Inlyte Energy recently secured $8 million in funding to develop a resurrected battery from the 1970s. Inlyte claims that its sodium metal halide battery offers high efficiency, long lifespan, competitive energy density, exceptional safety, and low cost.
Inlyte’s largest financial backer was At One Ventures. Other venture capital firms that provided funding included First Spark Ventures, Valo Ventures, TechEnergy Ventures, Climate Capital, and Anglo American.
Inlyte Energy’s solution builds upon the established design of sodium metal halide batteries, which were first invented in the 1970s.
Sodium metal halide batteries were one of the original battery chemistries considered for electric vehicles (EVs). Mercedes-Benz tested them in several cars in the 1980s.
However, in the 1990s, sodium metal halide batteries were eclipsed by lithium-ion batteries. Sodium metal halide batteries were forgotten for many years, but they’re now enjoying a resurgence in interest.
This time, sodium metal halide batteries are being used for energy storage more than for vehicle charging.
Inlyte’s sodium metal halide battery uses iron instead of the conventional nickel. This makes energy storage substantially cheaper. As of October 31, 2023, iron cost $118.75 per ton, whereas nickel cost $18,281.23 per ton.
By making energy storage more affordable, Inlyte will enhance the competitiveness of renewable energy sources like wind and solar on a global scale.
A sodium metal halide battery. Source: finsmes.com
Sodium metal halide batteries also possess the advantage of operating effectively in extreme temperatures. This makes them suitable for locations experiencing high weather variability.
Inlyte primarily targets the diurnal energy storage market. According to Energy Storage News, Inlyte’s batteries offer storage durations of 4–10 hours. The batteries also have excellent round-trip efficiency.
Last year, Inlyte acquired Beta Research Ltd., a research institute that developed an early sodium metal halide battery in the 1980s. Inlyte will use Beta’s existing manufacturing facilities once the battery’s design is finalized.
According to Laurie Menoud, a founding partner at At One Ventures, the experience and facilities of Beta Research give Inlyte a significant advantage over other battery start-ups. Inlyte doesn’t have to go through the trouble of finding a pilot factory, acquiring the necessary tools, or figuring out the manufacturing process.
Moreover, Inlyte’s ability to compete with lithium-ion batteries in terms of life span, round-trip efficiency, and upfront cost positions the company favorably in a rapidly growing market.
To take advantage of the incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Inlyte plans to establish a manufacturing plant in the United States. Once the plant is operational, Inlyte will receive a direct payment of US $35/kWh for battery production.