From Phones to EVs, Batteries Need to Store More: Investor Call with Ten-Nine Explains One Solution

Everyone would like their electric vehicle to run a greater distance – and, on a smaller scale, their smartphone or flashlight to last longer. At its core, this is a question of the battery’s energy density. Among the ways to boost energy density is improving the cathode. In this context, we recently hosted an investor call with privately held Ten-Nine Technologies, a provider of a proprietary compound that is designed to be mixed with conventional cathode material in lithium-ion and alkaline batteries. We take this opportunity to recap our takeaways.

Energy density is a key attribute of batteries – and not only those used in EVs.
First, a bit of chemistry 101. In the context of batteries, energy density is defined as battery power (measured in watt-hours) per unit of volume (measured in liters). The higher the density, the more electricity stored in the battery, or, put another way, the same amount of electricity can be stored in a smaller battery. As is intuitive, products with a compact form factor, notably consumer electronics, derive a particular benefit from a denser battery. This issue is less crucial for end markets where batteries are much larger – electric mobility and grid-scale power storage – though higher density is still advantageous, all else being equal.

Energy density is trending higher over time, reflecting evolutionary enhancements in battery engineering. However, in contrast to the massive improvements seen across the technology sector, the long-term trend of improvement in batteries is quite modest: it has averaged 4.4% per year over the past 30 years. A lithium-ion battery for the earliest cell phones in 1990 had a density of 200 Wh/l, whereas a modern one is near 700 Wh/l. Considering that semiconductors have historically doubled in performance every two years – per Moore’s Law – battery improvement seems like rather weak tea.

Ten-Nine’s proprietary compound – TENIX™ – enables battery performance increases of 2x to 3x.
Ten-Nine, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has developed and is in the early stages of commercializing a compound called TENIX™. This is a “drop-in” solution for battery manufacturers: in other words, the battery production process does not need to fundamentally change. TENIX™ is designed to be mixed with conventional cathode material. (Another chemistry lesson: the cathode is the electrode that absorbs electrons, whereas the anode releases electrons during discharge.) TENIX™ can be used in lithium-ion and alkaline batteries, the latter being what most of us have used for decades in flashlights and portable CD players.

You may be asking: OK, but how much more EV battery range (or flashlight battery life) is TENIX™ able to provide? The answer, unsurprisingly, is that it depends: variables include the size of the underlying product, how it is used, even the ambient temperature. All that being said, Ten-Nine highlights battery performance increases of 2x to 3x based on the inclusion of TENIX™ at a 10% level within the cathode mix. The company has yet to enter large-scale production – that is expected in 2023 – at which point there will be greater granularity on the specific performance uplift vis-a-vis the individual use cases.

This article was written by Pavel Molchanov and Graham Price and originally published by Raymond James