UWC MetAir Partner To Deliver Lithium-Ion Storage Solutions To South Africa
Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery packs power much of the technology we use in our everyday lives - laptops, smartphones, tablets - even most electric vehicles make use of this technology. So it’s no surprise that energy storage is a major focus area for so many industries around the world - or that leading international energy storage solutions provider Metair has launched a programme to produce Li-ion batteries that leverages local raw materials, intellectual property and expertise in Turkey, Romania and South Africa - and will partner with the University of the Western Cape to do so.
“South Africa has been at the forefront of Li-ion battery technology,” says Metair Managing Director, Theo Loock, “ and we believe that this should remain the case as the global transition towards electric vehicles and renewable sources of energy drive the requirement for increasingly sophisticated energy storage solutions that rely on locally-sourced raw materials and production facilities, to reduce costs.”
In South Africa, MetAir will partner with the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), which houses the only pilot scale Li-ion battery assembly facility in Africa.
“In South Africa, we will invest in and work closely with UWC to deliver a locally-validated Li-ion solution for mining cap lamp applications, using the most efficient chemistry mix based on widely-available local minerals such as manganese, to support local beneficiation,” Loock adds.
South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s manganese - one of the main commodities required in the manufacturing of Li-ion batteries, together with iron, nickel and feldspar, among others.
Metair’s agreement with UWC will see the company invest R3 million over three years to pilot the prototype lithium production project from January 2018, improve equipment, and sponsor a local post-doctoral fellow to be trained and employed at Argonne National Laboratory in the US.
“Our relationship will ensure that the testing and validation of technology is undertaken according to strict academically-driven standards, but also support local human capital development as more students become involved in this process alongside government and private companies looking to develop commercially-viable local production of Li-ion solutions.”
These local partnerships will provide the platform for Metair to validate local solutions on a regular basis - while continuing to utilise internationally-recognised Li-ion chemistry solutions.
Production will focus on mining cap lamp cells, 12V Li-ion automotive batteries, 48V Li-ion batteries for energy storage applications and solar panel recharge technology.