The unnerving capability of lithium-ion batteries to catch fire emerged as headline news last month, when Boeing was forced to ground its futuristic 787 Dreamliner fleet after two batteries caught fire. But the next generation of lithium-ion batteries promises to be safer, and a few are already starting to be used in real-world situations in the power grid, electric vehicles, and gadgets.
Six-year-old startup Seeo—backed by Vinod Khosla, Google Ventures (GOOG), and others—has installed its first battery system to act in storing energy in conjunction with a solar panel system developed by SunEdison (WFR), according to Seeo Chief Executive Officer Hal Zarem, whom I interviewed last week. The solar battery installation is in a trial for now, but it’s a sizable one, on the level of kilowatts and tens of kilowatts, explains Zarem. For comparison’s sake, the Nissan LEAF (7201) uses a 24-kilowatt-hour battery, while an average cell phone will use 2,000 to 3,000 milliamp-hour batteries (far smaller than a kwh of capacity).