Urban Electric Power has a rechargeable alkaline battery (zinc manganese-dioxide) that’s completed a critical UL testing standard for fire safety, confirming a key advantage over lithium-ion batteries which are susceptible to thermal runaway. Urban Electric Power’s chemistry was invented at City College of New York and can now compete for installations in such dense urban environments, as its name suggests — to provide day-to-day reliability, and add resiliency after natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida, without elaborate fire suppression systems that address the thermal runaway issues of other technologies.
Test details. The tendency of lithium-ion batteries to feed hot-burning, hard-to-extinguish fires has been in the headlines this summer as a grid-scale Tesla Megapack caught fire in Australia and took 150 firefighters four days to put out. Fires in Tesla electric vehicles can take 40 times as much water to put out as a typical car fire, according to firefighters. And last month, Chevrolet recalled every Bolt ever made and recommended that owners meanwhile park them outdoors because of the fire risk.
An independent testing laboratory heated a zinc manganese-dioxide cell from Urban Electric Power to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Centigrade). The lab reported that “thermal runaway was not achieved,” after being subjected to abuse tests consistent with UL 9540A standard for thermal runaway fire propagation in battery energy storage systems. The same battery cells also passed testing to the UL 1973 standard earlier in the year, covering batteries for use in stationary applications such as for capturing power from PV solar and wind turbine, uninterruptible power supplies, etc.
What else? Urban Electric Power’s modular batteries are affordable for residential, commercial, and grid-scale power backup, solar+storage, and microgrid applications. At the smaller end, the Ohm (pictured above) competes with Tesla Powerwall for residential and small commercial users. When assembled in quantity, the Zeus competes with Tesla Megapack at the utility scale.
They avoid the use of conflict minerals such as cobalt, which is used in lithium-ion batteries. They remain non-toxic and occupy half the space of comparably-rated lead-acid batteries, which can also reach thermal runaway. And they can replace diesel generators, eliminating noise, emissions, and need for refueling.
Urban Electric Power is the only energy storage company among 20 startups chosen for this year’s Incubatenergy Labs program by the Electric Power Research Institute to partner with top electric utilities; and, the only one among five startups in the F3 Tech innovation accelerator program starting this month.