Everyone is familiar with it: how at some point the battery in your smartphone loses power and needs to be replaced faster than the device itself. This is now a thing of the past with the batteries from the start-up High Performance Battery. Founders Prof. Günter Hambitzer, Sebastian Heinz and Thomas Lützenrath’s company offers next-generation batteries. Hambitzer explains how.
Can you briefly describe the idea behind High Performance Battery AG?
In principle, all of the battery systems that are currently on the market are already outdated. They lose their capacity and their level of performance drops after each charging cycle. The more intensively these batteries are used, the faster they will age. For example, fast-charging current lithium-ion batteries with organic electrolytes has a significant negative effect on their lifespan. The unique thing about our battery technology – and therefore the idea behind it – is that it addresses the problem of degradation at the chemical source. This means that our primary focus is on battery life. In order to solve this degradation issue, I had to change the basic system of battery chemistry that has been used up until now: From the outset, the impetus was on switching from organic to inorganic chemistry.
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On the basis of a special electrolyte, the High Performance battery develops a solid battery with a unique combination of performance characteristics e.g.: a non-flammable electrolyte, resistant to deep-cycle discharging, long-lasting, virtually constant capacitance with an almost constant internal resistance, i.e. consistent power. In addition, there is no shortage of raw materials for the whole production process and the environmental impact is significantly better than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries. No cobalt or other critical elements are used and the environmental balance is improved by about 50% (CO2 equivalent throughout the life cycle) compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries.
What distinguishes your battery from other products that have been developed so far?
As a result of the change in the chemical composition of the battery, the biggest difference can be found in what we refer to as the top layer. This layer forms in the battery cell during charging and discharging and increases as the battery is used more intensively. This build-up uses up the battery’s capacity and increases internal resistance. The battery loses power. It’s a different story with us. During the first use, the top layer is formed here but does not expand any further because of this – no matter how intensively the battery is used. As a result, the battery will perform at its full capacity throughout its service life.
And where are the special areas of application?
Areas of application for our solid-state batteries include static buffer storage for net stabilization and domestic storage for renewable energy. Other mobile applications range from the electrification of ships, trains and buses, to the electromobility of cars, three-wheelers and two-wheelers, and finally from power tools to consumer electronics. In particular, the non-combustibility of electrolytes is of great importance for domestic storage systems and electromobility and will eventually ensure the acceptance and proliferation of this new technology.
You have been active in this sector for a long time. What prompted you to start the company in 2018, or what has prevented you from doing this in the past?
I have been researching batteries since 1986 and it has always been important for me to understand the breadth of new battery technology in order to actually resolve the chemical source of the aging process. This is how, with the High Performance Battery, I can now lead the way to success. In addition to research, it is also important to find the right business model and the right partners. Whereas in the past the emphasis was on building up our own production capacity, the technology licensing business model allows us to focus on our core competencies, namely research and development as well as business development and sales.
With my partners Dr. Sebastian Heinz and Dr. Thomas Lützenrath, we have bundled together the competencies needed for a successful entry into the market. Sebastian Heinz was extremely successful in the business development and sale of a highly complex high-tech product in one of the largest technology groups in the world. Thomas Lützenrath was CEO of several major technology companies in Europe and is specialized in international growth strategies. As a limited liability company, we sell our shares to private investors and selected strategic investors who are all helping us to successfully implement our business model on an international scale.
Since your company was set up, has there ever been a special moment that you are particularly proud of?
There are a few special moments that have touched me deeply: it was the breakthrough in understanding chemistry as a whole in the research when I first was able to prove the properties of our inorganic solid-state ion conductor. I’m also proud of every competitor we can win over in the end. For me, this also includes our shareholders, without whose support it would have been much more difficult for us to achieve our goal. I am also proud of our growth at our various locations where our development has been very tangible. I was particularly proud of the applause from our shareholders at our last Annual General Meeting.
Where is the journey with High Performance Battery Holding AG headed?
In the first instance, we aim to gain market access through users and manufacturers for each application area and region, with a focus on static applications. That is why we are continuing to develop our current status in order to make mass production of our technology as straightforward as possible. Manufacturers of conventional lithium-ion batteries are therefore counted as our customers and not as our competitors.
Our ultimate goal is to have a battery for every application that, due to its extreme service life, eliminates any need to replace the battery for a very long period of time. Imagine what it would be like if products could be produced without a battery in the future, as the customer already has a battery. This would be a real revolution across all product areas.
Time for a very personal question: you can look back on a lot of practical experience – how much is your background an advantage in comparison to the other, slightly younger co-founders?
To be honest, this has nothing to do with age. Rather with the product. Are the advantages so great that you are able to make a difference? Do you have an implementation team with the necessary skills? Do the skills complement each other? Do you have fun together and can you really trust each other 100%? Have you opted for a form of funding that really helps you with implementation – but also strategically?
Are there any tips you would like to give to other entrepreneurs based on what you have experienced along the way with your own start-up?
It’s always about tips, but if you still want to use a generalization: believe in your idea and find a team that fits well together, that complements each other and appreciates each other. Find a form of funding that doesn’t monopolize you and that gives you the freedom and support you need in order to be truly successful. Concentrate on your strengths and build on them wisely.
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