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Samsung joins ‘US$17 million’ investment round for Seeo’s lithium polymer EV batte

Two different types of energy storage for electric vehicles (EVs) have received a possible boost in the past few days – Samsung has invested in a solid-state lithium battery start-up while redox flow battery EV maker nanoFlowcell has launched manufacturing headquarters.

Seeo, which develops advanced lithium polymer batteries, has closed a round of funding and boasted that Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation has joined the ranks of its investors. Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation manages investment and investment affiliation for the group’s companies.

Seeo works on stationary storage as well as EV batteries, but claims in particular that some of its products could cause a “breakthrough in energy density” that could help reduce concerns associated with the charge range of EVs. According to Seeo, funds raised will be used to accelerate commercialisation of this technology, although it has not given an expected timescale for doing so yet.

Seeo said its cells cycle with a density of 350Wh per kilogramme. The company targets reaching 450Wh/Kg in future, which it claims would be double the energy density of other commonly available EV batteries. The lithium polymer batteries, trademarked DryLyte, use a solid polymer electrolyte instead of a liquid electrolyte which Seeo claims enables safer battery production as well as being non-flammable and non-volatile.

Seeo did not reveal how much will be raised through the funding round but various reports put the figure at about US$17 million. It was not yet clear if Samsung, which provides lithium battery packs to makers of solar inverters-plus-storage including Sharp, will also adapt the DryLyte polymer batteries for its own products.

nanoFlowcell's chief technical officer Nunzio La Vecchia poses with one of the company's QUANT 'e-sportlimousines'. Images: nanFlowcell.
Meanwhile, nanoFlowcell, which debuted QUANT, an ‘e-sportlimousine’ in March this year at the Geneva Motor Show, has also made some strong claims about the effectiveness of its chosen redox flow battery system. Flow batteries are more commonly used in larger scale applications, using liquid electrolytes to store energy – put extremely simply, increasing the capacity of a flow battery can be done by increasing the volume of liquid electrolytes. In nanoFlowcell’s EVs, the liquid electrolyte is apparently a compound similar in composition to saltwater.

The company’s website claims the batteries used in the QUANT have a maximum range five times that of lithium-ion batteries commonly used in most other EVs. NanoFlowcell’s site does not appear to quote independent verification of the claims. The company did say that SGS-TÜV Saar approved the car for use on public roads in Europe in July. Technology website Gizmag recently ran a feature on nanoFlowcell’s EV, but expressed a degree of scepticism over the company’s claims, while car weblog Jalopnik apparently asked an expert to look into the claims, admittedly only using nanoFlowcell’s publicity materials and not detailed technical data. The expert who consulted for Jalopnik, a Dr Stephen Granades, said the EV “probably is too good to be true”, in an article titled “The supercar that runs using saltwater is most likely bullsh*t”.

NanoFlowcell now claims over “100 research and development professionals” are working on a prototype capable of meeting series production standards in the USA and Europe. The company’s flamboyant chief technical officer, Nunzio La Vecchia, talked up the potential of the car and the technology that powers it.

“In many of our R&D activities we frequently hit boundaries which we have to overcome. For example, the enormous energy potential of the nanoFlowcell and its link with innovative storage technology, the so-called buffer system, presents a technical challenge which vehicle and engine manufacturing has never had to face before. We have mastered this challenge. And we have done so with the best experts and specialists in this area in Germany,” La Vecchia said.

The company has also just founded a headquarters, called nanoproduction, for its manufacturing operations, in Baden-Wurttemberg. NanoFlowcell said this brings the cars one step closer to series production car manufacturing.

It was reported by various outlets in February this year that engineering company Bosch is collaborating with nanoFlowcell on R&D. According to a spokeswoman for the German group, one of its subsidiaries, Bosch Engineering Group, is working with the would-be car maker to develop the QUANT. The spokeswoman said the participation of Bosch Engineering Group is focused on several specific tasks relating more to the car's electronics systems and not to the flow battery technology itself.

"Our key task is to design the powertrain system for this prototype four-seater sports car, with the development work focused on system integration, energy management, and the control system for high-voltage and low-voltage components," she said, before adding that the company is designing "a vehicle system architecture that is tailored to this electrically powered sports sedan. This includes designing a complete on-board communication system to guarantee high-performance, fail-safe data communication between vehicle systems and components. We are also responsible for developing the vehicle control unit, the antilock braking system, the instrument cluster, and the body computer for managing the central vehicle electrical system."

While Bosch Engineering Group is working on the energy management system, it is not concerned with "the redox flow battery as an energy source itself".

"Therefore at this point of development, we are not able to either approve or deny the technical data, development status or manufacturing plans of the energy source redox flow battery," she concluded.

This article was updated on 19 December to incorporate the response from Bosch on its work with nanoFlowcell.

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