Former Aston Martin CEO and ex-Nissan chief planning officer Andy Palmer has joined a Slovakian-based venture to develop the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) battery production centre. The facility uses AI to commercialise battery cells up to 10 times faster than today’s most common processes.
The company, called InoBat and financed by a private equity consortium led by Silicon Valley executive and venture capitalist Faysal Sohail, plans initially to build an R&D centre by 2022 to refine its flexible processes and then to make batteries for special applications on a low-volume production line. It will progress to a gigafactory on the same site in 2024.
Palmer believes his considerable electrification experience, which includes leading the opening of three battery factories plus the launch of Nissan’s pioneering all-electric Leaf 15 years ago, can help speed the new company’s progress.
“I was attracted initially to InoBat because, instead of rushing to build a gigafactory like everyone else, its idea was to start small and to use AI to iterate lots of battery combinations to find the best chemistry for each application,” said Palmer. Since leaving Aston Martin, he has begun working with a suite of new, high-tech companies mostly dedicated to what he calls “net-carbon-zero” mobility.
Palmer said the most common current approach to battery design is for companies to “pile in to” the electrification market by adapting existing technology and hardware to fit widely varying applications.
Using its rapid R&D capability, InoBat will take more trouble at the design stage, varying the chemistry in different applications to lower cost, bulk and weight in every application, and to bring benefits in energy density.
Palmer said InoBat has no plans to restrict itself to the automotive sector but sees it as “an obvious target” early on. The company is expected to reveal the first of its new-tech battery designs within a few days.