Rivals Rise Up to Threaten Tesla’s Battery Business

Lockheed looks for electricity

Last month, Lockheed Martinannounced that it’s found a way to make storage batteries for a whole lot cheaper than what lithium-ion batteries currently cost — by forgoing the lithium.

Now, Lockheed might seem a strange candidate to come up with such a plan. Most investors probably know Lockheed Martin only as a defense giant. And yet, Lockheed Martin also has an active side business in green and renewable technologies, covering everything from generating power from ocean waves to filtering out salt to create potable water to nuclear fusion.

And this is the direction in which Lockheed is leaning with its latest venture. As explained in a Reuters story, Lockheed is working to develop a “flow” battery that utilities can use to store their energy and stabilize their electric grids. Because utilities tend to be geographically grounded, and not move around a lot, light-weighing lithium metal isn’t a sine qua non in the batteries they use. Simply put, cost trumps lightness when it comes to building utility-scale batteries.

Playing to this strength, Lockheed says its new battery technology will be made from nontoxic rare-earth metals and chemicals dissolved in a water solution to hold their charge. These materials will be cheap, but not necessarily lightweight like lithium.

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