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Primus Power strikes deal with Apple manufacturer Foxconn to target Chinese market

Primus Power EnergyPod 2. Image: Primus Power.

Primus Power, a flow battery maker which claims its systems can cost less than half the price of lithium-ion energy storage over its lifetime, is establishing manufacturing lines in China.

Yesterday, Primus announced that it has struck up a deal with a subsidiary of Foxconn Group, the Taiwan-headquartered OEM that assembles a lot of Apple’s consumer electronics products and iphones. The subsidiary, Foxsemicon, supplies commercial manufacturing services to the semiconductor industry and for thin-film-transistor LCDs.

One among a small handful of redox flow-based energy storage system providers crossing the line from pilot phase into commercial deployment that includes the likes of VIZn, Redflow and RedT, Primus Power released its latest range of storage systems, EnergyPod 2, in February this year. The devices use zinc bromide battery chemistry generally targeting energy storage duration of around five hours.

The company received a US$32 million funding boost in March when it garnered investment from groups including Matador Capital from Saudi Arabia. That cash injection made Primus the chief recipient of venture capital funding in energy storage in the first quarter of this year, according to VC funding and M&A reports from Mercom Capital.

In a recent interview with Energy-Storage.News, Nancy Pfund of social impact investing firm DBL Partners also pointed out that one of Primus Power’s energy storage systems has been installed on a pilot basis at Microsoft’s HQ. Pfund said it demonstrated the commercial potential of the technology.

Pfund, who was one of the earliest VC investors in Tesla before it floated on the stock exchange called that project “very significant in terms of signalling that part of the toolkit for corporations to reduce costs by going renewable and achieve their sustainability goals - a big part of that toolkit - is the battery or the storage architecture”.

Chinese market proximity

The manufacturing services agreement (MSA) announced between Foxsemicon and Primus Power will be for the assembly and testing of the EnergyPod batteries, which are intended to have a 20-year lifespan and are often used to provide peak shaving services for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers.

Primus said this would help “accelerate customer shipments” to markets like China and its neighbours by reducing its manufacturing lead times. The flow battery maker also said its new partner’s “engineering capability, global purchasing power and in-house fabrication, assembly and testing” on a large scale would help bring down manufacturing costs overall.

Also touted as an advantage of the EnergyPod technology particularly in comparison to lithium-ion rivals is the fact that “common” manufacturing processes are used in its production, from welding to injection molding to the assembly stages. This is a production advantage also claimed by other makers of flow energy storage like RedT and Redflow. The latter, an Australian company, uses a lot of easily replaceable plastic parts in its systems, for example and claimed to have been the first flow battery maker to arrive at mass production, through a deal with Flextronics. Primus also said its manufacturing lines require less specialisation than is needed for lithium-ion battery production.

VP of business development for Foxsemicon, Jackson Hwang, said that “the energy storage market is exploding, particularly in China”.

“We look forward to using our manufacturing prowess to help Primus deliver their industry-leading battery systems to China and global customers.”

Meanwhile, Primus Power VP Mark Collins said the arrangement would help his company accelerate production and shipping to meet “strong customer demand”.

“We are impressed with Foxsemicon’s world-class supply chain management, global manufacturing capability, attention to detail, and strong intellectual property protection,” Collins said.