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Li-ion Cells are Growing – When Does it Stop?

There has been a lot of talk lately about new lithium-ion factories coming online and even more planned. What are they building though? Manufacturers are looking at how the size of the cell used in these EV’s can influence performance and Tesla’s new Giga factory in Austin Texas just began rolling vehicles off the line powered by a new Lithium-ion cell. Now Panasonic has delivered their first larger cells to Tesla in June, and they are big!

Figure 1: Lithium-Ion cells from Panasonic in three assorted sizes.

The first commercialized Lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells were cylindrical in shape. This allowed for high-speed automated manufacturing processes to be used. The original size was 18 milimeters in diameter and 65 millimeters in length (the 18650 form factor, the trailing 0 means it is a cylindrical cell, as square cells would have a third number here). These dimensions allowed for the first commercial laptops to use Li-ion cells and remain fairly slim. As the industry matured, and manufacturing ramped up to build more cells for applications, we learned that making bigger and longer cells can lower the cost of cell manufacturing. The standardization of the 18650 cell form factor spread across many industries and cemented it as the de facto shape and size. 

To achieve the cost savings, a new size emerged, the 21700 cell. This introduced a 50% increase in capacity with only a 15% increase in diameter. Tesla led the charge and soon all of the major Li-ion cell manufacturers began to produce their own 21700 cells. Not only did this help increase the ratio of active material to packaging, delivering higher capacity, it also provided more active surface area for the lithium-ion exchange to occur. These cells deliver higher current and better performance. 

In 2020, at Tesla’s Battery Day event, Elon Musk and Sr. VP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino, introduced the world to the “perfect size”. The Tesla duo introduced the 4680 form factor (Dropping the last zero, per Elon, “Nobody could explain to me why there was an extra zero. So I… said, okay, well, we’re deleting the zero”). This new cell is 8x the size of an 18650 and provides more capacity due to the increased ratio of packaging to active materials. According to Tesla, this is the perfect size based on their analysis of the chemistry, construction methods, application needs, and manufacturing capabilities. 

Figure 2: Tesla’s new 4680 cell

However, here are a few problems with this new form factor that will need to be solved to commercialize and ramp production. The innovation Tesla presented to solve many of these challenges is a new “Tabless” cell concept. This is multi-tab design that resembles a shingled spiral of tabs that have been laser cut on the side of the anode and cathode. What does this design do for performance? This significantly reduces the electrical path thus reducing the internal resistance of each cell, allowing the larger cells to discharge and charge quickly without generating hot spots internally and reducing the heat generation in each cell in general. This improves upon the incumbent design most cell manufacturers use today that require 1-3 tabs be placed on the anode and cathode strips, which can be over a meter long, to transport current form the active materials to the contacts on the cell. 

Figure 3: The Jellyroll and tabs in a typical lithium-ion cell

Figure 4: Looking into end of the jelly roll, this is the “Tabless” design

The clever Engineers over at Bosch Research have long thought there could be advantages to this type of mechanical approach and went the extra mile to simulate it! Their research is fascinating; they found this approach to achieve a 10% improvement in 18650s and even more in larger cells enabling higher charge rates, and most significantly reduces heat generation, resulting in lower cell temperatures. 

How big is too big? The limiting factor indeed seems to be the heat rejection in the cell. Now that the heat generation has been reduced through the “Tabless” design, all cell manufacturers must determine what the optimal cell diameter is. The Bosch Engineers thought of this as well and have conducted studies to create models of the heat rejection from inside the cells. This is where Tesla, Samsung, LG, Panasonic and other manufacturers are limited in size. The rate at which heat is rejected radially is much lower than longitudinally due to the materials used in the anode and cathode of the cells. The “Tabless” design will increase the heat rejection rate longitudinally even more, but where is the sweet spot in terms of diameter? Bosch has developed the software to simulate these complex interactions, but it seems that Tesla has decided that sweet spot is at 46mm diameter, and 80mm of length. 

The first 4680 cells are rolling off the line at Tesla Austin, and other manufacturers are being urged to speed up their development of this form factor as well. It seems for now that 4680 is the right size and the length of time between standard industry size evolutions is decreasing. Green Cubes is a cell agnostic Lithium Battery Manufacturer. We can use any size cell and benefit from the economies of scale, performance improvements, and diversification of supply to best serve our customers. Green Cubes is leading the charge to modern electrification using the best cell for the job. 

If you would like to learn more about Bosch Research simulations, read Jake Christensen’s blog post.

If you want to know more about Tesla’s new batteries, read this article

Green Cubes Technology Announces New System Controller for Guardian DC Power Systems

Guardian Central Controller monitors and controls all system parameters for Guardian Lithium-ion batteries and rectifiers as a Power System

KOKOMO, IND. June 22, 2022 – Green Cubes Technology (Green Cubes), the leader in producing Lithium-ion power systems that facilitate the transition from lead acid batteries and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to green Lithium-ion battery power, today announced shipping of the Guardian Central Controller (GCC) to accompany its Guardian family of Lithium-ion Battery Backup Units for stationary rack mount installations in the Telecom and Data Center industries.

Utilizing new hardware, the intelligent system controller boasts new features to support mission-critical customer needs including:

  • IPv6 native support
  • Dynamic IP address configuration
  • RS-485 MODBUS communication interface
  • Lithium-ion and VRLA Battery support
  • Guardian Battery Unit communications
  • SNMP Interface for seamless integration
  • Simple Ethernet connection for remote monitoring
  • Web or standalone PC application programming support

“The GCC is a compact intelligent system controller module that provides monitoring and control for a broad range of DC power systems deployed with Lithium-ion or legacy battery technology,” said Jeffrey VanZwol, Chief Marketing Officer for Green Cubes. “The GCC monitors all system parameters including DC voltage, rectifier current, rectifier temperature, system capacity, battery parameters, and circuit breaker status. The GCC provides uniform and universal management of our new line of Guardian Battery Back-up Units, Guardian rectifiers, third-party batteries, and other third-party ancillary systems.”

Alarm and warning notifications are indicated by front panel LEDs and through alarm contacts that allow remote signaling. External monitoring of alarms and system is accomplished through a USB or RS-232 port using PC-based PowCom™ software. Additionally, the GCC has an Ethernet port allowing control over a TCP/IP network and web-based support. SNMP Events and alarms can be integrated with customer OSS (Operation Support System) platforms.

For individual site conditions, the GCC supports programmable logic to monitor and control environmental and security conditions within the Telecom or Data Center. The GCC can monitor and control ancillary analog systems such as cabinet door alarms, temperature monitors, security and HVAC systems.

This announcement follows the release of the company’s Guardian family of Lithium-ion Battery Backup Units, announced late last year. Telecom and Data Center industries are required to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to support mission critical functions. These stationary applications require battery backup solutions that are reliable, safe and cost effective. Relative to traditional centralized Lead Acid back-up solutions, the Guardian family of Lithium-ion batteries from Green Cubes will support these same applications at a fraction of the weight, size and total cost of ownership.

The Guardian family consists of three sizes, ranging from 2 Rack Unit (RU) to 4 RU heights, fit in both 19” or 23” cabinets and support capacity ranges from 105 Ahr to 175 Ahr. The Guardian batteries provide a nominal 48 Volts output and will both charge and discharge up to 100 Amps. All Guardian batteries have active thermal management and embedded energy balancing technology to build scalable power systems for Telecom and Data Center applications.

About Green Cubes Technology

Green Cubes Technology develops and manufactures safe and reliable electrification solutions that enable its OEM and enterprise customers to transition from Lead Acid and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to Lithium-ion battery power. Green Cubes utilizes proven hardware and software platforms to build the most reliable Lithium power solutions in its industries. With over 300 employees across six countries, Green Cubes has been producing innovative, high-performance and high-quality power solutions since 1986.

Green Cubes Technology Expands Executive Team

Industry Leader Expects Accelerated Growth from Continued Demand for Industrial Electrification

KOKOMO, IND. May 19, 2022 – Green Cubes Technology, a leader in electrification and clean, connected, cost-effective power solutions, today announced four significant executive appointments to its leadership team – Ken Gregory as Vice President of Supply Chain and Procurement, Alan Forster as Vice President of Sales for Americas, Rita Faunce as Vice President of Sales Operations and Customer Experience, and Rocio Castellanos as International Controller. These executives join Ken Johnson, who was appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) last year. The team will provide leadership to sales, supply chain, operations, manufacturing, and customer support functions for continued growth within Motive (including Ground Support & Materials Handling), Stationary (Telecom & Data Center), and Mobile (Industrial Automation) Power market segments.

“We’re very pleased to add so many talented professionals to Green Cubes’ executive team,” said Keith Washington, CEO of Green Cubes Technology. “This reflects the rapid growth of the company, and the leadership that each of these individuals bring to the company will help us continue to lead the charge to electrification.”

Mr. Gregory has a history of success with enterprise operations and transformation, customer experience, supply chain and channel/alliance sales across enterprise and consumer Information Technology, Education and Learning organizations. He has driven sustainable cultural and digital transformations in highly matrixed organizations resulting in increased revenue, enhanced customer confidence, organizational capability, and employee engagement. He brings over 25 years of core supply chain experience gained at IBM supporting its enterprise computer hardware segments. Mr. Gregory’s most recent experiences were at Pearson, a global leader in learning and education where he oversaw customer service and digital operations transformation.

Mr. Forster is responsible for managing and accelerating Green Cubes’ pipeline and revenue growth while developing its channel and sales enablement programs. In his recent role as Sales Director for the company’s Telecom and Data Center business unit (operating as Unipower), he helped rebuild sales and channel relationships, managed consistent quarterly growth, and increased sales channel coverage during the global pandemic. By working diligently with the Unipower team, he doubled bookings and revenue during a global supply chain and transportation slow down.

Ms. Faunce directs Green Cubes’ sales operations teams globally, drives its customer experience strategy, and will facilitate ownership of customer experience excellence. She has vast experience managing global teams in sales operations, customer service, and customer satisfaction with success in delivering customer facing programs that foster a spirit of transparency, continuous improvement, and mutual accountability in customer relationships. Ms. Faunce will implement continuous improvement plans, leverage customer insights and data, and work across multiple departments to ensure team members and leadership are aware of and dedicated to the goals of continuously improving the customer experience.

Ms. Castellanos joins Green Cubes as a key member of the global finance and accounting team. She is responsible for the internal and external financial reporting of all Green Cubes affiliated entities outside the U.S. In her role, she will support the entities in financial reporting topics and bridge the information to the U.S. headquarters. She will focus on continuous improvement of processes and deliverables to enhance financial performance visibility across the entities, as well as act as a strategic business advisor for International Operations. Ms. Castellanos brings over 20 years of experience and has worked for various companies including PwC, Swiss Life and Daniel Swarovski Corp.

The expansion of Green Cubes’ executive team follows the company’s announcement last year that it added a second 36,000 square foot domestic facility in Kokomo, Indiana, and expanded its product lines for Motive and Stationary Power to support accelerated growth in Material Handling and Telecom markets. The Kokomo facility is currently increasing its manufacturing throughput and is expecting a 150% increase in Motive Power shipments in 2022, relative to 2021. Additionally, Green Cubes previously announced that it established two new facilities in Europe and a Technology Center in Zurich, Switzerland.

About Green Cubes Technology

Green Cubes Technology develops and manufactures safe and reliable electrification solutions that enable its OEM and enterprise customers to transition from Lead Acid and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to Lithium-ion battery power. Green Cubes utilizes proven hardware and software platforms to build the most reliable Lithium power solutions in its industries. With a global footprint across six countries, Green Cubes has been producing innovative, high-performance and high-quality power solutions since 1986.