Speaker Interview - Joern Tinnemeyer, EnerSys

Our Leaders Debate this year includes speakers from some of the largest battery manufacturers on the planet, including CATL and JCI. Joining them is another globally dominant player: EnerSys, an American manufacturer of batteries for multiple applications such as motive power, reserve power, aerospace and defense, with operations worldwide.

The company’s CTO and Vice President, Joern Tinnemeyer, comes from a background in astronautics and space engineering and is bringing his broad experience to bear in the prestigious opening session of the Battery Show Conference.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities – what do you see as your core focus for the immediate and long-term future?

EnerSys is the global leader in industrial battery systems. As Chief Technology Officer, I am responsible for global engineering, quality, EH&S and manufacturing engineering. EnerSys has an exciting present and future in store. Our focus is to expand our product portfolio and drive new technological advancements in energy storage.

What are the biggest challenges/opportunities you face as a business and as a sector? Can the US sector keep up with Asian battery manufacturing?

At present, the industrial energy storage sector is facing a paradigm shift – lithium-ion technologies are increasingly penetrating our market space. We cannot discount the significant progress of the Asian battery manufacturing market, especially for lithium-ion chemistries. However, in my mind, paradigm shifts are only an opportunity for expansion! Our energy storage solutions will be tailored to meet the needs of the client – a smart systems approach. We believe that this strategy – understanding our customers’ applications and providing the best energy solution available – will ensure our continued leadership in the marketplace.

What do you see as the best and the worst parts of your role?

As CTO, I believe that I have one of the best jobs around. I work with an incredible team, and our job is to understand the market’s needs and develop new products. In effect, I get to play all day.

My only wish for better is simple: there are not enough hours in the day to do more.

Why do you think the EV market is still struggling to grow in the USA? Can regulation help further?

Customers constantly make comparisons, and they need to see a benefit when comparing an ICE (internal combustion engine) with an electric vehicle (EV). At present, EVs are comparatively expensive, which limits their penetration in the marketplace. Regulation is one way to encourage the adoption of EVs; for example, reducing the level of CO2 across a fleet of vehicles will force automotive manufacturers to produce and sell more EVs. Another important step is to change the marketing of EVs. A recent Google search of ‘new car’ provided a list of 20 cars; not one was electric.

What is the future vision for EnerSys in the US market?

We will continue to be the largest industrial battery company – providing our customers with more choice and a higher level of integrated service.

Which innovations do you see as the future of battery technology?

I believe that lithium-ion batteries will continue strong penetration into the marketplace, and energy density will continue to improve, with the cost (USD/KWh) trending downward. I believe that future innovations will be driven more from a systems approach – how we integrate the battery and optimize the battery’s use within the application – than the internal chemistry itself.

In the more immediate future, my hope for the industry is that development teams focus on safety in battery pack design. The largest risk to the industry is the incorrect customer perception that lithium is not safe or reliable.

What do you see as a realistic vision for the electrification of America in the next 30 years?

At present, this question is difficult to answer. The electrification of the United States depends on many factors for e-mobility and grid. With respect to e-mobility, this depends on types of options available to customers, infrastructure, fuel costs, etc. There currently is not a level playing field with respect to CO2 production and electrification. If this is not resolved, leadership may develop in other regions. In terms of grid electrification, there are only pockets within America where behind the meter storage has a viable business case without incentives. For larger utility-level applications, the situation changes as energy storage could reduce the number of power plants required. What is exciting is that this translates into opportunities for innovative companies to take leadership, not just for America but globally.

What are you most looking forward to at The Battery Show 2017?

It is a great venue to meet old friends and make new ones.

You can see Joern Tinnemeyer at The Battery Show in September. For a full list of speakers, please click here.