Battery storage systems play a crucial role in the transition towards clean energy and are gaining popularity at speed. However, the adoption of these systems has been hindered by persistent challenges, including high costs and limited durability.
Brill Power is a spin-out company from Oxford University that has developed a scalable solution designed explicitly for large-scale energy storage applications. It incorporates integrated power conversion technology, delivering significant commercial advantages and improved performance.
I spoke to Christoph Birkl, the CEO and co-founder of Brill Power to learn more,
The company recently unveiled BESA BP6X1, a modular system that combines battery management, power conversion, edge computing, monitoring and analytics in one fully integrated solution. It unlocks optimal battery performance explicitly for larger battery systems in industrial, commercial and utility-scale applications.
In plain language, Birkl likens the interior of a battery to an old-fashioned string of Christmas lights with connected cells;
"If one cell goes down, or is weaker than the rest, it will determine the performance, the end of life, and even the safety of that whole string."
The company has developed BrillCore, hardware that provides intelligent 'active loading' of battery cells or modules to overcome the weakest cell in the pack. Further, active loading extends battery lifetime by up to 60%.
By delivering a significant extension to battery lifetime, the capex required to commission new large-scale battery systems can be reduced by up to 29%, and the carbon costs associated with replacing degraded cells is reduced by 50%.
This also improves the safety and uptime of battery systems by detecting and isolating faults and enabling fault bypassing to ensure continuous systems operation.
Further, as Birkl explains, Brill Power's system offers significant environmental benefits by avoiding the need to replace cells in large grid-scale operations:
"One market research company estimates that about 50% of all investments by 2030 in the UK will go towards owning replacements and grid-scale battery systems. Avoid that replacement,and we avoid many costs and reduce the environmental footprint."
The system also includes Brill Power's highly portable, chemistry-agnostic Operating System for batteries, with high-precision monitoring algorithms, customizable settings, and over-the-air updates. Over-the-air (OTA) update capabilities provide customers with enduring and flexible software, and ensure compatibility with any future battery technology that may be used for replacements or augmentation.
Brill Power also offers a complimentary cloud-based analytics platform, BrillAnalytics, enabling system owners and operators to have access to a fully integrated, end-to-end solution that delivers high-accuracy data and insights from cell to screen, which include safety monitoring and prediction of the remaining system lifetime.
Brill Power recently started its first full-size passenger electric vehicle demo project, with significant commercial potential to partner with OEMs to extend the life of electric batteries.
Bringing real sustainability and circularity to battery management
Battery passports are coming to the EU requiring measurable commitments and compliance around materials traceability, circular design, and second-life utility (the re-use of a battery in another function. Brill Power's tech has a highly complementary role to play.
While a battery's first life lasts between 10-15 years, it still has a capacity of at least 75%. This means it can be repurposed for up to another ten years in applications such as stationary energy storage.
But considering the costs associated with battery production, maximizing the battery's original purpose is vital.
Birkl contends that "batteries are fundamental to the sustainable energy future. You need them to store energy for renewable sources, wind and solar, and electric vehicles.
But they also come with their own price tag in terms of energy input to be manufactured and material use, so you absolutely have to make the most of every cell you manufacture.
That means we want to stretch every battery cell's lifetime and reliability as much as possible. Thus, in the first life application, you make the absolute most out of it."
And that's our main mission, we want to make the batteries last as long as the applications that they power. So we get the absolute most out of it. And we don't spend valuable resources and create environmental footprints making more batteries than are necessary."
BrillPower's system will be particularly effective in commercial vehicle fleet management, such as trucks and buses, where increasing the lifespan of the batteries will offer substantial financial, environmental and logistical benefits.
As Birkl notes,
"Anywhere where there's a direct interest in keeping that asset operational and keeping the value at as high as possible, for as long as possible, we provide value. If manufacturers can reduce the need to replace large batteries over the vehicle's life, its a game changer. This is where our tech will be a very interesting match in the early days."
The company raised $10.5 million in Series A funding in July 2022.