TSE Patent Assessments: a summary?

The purpose of this data-file is to aggregate all of our patent assessments in a single reference file, so different companies’ scores can be compared and contrasted.

In each case, we have tabulated the scores we ascribed each company on our five different screening criteria, mectrics on the companies’ size and technical readiness and a short descripton of our conclusion.

Aspen Aerogels: insulation breakthrough?

Aspen Aerogels was founded in 2001 and went public in 2014, manufacturing aerogels at a plant in Rhode Island, with c300 employees, $100M revenues (in 2020) and an installed base of $1bn of materials.

Its products are aerogels, with thermal conductivities that are 30-80% below conventional insulators. Target markets include preventing thermal runaway in electric vehicle batteries and cryogenic industrial processes (e.g., LNG).

We have reviewed Aspen’s recent patents in this data-file. This data-file notes some challenges, using our usual patent review framework.

Solid power: solid state battery breakthrough?

Solid Power is developing solid-state batteries, using sulphide electrolytes. Ambitious goals include >500 miles of EV range (50-100% more than today’s lithium ion batteries), 2x higher life-spans and costs as low as $85/kWh. The company is going public via SPAC, valued at $1.2bn (EV basis), and has an exceptional list of backers.

After reviewing the company’s patents, we were not entirely able to pinpoint or de-risk its technology. Our biggest question-marks and areas for further exploration are discussed in the data-file.

One bright spot, however, was experimental data showing some electrolyte compositions with similar ionic conductivities to the LiFP6 in traditional LIBs, which is around 20x higher than prior lithium sulfides. Another was the clear use of simple manufacturing techniques and lower-cost materials.

Carbon Clean: CCS breakthrough?

Carbon Clean is a CCS company. It has captured over 1MT,  across 38 facilities, using some of its technology. But in addition, it is developing a next-generation plant design and next-generation solvent, which could ultimately lower a typical $70/ton carbon capture cost to $30-40/ton.

Overall, this review finds a very decent, albeit concentrated patent library,  clarifying how its solvents and reactors work, including good specificity and impressive technical data. This helps de-risk the idea of lower thermal energy use, a more compact design, higher reliability and ultimately lower costs.

 

Monolith: turquoise hydrogen breakthrough?

Monolith claims it is the “only producer of cost effective commercially viable clean hydrogen today” as it has developed a proprietary technology for methane pyrolysis using 100% renewable electricity, producing clean hydrogen and carbon black. We like this turquoise hydrogen theme and its potentially strong economics.

The company is based in Lincoln, Nebraska and has a $100M demonstration facility at Hallam, Nebraska, constructed in 2016-18, following a pilot was build in California in 2013-15. The next step is a $1bn expansion of its Olive Creek facility and a tender of 2M MWh pa of renewable electricity (or equivalent RECs) to energize the plant.

Overall this was not one of our most successful patent screens, as we found many of the patents to be disjunctive, thus it was hard to de-risk the technology. Some specific question marks are noted in the data-file.

 

Shoals: solar-electronic breakthrough?

Shoals Technologies Group manufactures electrical balance of system solutions for solar energy projects, focused on promoting reliability, safety and ease of installation. The company went public in January-2021, raising $1.9bn in an IPO, which was upsized due to strong demand and valued the overall company above c$5bn.

Our patent review finds a technology moat to help improve solar competitiveness. This includes plug-and-play electrical   connections, guards to secure those connections, accomodating one fuse and more electronics per panel  rather than shared across many panels, and discconnect mechanisms that facilitate maintenance. Full details are in the data-file.

ChargePoint: electric vehicle charging edge?

ChargePoint went public via SPAC in March-2021, via a combination with Switchback Energy, valued at $2.4bn. This made it the first listed EV charging company in the US. It aims to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of charging services amidst the electrification of mobility and freight.

Our review finds a library of simple, clear, specific and easy-to-understand patents that are heavily focused on operational aspects of running EV charging networks, especially the customer and EVSE provider experience. Many also cover the look-and-feel of charging stations and their components. But whether there is a pure ‘technology edge’ is more debatable.

A controversy for the future is how aggressively ChargePoint and other EV charging companies will enforce against almost  inevitable patent infringements, especially if competition intensifies in this sector.

Form Energy: long-duration battery breakthrough?

Form Energy is developing long-duration energy storage to backstop renewables. The company is based in Massachusetts, has 130 employees and was founded in 2017 by a former lead from Tesla’s stationary battery team. The company said in 2020 that it intended to deploy its first 1MW/150MWh long-duration storage system by 2023.

The technology is an iron-air battery. There is a fuel anode, which metallizes during charging (gain of electrons) and which oxidizes during discharging (loss of electrons). At the air-breathing cathode O2 gas ionizes into the solution during discharging (gain of electrons) and evolves as a gas during charging (loss of electrons).

Compared to other patent libraries we have reviewed, we found it more challenging to de-risk Form’s metal-air battery technology, as a means of providing low-cost, long-duration storage using only Earth-abundant materials. Further explanation in the data-file.

 

Lilac solutions: lithium breakthrough?

Lilac Solutions aims to commercialize a lithium ion exchange technology, which can extract lithium from dilute brine solutions, rapidly, economically and scalably. It is progressing towards a pilot facility.

This would be world-changing, given our recent research finds 50% upside to lithium prices in the energy transition and 50T CO2/ton Li for marginal spodumene mining (note here).

Overall Lilac’s patents look promising to us.  They contain some excellent, precise and intelligible details on making ion exchange materials that will capture lithium from diffuse brines, and have likely protected the company’s key IP.

Full details are in the data-file, including more details than we typically find into manufacturing methods for specific materials.

Siemens Gamesa: giant wind turbine breakthroughs?

Siemens Gamesa is a leader in offshore wind, listed in Spain, with a €34bn order book and 26k employees (in 2021). It is pushing the boundaries of offshore wind, launching a 14MW turbine in 2020, with a 222-meter rotor diameter.

This data-file scores 50 of the company’s recent patents from 2020-21, using our usual framework. Many of the innovations were specific, intelligible improvements. We would loosely estimate that half of these are aimed at resolving challenges being incurred with the up-scaling of turbines.

The data-file will be helpful if you are looking for specific details into Siemens Gamesa’s innovations and the focus areas in its patents. Which are broad-ranging.

Our main debate is whether these innovations are truly deflationary, as many of them seem to add complexity, including in blade design, operational  monitoring, transportation issues and electrical smoothing.