Dusseldorf More electric cars, more storage for renewable energies – the demand for electric batteries will increase sharply. According to the consulting firm McKinsey demand for lithium-ion batteries is increasing by 30 percent annually. In 2030, it should therefore be 4500 gigawatt hours.
But the use of electric batteries is a tricky matter for car manufacturers or suppliers. There are thousands of different cells and cell chemicals, and there is a lack of long-term empirical values about the service life or performance of the respective battery types. A start-up wants to remedy the situation in this area.
Who is the person you are talking about?
Twaice offers analytics software that predicts battery behavior and lifespan. The competition is fierce, but the Munich start-up stands out. Already more than 50 customers like Audi, MercedesTÜV Rheinland or the Austrian Association of Energy Suppliers rely on the company’s analyses.
Now Twaice offers together with Great Lakes, the US subsidiary of reinsurer Munich Re, an insurance company for the electric batteries and advertises “peace of mind” for car manufacturers. In the event of an insurance claim, they will be reimbursed eight times the cost of the software. “The cooperation with Munich Re shows that our customers can rely on what we say,” says founder Stephan Rohr.
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Why is that important?
Electric car manufacturers or energy companies need real-time information about the health, safety and lifespan of lithium-ion batteries. This offers numerous market opportunities.
So far, car manufacturers have given an eight-year guarantee and a mileage of up to 200,000 kilometers on batteries in electric cars, for example. Know Audi, Mercedes and the other companies use their battery cells more precisely, they can still extend the warranty period – without taking on an additional financial risk. It would also be possible to lower the sales price, since the total cost of the guarantee has fallen.
Because the possibility of analysis can help energy companies or fleet operators to optimally charge the batteries and prevent failures. “According to the estimates of the providers, the service life can typically be extended by up to 25 percent and the range of the battery can be increased by five to ten percent through charging recommendations to the user,” says Alexander Timmer, partner at the Berylls industry consultancy.
How does this work?
Twaice has developed “predictive analytics software”. In this, knowledge about the chemical interrelationships of the battery cells that has been accumulated over many years was paired with machine learning.
The artificial intelligence (AI) learns from examples and data, the system builds a statistical model. The data comes partly from customers, partly from our own laboratory in Munich. Of the 120 employees, 70 percent are developers or engineers.
Basically, Twaice builds digital twins of batteries that simulate the thermal and electrical behavior of the cells over many charge cycles.
What are the critics saying?
“Battery cells are very complex and difficult to analyze,” says Achim Kampker, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Research Manufacturing Battery Cells (FFB). “In order to make predictions there and build up the corresponding AI competence, you need a deep understanding of batteries and their cells.”
There is also strong competition. “Many players are forming, including established providers and start-ups,” says consultant Timmer. For example, Bosch is in the running, and the young company Accure from Aachen is considered promising.
Big manufacturers like Tesla evaluate the information from the battery packs in their electric cars themselves. The data is invaluable to electric vehicle manufacturers as it provides information that even the big battery manufacturers love panasonic or Catl have no access during the lifetime of the cells.
“In this area, scale matters because collecting data from hundreds of cells in a lab is nothing compared to collecting data from a million electric cars on the road,” says Vincent Pluvinage, CEO of US battery start-up One D.
“There’s a lot of money in that area. But there are also many providers, it’s a race for a great treasure,” says Kampker. Twaice’s warranty initiative inspires the battery expert. “The idea of insurance is smart. I spoke to insurance companies about this years ago, and at the time they just waved me off.”
Twaice is confident. “Our business is still growing strongly at the moment, which is quite different from some other start-ups,” says founder Rohr. “We have staying power and want to build a global champion over the next ten years.”