Tag Archives: battery


One of the biggest technical challenges facing commercial drone delivery is battery life. Companies need drones that can carry payloads of packages while still having enough power to travel longer distances and complete multiple deliveries on a single battery charge. Addressing the limitations of current battery technology is a major focus area for many drone delivery startups and tech giants.

Amazon, which has plans for Prime Air drone delivery, has invested heavily in research and development to improve battery energy density and flight duration. In 2021, they patented a new dual-battery configuration that allows drones to quickly swap out depleted batteries in mid-air using robotic arms. This “battery hot-swapping” could theoretically enable drones to fly and deliver indefinitely without needing to land and recharge. This technology would require more advanced autonomous capabilities and adds complexity.

Other companies are taking different approaches. Flytrex, a leader in drone delivery, equips its drones with efficient electric motors and optimized flight routines to maximize flight time and range on conventional lithium-ion batteries. Flight tests have demonstrated payloads of up to 6.6 pounds and flight distances of over 10 miles on a single charge. Like all electric drones, weather extremes still significantly impact battery life.

Wing, owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, focuses on optimizing battery usage through lightweight drone designs and on-board diagnostics to monitor battery health and charging rates. Their latest generation of delivery drones have doubled battery capacity compared to earlier models through advances in battery chemistry and cooling systems. Total flight times are still limited to around 30 minutes based on battery capacity and drone weight with cargo onboard.

To address this, Startup Zipline is taking a very different approach than most competitors by relying entirely on fixed-wing drones versus the traditional multirotor designs with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities. Fixed-wing drones are far more efficient gliders capable of traveling much greater distances on less battery power. Fixed-wing delivery drones require runway style launch and landing facilities versus being able to takeoff and land anywhere like VTOL drones. Zipline’s drones can carry 4-6 pounds of medical supplies over a 50+ mile range at speeds around 100 mph while only needing 10-15 minute battery recharges between supply runs. This allows for much higher throughput versus vertical take-off drones limited to a max 30 minute flight time and smaller per-charge range.

In terms of weather resilience, most commercial drone delivery programs today remain limited to fair weather flying since extreme wind, rain, snow and ice significantly impact flight performance and safety. Electric motors and lithium battery packs are also sensitive to moisture and temperature extremes.

Companies are actively working to expand drone operations into more challenging weather conditions via airframe, power system and autonomous software innovations.

Wing has tested delivery drones in light rain and gusty winds up to around 25 miles per hour. Their drones incorporate hydrophobic coatings to shed water and brushless motors sealed against moisture ingress. Advanced computer vision and lidar mapping helps the drones autonomously navigate inclement conditions.

Amazon envisions future delivery drones able to withstand heavy downpours, high winds, icy conditions and even complete deliveries in the wake of major storms or disasters when roads may be blocked. To that end, they are developing drones using hybrid or fuel cell propulsion versus batteries alone for more weather-resilient power. Experimental designs incorporate features like deicing systems, reinforced airframes, and autonomous flight capabilities robust enough to safely route around hazards like downed trees in inclement weather.

One challenge is that regulations currently prohibit routine operations beyond visual line-of-sight, a limitation in low-visibility conditions like heavy rain or fog. Advanced sense-and-avoid and beyond visual line-of-sight technologies still need additional reliability validation by regulators before approvals for commercial BVLOS flights in all-weather conditions.

While drone delivery shows tremendous potential to revolutionize last-mile logistics, battery life limitations and sensitivity to extreme weather remain major technical hurdles slowing widespread commercial deployment. Companies are addressing these challenges through a range of innovative solutions focused on energy density, battery swapping, hybrid-electric or fuel cell propulsion, lightweight materials, autonomous software, and more weather-resilient designs. Should technologies like fixed-wing delivery drones carrying multi-day battery packs or all-weather flight capabilities via hybrid propulsion systems prove out, it could vastly expand the potential use cases and commercial viability of drone delivery worldwide. Regulatory approval of more autonomous BVLOS flight will also be important to unlocking the true potential of drone delivery systems – especially in challenging weather conditions where drones could potentially provide a more reliable option than ground vehicles. Through ongoing technological innovation, the dream of rapid urban drone delivery may soon become widespread reality.


Zap Logistics is a technology company based in California that was founded in 2009 with a focus on developing electric vehicle technology. One of their major innovations has been in the area of battery design and chemistry. Through extensive research and development efforts over the past decade, Zap Logistics has created a proprietary lithium-ion battery technology that offers significant improvements over traditional lithium-ion battery designs.

At the core of Zap’s battery technology is an advanced lithium-ion chemistry that utilizes a combination of lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) in the cathode. By combining NMC and LFP in a layered cathode structure, Zap is able to take advantage of the high energy density and power capabilities of NMC while also gaining the thermal stability and longevity of LFP. Extensive testing and modeling led Zap to determine an optimum 60/40 ratio of NMC to LFP that balances these different material properties.

Another major area of advancement for Zap’s battery technology relates to the anode composition and structure. Conventional graphite anodes in lithium-ion batteries can expand and contract significantly during the charge/discharge process, leading to mechanical stress and degradation over time. Zap solved this problem through the use of a silicon-graphite composite anode. By doping finely-tuned levels of silicon nanoparticles into the graphite anode material, Zap was able to substantially increase the battery’s energy storage capacity while still maintaining excellent cycle life. The silicon improves the energy density while the graphite structure encases and supports the silicon to prevent mechanical failures.

In addition to optimized cathode and anode compositions, Zap also developed advanced separator materials, electrolyte formulations, and battery management technologies that have allowed them to push the performance limits of their lithium-ion design. Their separator membranes are only 20 microns thick yet can withstand extreme temperatures without failing. The proprietary electrolyte was custom formulated to provide excellent ionic conductivity and be stable at both low and high voltages. Zap also holds multiple patents related to their battery management system, which uses advanced voltage, current, and thermal modeling to precisely control charging protocols and prevent damage from overcharging or overheating.

Extensive lab and road testing has demonstrated the capabilities of Zap’s proprietary battery technology. At a standard discharge rate of C/3, Zap batteries can provide over 300 watt-hours of energy per kilogram of battery weight – a significant advance over most standard lithium-ion designs that usually offer 250-275 watt-hours per kg.Perhaps more impressively, Zap batteries maintain over 90% of their rated capacity even after 4000 full charge-discharge cycles in lab tests. This equates to a lifespan over 4 times longer than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Real-world driving results have shown Zap battery packs to provide over 250 miles of range for electric delivery vehicles even in hot or cold weather extremes. This is a major improvement over same-vehicle tests conducted with off-the-shelf batteries that only achieved around 200 miles per charge. Telemetry data from over 10 million miles of commercial electric vehicle operation also demonstrates the reliability and cycle life of Zap batteries, with very low failure rates observed.

In addition to powering Zap’s own electric vehicles, the company is working to license their advanced battery technology to other automakers, shuttles/bus OEMs, as well as energy storage system providers. Zap estimates their battery design offers a 15-30% cost reduction over generic lithium-ion batteries due to reduced materials needs and a much longer lifespan before replacement is required. This could significantly improve the business case for electrification across multiple transportation sectors.

Through years of intensive R&D effort, Zap Logistics has created a truly breakthrough lithium-ion battery technology that improves practically every metric that matters – from energy density and cycling performance to safety, reliability, lifespan and reduced costs. With nearly a decade of rigorous lab and road testing now completed, their batteries have proven at-scale viability and are poised to power the next generation of electric vehicles while also enhancing global energy storage capabilities. Zap’s novel and proprietary design represents a great example of how advanced research can yield step-change innovations beyond existing lithium-ion boundaries.


Batteries play a crucial role in making renewable energy sources like solar and wind power more viable options for widespread grid integration. As the production and capability of batteries continues to improve, battery storage is becoming an increasingly important technology for enabling the large-scale adoption of intermittent renewable power sources. Various types of batteries are being developed and applied to store excess renewable energy and discharge it when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Some of the most promising battery technologies currently being advanced for renewable energy storage applications include lithium-ion, redox flow, zinc-bromine, and sodium-based batteries.

Lithium-ion battery technology has seen tremendous advancements in recent decades and remains the dominant chemistry used for most electric vehicles and consumer electronics. For utility-scale energy storage, lithium-ion is also increasingly common due to its high energy density and relatively fast recharge rates. Manufacturers are working to drive down costs through innovations in materials and production processes. longer-lasting electrolytes and electrodes are extending cycle life. New lithium-ion chemistries using lithium iron phosphate, lithium titanate, and high-nickel cathodes offer improved safety characteristics compared to earlier generations. Startup companies like Ambri, Enervault, and CellCube are developing liquid metal batteries that could store renewable energy for weeks at a time at grid-scale with lithium-ion-like recharge speeds.

Redox flow batteries offer an alternative battery architecture well-suited for multi-megawatt, prolonged duration applications. With their liquid electrolytes circulating in external tanks disconnected from the battery structure, flow batteries can be scaled up or down according to power and storage needs. They also have a potentially longer lifespan than lithium-ion. Recent flow battery advancements include improved electrolyte chemistry and materials like all-vanadium, zinc-bromine, and polysulfide bromide designs that maintain high roundtrip efficiency over thousands of charge/discharge cycles. Companies such as Sumitomo Electric, Redflow, and ESS Inc are optimizing flow battery chemistries and system designs for renewable energy storage.

Beyond lithium-ion and flow batteries, other types are in earlier stages of commercialization but showing promise. Zinc-bromine batteries can deliver energy at competitive costs for multi-hour storage and are stable in high ambient temperatures. Form Energy is developing a low-cost iron-air battery suitable for seasonal storage of renewable energy for the grid. Ambient temperature sodium-ion and sodium-sulfur batteries offer lower costs than lithium-ion and could provide renewable energy storage measured in days rather than hours. These technologies are still in the demonstration phase but may gain traction if cost and performance targets are met.

All of these battery innovations aim to overcome challenges limiting renewable adoption like the intermittent nature of wind and solar resources. With sufficient energy storage capacity, renewable power can be available on-demand around the clock to displace fossil fuel generation. Batteries coupled with variable renewable sources improve power quality and grid stability compared to intermittent wind and solar alone. The goal of battery manufacturers is to achieve costs low enough that renewable energy plus storage becomes cheaper than new fossil fuel infrastructure over the lifetime of the projects. If scalable, economical battery storage solutions continue advancing, they have the potential to transform electricity grids worldwide and enable a transition to high shares of renewable energy.

Battery technology is rapidly progressing to enable the integration of higher levels of variable wind and solar power onto electricity grids. Lithium-ion remains strongly positioned for short-duration applications while newer battery types like redox flow, sodium, and iron-air show promise for longer-duration storage necessary for renewable energy at multi-day scale. With ongoing cost reductions and performance improvements, it’s realistic to envision a future with terawatt-scale amounts of wind and solar generation working symbiotically with battery storage to supply clean, reliable electricity around the clock. Further battery innovations will be integral to fully realizing that renewable energy future.


Toyota Motor Corporation – Toyota is one of the early pioneers in solid-state battery R&D. They established a pilot plant for solid-state battery production back in 2014. Since then, they have continued robust research efforts. In 2022, Toyota announced that they planned to start producing solid-state batteries by the mid-2020s. Their goal is to use solid-state batteries to extend EV ranges to around 500 km on a single charge. Solid-state technologies could also help reduce manufacturing costs over time.

Sakti3 – This Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup was acquired by Dyson in 2015. Under Dyson, Sakti3 continued its work developing all-solid-state battery cells using a thin film lithium metal anode. In 2020, Dyson announced it would stop work on solid-state batteries, abruptly ending Sakti3’s research efforts and redirecting resources. However, Sakti3 pioneered some key principles in solid-state cell designs during its tenure.

Cymbet – Founded in 1996, Cymbet is one of the earliest companies focused exclusively on solid-state thin film battery technology. They developed a proprietary alloy used in the creation of thin film solid-state batteries. Cymbet produced some of the first commercially available solid-state microbatteries. While they haven’t produced larger battery packs yet, their work established foundational approaches.

Volkswagen – The German automaker established a new business unit called PowerCo in 2020 to focus on battery technology research among other areas. One particular priority is developing solid-state batteries both in-house and through partnerships. VW aims to introduce solid-state designs around the later half of this decade to improve battery performance metrics.

BMW – This luxury automaker has been researching next-gen batteries including solid-state varieties. In 2021, BMW partnered with solid-state battery startup Solid Power to co-develop production-oriented cells. Their goal is to incorporate solid-state designs into vehicles starting in 2025. BMW is taking a collaborative approach which could help accelerate the technology.

QuantumScape – Founded in 2010, this Silicon Valley company went public via SPAC merger in late 2020. QuantumScape is developing solid-state lithium metal batteries using a ceramic separator. Independent testing has shown promising results for the company’s prototype cells including increased energy density and improved safety. They plan to start production in 2024.

Solid Power – Based in Colorado, Solid Power is partnering with BMW and Ford to further develop its sulfide all-solid-state battery technology. The company believes its design could offer 50% more energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Solid Power aims to scale up production and have pre-production cells ready by 2024.

LG Chem – The Korean battery giant established an energy solutions company called LG Energy Solution in 2020. They have an R&D division exploring solid-state technologies. LG aims to mass produce solid-state EV batteries by 2030 that could increase battery capacities by 30%. With significant existing manufacturing scale, LG is well-positioned for future commercialization.

CATL – China’s top battery supplier is also working on solid-state innovations. In 2021, they demonstrated a prototype solid-state battery pack and aims to start production around 2024-2025 pending further testing and optimization. CATL has the resources to scale solid-state rapidly depending on how their research progresses over the next few years.

Ionic Materials – Another US-based startup, Ionic Materials develops a proprietary solid polymer electrolyte material that could provide cost advantages over other solid-state approaches. Partners include Hyundai and Stellantis. Ionic aims to enable high-energy solid-state batteries by 2026 that exceed the performance of today’s lithium-ion packs.

As this overview shows, automakers and battery producers are aggressively pursuing solid-state technologies through both internal R&D and external partnerships. Early prototypes demonstrate the potential for significantly higher energy densities and greater safety. Several challenges around manufacturing processes and long-term cycling still need to be overcome before solid-state designs are ready for commercial vehicle applications. Major corporations are positioning themselves to be ready when the technology matures later this decade. Continued progress in 2022-2024 will become increasingly evident as more collaborative projects bear fruit.


Solar energy is intermittent because solar panels only generate electricity when the sun is shining. On cloudy or rainy days, or at night, solar panels will not produce any electricity. Battery storage solves this problem by storing excess solar energy produced during the day for use later on, even when the sun isn’t available. Large-scale battery systems connected to solar farms can collect and save the solar energy that is generated during peak production hours. This stored energy can then be discharged from the batteries during non-peak hours, evenings, and when cloudy weather inhibits solar generation. In this way, battery storage smooths out the variable nature of solar power supply and makes solar energy available around the clock.

These large battery systems provide grid stability by helping to balance electricity demand and supply even as solar availability fluctuates throughout the day. When solar generation exceeds immediate demand, batteries can charge up with this excess renewable energy. Then when clouds roll in or electricity use increases in the late afternoon or evening, the batteries discharge the stored solar power back to the grid to help meet demand. This means utility operators do not have to ramp up inefficient “peaker plants” as quickly when solar drops off, improving grid reliability. The batteries act as a virtual power plant, regulating voltage and frequency on the grid.

By storing solar power when generation is high and releasing it when generation drops, battery storage increases the capacity factor and utilization rate of solar installations. Without batteries, solar farms and rooftop arrays may only generate electricity 20-30% of the time on an annual basis. But pairing solar with storage boosts this up to 50-80% utilization by allowing the solar energy to be used long after dusk even though the panels are not producing at that time. This means the economics of solar improve significantly with batteries. More hours of generation per day and per year means the solar investment generates electricity returns for a larger fraction of hours in the year.

Batteries also provide a more consistent power output from variable solar, helping satisfy the stringent power quality and ramp rate requirements (how quickly supply needs to change) that utilities impose on renewable energy generators connecting to the main power grid. Solar power naturally fluctuates a lot from minute to minute depending on passing clouds. Grid-scale batteries can even out these fluctuations by absorbing excess energy during short spikes and then releasing it slowly and consistently to offset periods when solar generation falls. This ensures steady, reliable, predictable power delivery to the grid.

From the utility perspective, battery storage provides essential services like frequency regulation, voltage support, and contingency reserves that are necessary to maintain a stable grid. During abnormal events like generation or transmission outages, fast responding battery systems can instantly discharge energy to help fill supply gaps and prevent cascading blackouts due to frequency or voltage deviations out of safe ranges. They act as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) providing backup power at lightning speed when needed most. This versatility and reliability make batteries an important component enabling higher penetrations of renewable energy across multiple grids.

As battery storage technology continues advancing rapidly in terms of performance, efficiency, lifespan and declining costs, it is poised to take on an even bigger role stabilizing the variability of renewable resources like solar and wind power worldwide. Larger grid-scale installations of 100MW or more that can discharge for several hours use high-capacity battery chemistries like lithium-ion, zinc-bromine, and lead-acid to tackle intermittency challenges at the terawatt-hour scale. Pairing renewable energy generation with colocated battery facilities is becoming increasingly common both for utility-scale projects and distributed, behind-the-meter residential and commercial solar+storage deployments as well. The synergies between solar, batteries and intelligent inverter and software control systems ensure more dispatchable and firm solar power supplies for customers and the grid alike. In the future, mass deployment of battery storage will help facilitate high penetration levels of solar and renewable energies globally to power sustainable economies with clean, affordable zero-carbon electricity around the clock.