Form Energy, the buzzed-about battery tech company, offers more of a window into its work

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form energy, a company that says it is developing a rechargeable battery that can store electricity for days at a fraction of the current cost, has been accused of highly confidential, even though it has arranged more than $360 million in funding from blue-chip backers Since its formation in 2017 by a handful of founders.

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One of those founders, Form Energy CEO Matteo Jaramillo, ran Tesla’s drivetrain business before leading the creation of Tesla’s Energy Storage Group. And at an event hosted by this editor last weekend, Jaramillo spoke with former Nerdshala reporter and current CNBC correspondent Lora Kolodny about her company’s core technology, which includes iron, air and water; Why is the company operating in a kind of stealth mode; And how he remembers the more than seven years he spent at Tesla working for Elon Musk. On this front, he strongly suggested that for his family to survive, he would have to find another job.

You can watch the full interview below (we found it illuminating). Meanwhile, the following are excerpts from that conversation, which have been edited for a long time.


How storage is coming into its own and why we’re seeing a renewable energy wave right now (with many companies vying for attention and aside from investment dollars):

The cheapest available source of electricity in the world today comes from renewable resources, and it is either solar or wind, depending on which region you are in. But if you are looking for moderately affordable cost of electricity, then this is the one for you to be renewable today. And of course, the thing about renewable energy is that it’s driven by the weather, and the weather is only somewhat predictable, and it’s intermittent. This means that to enable a fully renewable decarbonized grid, we need to be able to store intermittent sources of energy in all relevant timeframes.

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Yes, every night the sun goes down and every morning it comes back with great help – so that’s a gap we have to bridge. But then we start to think about the lag associated with weather or long-term weather patterns, and because renewable electricity has made such a huge profit over the past 15 to 20 years, we are now at the entry stage where we have to think a lot. It’s tough about the last 30% or 40% of the electrical system and really how are we going to provide the level of reliability and cost by using renewables or generators like we have.

image credit: Dani Padgett / (Opens in a new window)

Jaramillo also addressed why iron-air technology, which was first investigated by federal agencies for nearly 50 years and never commercialized, suddenly makes sense today as a way to store energy. Is:

First, the technology that is most commonly used is Pumped Hydro. This is by far the largest amount of energy storage we have in the world today. But the technology that’s fast approaching that is definitely lithium ion. Right now, in the event, I’m guessing everyone here has five lithium-ion batteries on their person right now, like how prevalent the chemistry is. , , ,

However, as we start to get these deeper penetrations of renewable energy, we need something that’s a little different from lithium ion. If we have an electrical system that is not only powered by 100% renewable energy – by wind, water and solar – then we need to think about these periods of lag that are only longer than a few hours at a time. There are. And that means it should also be much cheaper than Lithium Ion. , ,

iron [meanwhile] It is an unprecedentedly abundant metallic substance. It is the most mined metal on earth. Man knows a lot about it. We named it an entire age because we were playing with it a lot. And we found out a lot about it. And we still certainly use it today as the main input for steel production. It is pretty cheap too. It is abundant on every continent. , .and it is one of the largest scale industries in the world. And you are right that this is not a new chemistry. Form Energy didn’t invent the air of iron as a chemical. What we did do, however, is a chemistry that had previously been studied by two national laboratories. , .and we drew it 50 years into the future, and we applied modern techniques and modern methods, modern knowledge of electro chemistry, of corrosion, of metallurgy, and brought that performance 40 to 50 years back to where it was initially It could happen today. And that means we’re now working on devices that are actually 1/10th the cost of future lithium ions. [That means] We can indeed enable this deeply decarbonized, highly renewable, economical, reliable electric grid.

What does it mean – an iron air battery? It simply means that we are electro-chemically rusting iron and not trusting it. That’s what we’re doing. This is a very reversible process, but you have to be really good at how you do it.

Jaramillo also addressed why the company has been secretive about the efficiency of its systems (“If we’ve been secretive, it’s only because we’re trying to avoid unnecessary hype about what we’re doing. “).

He talked more precisely about how the whole thing works. If you’re curious, we suggest listening to his overview of the use of the blueberry-shaped iron golem form at about the 10-minute mark that is now accounted for by the steel industry at 100 million tons per year. are produced on a large scale.

Kolodny also asked what he learned at Tesla that he’s trying to emulate in Form Energy — and what he’s learned from his career with the automaker that he doesn’t want to repeat.

I was a Tesla for about seven and a half years. I started in 2009 and left in late 2016. And Tesla is a text factory. You can say it makes cars, but what it really does is provide lessons to people. It was a wonderful place to be during that arc. When I joined, we were two hundred people and by the time I left, we were 30,000 or 40,000 employees, something like that.

I left because at that point, we had already launched the Tesla energy effort – the Powerwall and the Powerpack. I am married My wife and I have three children. I want to be married and be a part of my kids’ lives, and seven and a half years with Elon was enough for me. I also intentionally wanted to go on good terms with Elon, and things were in a good place, so that was it for me.

image credit: Dani Padgett

I left with no regrets but I carry a lot. I recognize that nothing is more important than the people you work with, and the quality of those people. They must be diligently committed in every way possible to the mission of the mission you are working on.

The other part of the lesson is, sometimes you have to protect people from yourself. It can tip, right? Every virtue, if taken too far, becomes a defect. And so it’s also really important to acknowledge that when you are committed to people and when they are passionate about the mission of the company there can and should be boundaries around what you ask. So hopefully, what we’ve done at Farm Energy – and we’re about 200 people now – is creating a culture where we’re all extremely passionate and dedicated and mission-oriented, and we create things like family life. are also able to keep , And those two things are not in conflict.

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