Investors willing to bet on domestic upstarts in the lithium-ion battery market cannot help remembering the horror stories. Back in 2006, Sony (NYSE: SNE), which played a major role in commercializing the lithium-ion technology, was forced to recall millions of battery packs when several hundred overheated and a few caught fire. In January 2013, a fire, traced to a lithium battery, broke out on an empty Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner parked at Boston’s Logan Airport. Just a few days later, an All-Nippon Airways Dreamliner made an emergency landing at Tokyo’s Haneda airport after smoke from an overheated lithium battery filled the cockpit. These two incidents, in quick succession, galvanized a forceful response from the Federal Aviation Authority: the entire Dreamliner fleet of 50 planes was grounded.
Apprehension about the seemingly temperamental nature of lithium batteries spread and resulted in intergovernmental action. Recently, Reuters reported that ‘the U.N. aviation agency… (has) prohibited shipments of lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft, following concerns by pilots and plane makers that they are a fire risk.’ The ban took effect on April 1, 2016. However, all lithium-ion batteries are not made the same. The technologies employed differ. Those employed in the batteries manufactured in the U.S. by Oakridge Global Energy Solutions, Inc. (OTCQB: OGES) have proven to be less risky than those used by GS Yuasa (OTC: GYUAF), which made the Dreamliner batteries, and Sony.
Since the early pioneering days of the 1990s, many lithium technologies have been developed. Sony initially employed a lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) chemistry. Since then, lithium manganese oxide (LiMn2O4) has been tried, as has lithium titanate (Li4Ti5O12). Chemistries employing different combinations of nickel, cobalt, and aluminum paired with lithium, referred to in industry jargon as NCA, are also commonplace. Such chemistries are Panasonic’s (OTC: PCRFY) forte and will, undoubtedly, be the ones used in the company’s huge joint-venture battery manufacturing plant with Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). The batteries manufactured by Oakridge in the U.S., however, employ the newer, less risky lithium iron phosphate chemistry (LiFePO4).
All battery chemistries, including lithium, share the same characteristics. Two electrodes exchange ions through an electrolyte. Ions are atoms or molecules from which negatively charged electrons have been stripped. These free electrons flow in the opposite direction to the ions through an outer circuit producing an electric current. For this system to work effectively, it is essential that the various processes involved work in the direction they are supposed to or are not circumvented. The flow of ions through the electrolyte, for example, should move in one direction during charging and in the opposite direction during discharge.
If the materials separating the various elements in the battery are breached, trouble results. An internal short-circuit occurs and the battery begins to heat up. The temperature can get to a point that triggers ‘thermal runaway’, in which the battery overheats and bursts into flames. Batteries using lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) and other oxide chemistries are particularly susceptible to thermal runaway. However, the lithium iron phosphate employed in OGES batteries can withstand higher temperatures than oxides and, consequently, remains stable over a wider range of abnormal events.
Oakridge has invested heavily in this lithium iron phosphate technology. In March, it announced the opening of its $40 million, 70,000-square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Palm Bay, Florida. This new facility has already started full commercial production. The company has also beefed up its management team with the appointment of seven new executives. Frank Malo will be Director of Battery Design. John Frailey will become Director of Systems Integration. Patrick Johnson is now Manufacturing Manager. David Phillips will become VP Finance and CFO. Brendan Melling will be Director of Strategic Product Development & Marketing. Spencer Jenkins is to be Manager – Materials Procurement & Logistics, and TJ Marsilio will be Director – Legal Compliance & HR.
For more information, visit www.oakridgeglobalenergy.com
Let us hear your thoughts: Oakridge Global Energy Solutions, Inc. Message Board