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How Breathe Battery Technologies Is Making Batteries Better

July 1, 2024

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With the vast proliferation of consumer electronics (think mobiles) and growing industry of electric vehicles, developing sustainable batteries is more vital than ever before. Otherwise, the shift away from fossil fuels to electric will risk exacerbating the existing issue of battery waste.

This is where Breathe Battery Technologies comes in. The London-based deep tech startup, with their patented technology platform, PHI X2, helps the world’s most iconic electric vehicle and consumer electronics brands do more with the power they have. The result is faster charging, greater cycle life, and zero compromise on safety.

Breathe Battery Technologies' co-founders, Dr. Ian Campbell and Dr. Yan Zhao, recently took us behind-the-scenes at their headquarters to show how they’re building the batteries of the future.

What does Breathe do, and how does your technology enhance electric vehicles and the consumer electronics we use daily?

As lithium-ion batteries age, their capacity and performance declines due to chemical aging and plating. That’s in-part because traditional battery management relies only on what’s measurable on the outside, terminal voltage, and acts without awareness of the internal electrochemical states that really influence health and performance.

At Breathe, we’ve built technology that provides crystal-clear visibility of the electrochemical states inside the battery. Our patented technology platform, PHI X2, exploits this visibility to control the battery in real-time to extract more performance, increasing its safety and longevity in the process.

With this technology underpinning our physics-based battery management software, we help the world’s most iconic electric vehicle and consumer electronics brands do more with the power they have. We do this because we believe an electrified future requires superior customer experiences. For batteries, this starts with faster charging, greater cycle life and zero compromise on safety.

We dream that one day everyone will breathe clean air. That's why we make batteries better.

What are the historic challenges & overall benefits of increasing battery charge speed and cycle life –– for consumers and manufacturers?

Historically, and still today, attempts to achieve faster charging or enhanced longevity of the battery often require the trade-off of other attributes. This could be sacrificing charging speed to increase the cycle life, or vice-versa, or sacrificing energy density (range or runtime) to enable the performance gains. This is frustrating for consumers and OEMs alike.

Consumers care about buying EVs with fast charging and long range, and that their vehicle will support them for years. In consumer electronics, users want sleek, lightweight devices with long runtime, and for that runtime to be maintained across the battery lifetime.  

With Breathe, we enable the brands building these products to offer their customers the best of both worlds, so they can enjoy greater mobility and productivity, while also knowing they are purchasing more sustainable products.

What does your technology do that classic batteries or battery management software cannot?

We're addressing a significant gap in battery technology. When batteries leave the production line, they often underperform due to outdated control systems. A battery is a complicated piece of electric chemistry, but the way it's looked after in the software application is archaic, outdated, overly simplistic, and it means there's a lot of performance and capability locked up in that battery that we never get to access.

Today, the charging strategy in most applications is fixed to just a set of predefined numbers that are programmed into a stepped charging program. At the product level, Breathe Charge and Breathe Life replace these outdated charging strategies with adaptive solutions. Unlike traditional methods, our approach dynamically adjusts to the battery's needs, ensuring longevity and optimal performance.

We achieve this through a piece of maths that describes what's happening electrochemically inside the battery then we wrap that up as software. Every battery is unique, so our sophisticated software analyses various factors, including battery age and temperature. We have a software engineering team in-house that develops tailored solutions for each battery system, maximizing its potential.

One of the key differences between us and other players in this space is our lab. It enables us to successfully take technology from a whiteboard concept or a patent into production, shipping it to millions of cars, smartphones and laptops.

Who are some of your current customers and partners and how are they using your technology?

Today, we work with many of the world’s leading brands in automotive and consumer electronics. Most recently, we’ve announced that Volvo Cars will implement the latest version of Breathe Charge, our adaptive charging software, in its new generation fully electric cars. Our extensive validation indicates that Breathe Charge will reduce the time it takes to charge an electric Volvo from 10% to 80% state of charge by as much as 30%,while maintaining the same energy density and range.

In 2022, Breathe Life software was licensed to smartphone manufacturer OPPO. As the software behind OPPO’s Battery Health Engine, Breathe Life enables the Reno8 Series to retain 90% capacity after two years and 80% capacity after four years of usage, the equivalent of 1600 charging cycles. This effectively doubles the lifetime of the device, as smartphone batteries typically retain 90% of their original capacity after just one year and 80% after two years.

Breathe is also working with Rimac to improve charging speeds, enabling 50% state of charge to be achieved 43% faster. We also work with Delta Cosworth and Varta to enhance battery performance and reduce charging times.

Every company that we work with today and probably the next wave of customers that adopt Breathe Battery Technologies in the short to mid-term are early adopters who are putting in the energy and have the ambition of being at the leading edge of what's possible in batteries for thousands of customers at any point in time. We're focusing on the best organizations who are leading, not following.

What are some of the current & predicted challenges in this space and how is your team addressing them?

Every company we work with cares about delivering the best possible user experience for its customers. This is often heavily dependent on the energy density of the battery and how much range or runtime a consumer can access. Increasing energy density is hard. While new chemistries show promise in this area, this often comes at a cost. That could be financial, it could be compromising on other performance metrics, or it could simply impact the overall design and weight of the vehicle or device. At Breathe, we are addressing this by focusing on extracting every bit of performance from existing batteries. With our adaptive charging software, we add significantly more range or runtime in each partial charging window, ensuring consumers can quickly access more with every charge.

There are also regulatory challenges, for example, the European Union's right to repair regulations mean batteries have to meet minimum durability requirements. Our customers are acutely aware that the battery can no longer be treated as a consumable and the current regulatory environment is supporting this shift, and therefore they must look at ways of increasing the lifetime and durability of their batteries to enhance their overall sustainability. This is something they are able to do with our technology.

Another challenge is ultimately cost. Our customers are focused on delivering more performance, at the best possible cost-to-performance ratio. We help them to do this through software-defined batteries. Software opens up incredible opportunities for performance gains, and does so at the lowest possible cost compared to alternatives such as hardware or system changes, while also enabling rapid deployment at scale.

What’s next for Breathe?

We are investing in an incredibly attractive technology roadmap and converting that into products and user experiences now to solve many more problems than only lithium plating and to solve really all of these challenges that we experience with batteries around not only the charging speed, but also the safety. The future is incredibly bright in terms of how cost-effective, reliable, safe and performant these next generation batteries will be once they've become truly software defiant. We’re only very much scratching the surface or touching the tip of the iceberg today with what we are doing with the first generation of Breathe Charge and Breathe Life. There’s a huge amount of headroom in this industry to make a massive difference with the batteries and the experience and we are focusing our product development on closing this gap to make the entire battery ecosystem more performant, sustainable and efficient, from the design phase right through to production.

We are also building an incredibly talented team at Breathe who all share the same passion to make batteries better to have a real impact on consumers and our planet. We’re approaching 50 people (and growing) with a combined 15 PhDs and 120-plus years of battery engineering experience. From our 7,500-square-foot battery laboratory, London’s largest, we are pioneering the future of software-defined batteries and are incredibly excited about what we can achieve. We are always looking for talented individuals to join us and support our mission.

As well as our team, we are also grateful for the support of our investors, including Speedinvest, who help us do more with the power we have, so that we can power a more electrified future.

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