Altech Batteries reports strong progress on Cerenergy ABS60 battery prototype

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By Imelda Cotton - 
Altech Batteries ASX ATC quarterly report cerenergy ABS60

Altech Batteries (ASX: ATC) has reported strong progress on the development of its ABS60 60-kilowatt-hour Cerenergy battery prototype during the three months to March.

All prototype materials have now been procured from suppliers to enable the crucial stages in cell production such as blending ceramic components, high-pressure pressing, tube formation and sintering at 1,600 degrees Celsius over several days.

A German-based pilot plant owned by Altech’s Cerenergy partner Fraunhofer IKTS navigated the entire ceramic tube production cycle during the period, with half of the required tubes now manufactured.

The battery cathode electrolyte (comprising sodium chloride and nickel powder granules) was produced using mixing and pelletising equipment at the Hermsdorf plant.

The process of cell assembly — encompassing vacuum filling, heating and welding — will be ongoing.

A vacuum chamber has also been developed to facilitate the simultaneous infiltration of cathode material into multiple battery cells.

Promising pass results were obtained from laser welding tests conducted by global specialist Precitec GmbH & Co KG.

Precise alignments

Altech said thorough examinations of all prototype cell components had been carried out using industrial micro-computed tomography (μCT) scanning to confirm precise alignments following welding closure.

This ensures the verification of filling height, composition, alignment and the behavior of cathode material after initialisation.

On satisfactory completion of the μCT quality assurance process, individual cells were put through charge and discharge performance tests and so far have demonstrated positive results.

Altech said reject or defect rates had been low and within expected limits.

Module frame

Once the prototype cells are finalised, they will be integrated into a module frame and welded to a specially-crafted cell contacting system (CCS) designed by Hofer AG.

The system facilitates pins and busbar contacts within an electrical isolation arrangement.

Hofer AG has completed the CCS development, delivering the initial designs for the ABS60 prototypes.

Altech and Fraunhofer have validated all electrical specifications and tolerances of the CCS and said the electrical isolating material has demonstrated reliable performance.

Prototype casings

Sheet metal specialist company König Metall GmbH has produced and delivered two vacuum-insulated casings for the prototype cells, which Fraunhofer will furnish for charge and discharge cycling to assess battery performance.

At the same time, the housings will undergo heating cycles to evaluate heat loss parameters of each casing.

Specialised software has been developed to facilitate access to the parameters that the Cerenergy battery pack will furnish during testing.

The assembly of cells into the battery housing is expected to be carried out once all cells are finalised by mid-year.

Once completed, Altech will send the ABS60 prototypes to potential customers to demonstrate the practical applications and benefits of the battery in various industries.

The company hopes to also secure offtake agreements.

Cerenergy study

During the period, Altech announced the results of a definitive feasibility study (DFS) conducted for the Cerenergy project.

With a conservative investment estimate of $254.8 million, the study demonstrates a net present value from operations of $276.05m and an annual net cash flow of $83.3m.

The estimated internal rate of return is 19% for a capital steady state payback in 3.7 years.

At full production capacity of 120 by 1MWh grid packs, the anticipated annual revenue of the Cerenergy project is $173m.

With the grid storage market’s compound annual growth rate sitting at 28% and on the strength of the DFS figures, Altech’s board and joint venture partners gave their approval during the quarter for the project to proceed to final investment decision.