investigated a range of solvent combinations and additives, along with separator and graphite felt material selection, to achieve over 20% reduction in upfront costs of the system to £70/kWh and 20% increase in durability, while ensuring robust temperature ranges for developing country applications. Further work is ongoing to understand more deeply the interactions of additives on durability and efficiency.

Colleagues in the Energy for Development group at Strathclyde carried out a techno-economic modelling study and surveyed stakeholders in Malawi and Zimbabwe, in order to identify specific user needs, market conditions and business cases to demonstrate how effective the technology will be. Techno-economic modelling showed that the SLIQ battery demonstrated cost savings of 20%-50% over Li-ion and lead acid chemistries.

StorTera have also developed a roll-to-roll process for their cell assembly and in the final stage of the project the team are building a 5kW/20kWh pilot scale prototype using the low-cost components, which will be tested at PNDC for performance benchmarking against a conventional lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery system under real world duty cycles.

Advanced manufacturing of 3D porous electrodes for redox flow batteries 

Dr Ana Jorge Sobrido of Queen Mary University of London will lead a project with UCL and collaborators in Canada to overcome engineering issues that are currently preventing the wide-spread adoption of RFBs. Researchers will combine two flexible, scalable manufacturing methods, 3D printing and electrospinning, to develop an innovative concept of 3D electrodes that will enable optimised mass transport and electrochemical properties, which will be validated by testing a prototype vanadium RFB. The materials developed could also find an application in other battery technologies, fuel cells and electrolysers where engineered electrode structures would have mass transport performance benefits.

Device engineering of zinc-based hybrid microflow batteries and by-product hydrogen collection for emerging economies 

Professor Dan Brett of UCL will lead a project with industry partners Bramble Energy and academic collaborators in China, India, Cuba and Pakistan to build on innovations in individual components of zinc-based hybrid microflow batteries. It will develop a novel printed circuit board-based cell/module battery architecture for low-cost and high-manufacturability that will aim to solve issues around the removal of surface bubbles and the collection of by-product hydrogen gas. The project will build and evaluate a bench-scale demonstrator device, accelerating a route to a start-up and potential international investment in this low cost, low toxicity, environmentally benign technology.


As part of the same programme of work, the Faraday Institution worked with DNV and TFE Africa to develop a techno-economic analysis of the costs and prospects for replacing fossil-fuelled generators with battery storage technologies. The report was published in September 2021. Download report.

Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer at the Faraday Institution said, “Through this programme and our wider work with the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance and World Bank’s Energy Storage Partnership we are pleased that the Faraday Institution is in a position to affect global change, helping communities with low or no connectivity to have reliable access to energy sources and bringing economic, social and environment benefits to developing countries and emerging economies.”

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