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Theion CEO, Dr. Ulrich Ehmes, talks battery innovation & driving forward sustainability in energy storage  

by Madaline Dunn

While energy storage is a key component of the energy transition, the human and environmental cost of conventional lithium-ion batteries is high, and the raw materials they rely on, under strain.

Battery innovation is, therefore, central to accelerating progress on the path to clean energy.

Startup theion, a battery tech manufacturer, is working in this space with its lithium-sulfur battery.

ESG Mena recently spoke to Dr. Ulrich Ehmes, CEO of theion GmbH, to learn more about sustainable energy storage, the company’s battery innovation, and the role of the private sector in supporting the transition to a more sustainable battery industry.

Dr. Ulrich, tell me about your participation in COP28.

Our initial engagement in the region began with a booth at Gitex in October 2023. The positive response to our technology there inspired us to actively participate in COP28. During the conference, we were involved in various panels, including one at the Bloomberg event. 

COP28 was a pivotal platform for us to understand the regional needs, showcase our sustainable energy storage solutions, and forge potential business partnerships. 

How is theion striving to bolster sustainability in manufacturing? 

Our strategy to increase sustainability in battery production is twofold. Firstly, we focus on selecting environmentally friendly materials. In this regard, we use sulfur, a waste product from other industries, effectively recycling it and achieving zero CO2 emissions in material production.

Secondly, we’ve optimised our production processes, employing irradiation techniques instead of energy-intensive drying processes. This tailored approach minimises energy loss and avoids unnecessary side reactions, enhancing overall efficiency. 

And, are you moving to expand your activities in the Arab region? What will this involve?

The Arab region’s ongoing energy transition, abundance of sulfur, available talent, and favourable conditions make it an attractive destination for theion’s expansion. Our plan includes establishing an R&D centre staffed with material scientists to serve as a nucleus for further growth. Around this centre, we aim to build an ecosystem conducive to mass-producing batteries locally and for global distribution.

What kind of impact can the utilisation of theion batteries in electric vehicles have?

 Our sulfur-based battery technology is a game-changer for electric vehicles, offering three times the gravimetric energy density at one-third the cost and CO2 footprint compared to current technologies. This translates into tripled vehicle range and significantly lower costs. In aviation, it enables electric aircraft to extend their flight duration to over two hours, making them economically viable and supporting CO2-neutral, affordable mobility.

How do lithium-sulfur batteries compare to conventional batteries, and what kind of impact can they have on CO2 emissions?

Lithium-sulfur batteries, as developed by theion, offer significant advantages over conventional batteries. They are more cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable. The use of sulfur, a waste product, ensures zero CO2 emissions in material production, and our energy-efficient manufacturing process further reduces the carbon footprint. These batteries are not only cheaper but also boast a higher energy density, contributing to their lower overall environmental impact.

Can you tell me more about the importance of battery-based energy storage in Middle Eastern countries that are moving to increase investment in renewable energy? 

In the Middle East, where investment in renewable energy is increasing, battery-based energy storage plays a crucial role. Our sulfur-based batteries can significantly reduce storage costs, making them well-suited for balancing the variability of solar and wind power. This affordability and efficiency make investing in sulfur-based battery technology not just sustainable but also financially sound.

How can we overcome the challenges associated with renewable energy storage?

To address the challenges in renewable energy storage, it’s crucial to select the right materials and design effective battery cells. These elements determine cost, performance, and sustainability. Our sulfur-based battery cells, combined with proprietary processes, are designed to make energy storage both sustainable and affordable, ensuring broad acceptance and a low CO2 footprint.

And what is the role of the private sector in supporting the transition to greater sustainability in the battery industry?

The transition to sustainable battery technology is greatly influenced by the framework set by politics, which in turn motivates private sector innovation. While public funding can aid in the initial stages of new technology deployment, it’s ultimately the private sector’s responsibility to drive and scale profitable, sustainable, and customer-beneficial battery technologies. The private sector’s role is crucial in realising long-term sustainability goals in the battery industry.

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