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Building a Lithium-Ion Battery That Won’t Explode

Avoiding cobalt adds weight but reduces the risk of fire.

Setting up a SimpliPhi system.

Setting up a SimpliPhi system.

Source: SimpliPhi Power


Last year, when Jesse Gerstin was leading the Clinton Foundation’s climate initiatives, one of his tasks was to bring reliable power to hospitals and other critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria had devastated the island a year earlier, highlighting just how vulnerable its electrical grid was. It remains unreliable today.

Solar power made the most sense. The question was how to store energy to use at night. One of the engineers working with Gerstin suggested pairing the solar equipment with batteries made by SimpliPhi Power. The company, based in Oxnard, Calif., manufactures what it describes as clean, safe lithium-ion batteries, free of cobalt, the toxic element that can lead batteries to overheat and catch fire. SimpliPhi’s power systems instead use lithium iron phosphate (LFP), a compound that doesn’t have those risks. Blue Planet Energy and Sonnen, makers of energy storage systems, also produce batteries using the safer compound.