Blackstone Battery Technology: a EUR 200 million project
Blackstone Resources has made significant progress in expanding its business operations in battery technology. This forms part of its plans to become a vertically-integrated supplier of batteries to the electric vehicle and energy storage industry in the near future. It already has interests in battery metal mining and refining operations in Canada, Chile, Colombia, Norway, Mongolia and Peru. Expanding into battery technology represents the company's commitment to delivering the final battery technology solution.
In early 2019, Blackstone Resources announced its intentions to invest EUR 200 million in battery research and production facilities in Germany. It proceeded to set up Blackstone Research GmbH in Erfurt, Germany which is 100% owned by Blackstone Resources.
In March 2019, it submitted a detailed application with a business plan and work programme to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to participate in the recently announced EUR 1 billion German battery-technology subsidy programme.
The application was received and is now in the second stages of processing. In May 2019, it submitted further documentation to the German Federal Ministry: this represented a detailed application to receive a part of the subsidies from the programme. The final result from the German ministry is expected in a few months.
Blackstone has ambitious goals for the German market. It plans to take full advantage of Germany’s manufacturing prowess and strong innovative culture. This will allow Blackstone to establish a substantial battery-production project in Germany. The goal is to use these new technologies to manufacture the next generation of electric-vehicle batteries, close to where German auto manufacturers are based. Its aim is to offer an initial capacity of 100 million battery cells per annum or approximately 1 gigawatt per annum (which is the equivalent of 25,000 to 100,000 electric-vehicle batteries) at lower costs than what is presently produced by China. Once successfully achieved, plans will be drawn up to increase production substantially to 100 gigawatts per annum.
Blackstone Resources has teamed up with five strategic partners as part of its research programme. In addition, research teams from the Fraunhofer Institute of Offenburg and Goslar, as well from the Technical University of Clausthal, Germany are coordinating with Blackstone as part of this project. There are three phases to Blackstone’s Research battery-technology research programme:
- Deliver state of the art production facilities to manufacture liquid-based electrolyte batteries using newly developed production technology.
- Develop solid-state battery technology to improve battery operational results.
- Put solid-state battery technology in production process using advanced 3D-printing technology.
Source: Fraunhofer Institute
The objective is to initially develop small and flat batteries for the mobile phone and laptop market. Once this milestone is achieved, Blackstone intends to produce battery cells for the car industry and other electric vehicles, plus the newly emerging mass battery-storage energy industry.
It’s a project that aims too push the boundaries of solid-state battery technology by using new methods, such as 3D printing, to create more compact battery cells and battery packs. New battery chemistries and different battery architecture are also being explored to improve battery energy density and increase charging cycles.
This includes increasing the electrolyte energy density by experimenting with different electrode combinations. The separator thickness between the anode and the cathode is also being researched as this can have an impact on energy density.
|Electrolyte density and different electrode combinations||Influence of separator thickness on specific energy and energy density|
|Source: Fraunhofer Institute|
Solid-state battery production
Solid-state battery technology has been shown to deliver more power density and a greater number of charging cycles than traditional lithium-ion technology. However, there are challenges in bringing this technology to the market. At present, it’s difficult to produce this technology on a mass scale. Blackstone believes that automated production processes could also save up to 70% of the actual manufacturing costs. Part of its research and development programme is also dedicated to maximising the efficiency of the production line.
Blackstone is positive that it can deliver reliable batteries with a higher energy-density that can be produced on a mass scale and at cheaper costs. Its goal is to bring down costs below USD 100 for 1 kilowatt hour – this is what the market needs to deliver for the future of mankind.