Seatbelt
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SEATBELT

Energy, Mobility

One of Europe’s main challenges is to have a new generation of solid-state batteries of lithium-metal to meet the energy needs of electromobility and stationary applications. The SEATBELT (Solid-state lithium metal battery within situ hybrid electrolyte) project aims to develop a new generation of efficient and safe battery materials that meet European criteria for decarbonisation, sustainability, affordability, and self-sufficiency in production.

Funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe programme, this ambitious project was supported by Zabala Innovation. The €8 million grant will enable this new energy storage system to see the light of day “before 2030”, explains Didier Devaux, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) researcher and coordinator of SEATBELT.

What impact will this solid-state batteries project have on the economy?

SEATBELT’s ambition is to contribute to building a local European industry by taking the first technological step, i.e. the development of a cost-effective, durable and robust battery cell that meets the needs of the stationary and electric vehicle industry. The challenge will be to meet the ambitious performance requirements of the European Commission. SEATBELT will be the starting point of the first European value chain for solid-state batteries. Leading European representatives from R&D and innovation and industry are already part of its consortium.

Collaboration between academia and industry is foreseen from the very beginning of the project. Why is this so important?

Because it will allow us to select materials in the best possible way, not only in terms of performance or interest to the researcher but also in terms of cost and the ease of producing them in very large quantities. In addition, we will be able to optimise the materials and the interfaces of the battery cell, so that everything works in terms of application.

Did you have to form a very pluralistic consortium to carry out such complex work?

We are 15 partners from seven different countries. We come from the academic world, such as Polymat (University of the Basque Country, Spain) and the CNRS, from the world of intermediate companies, such as Euro Support and Polykey, for scaling up, and from battery manufacturers, especially Blue Solutions. The latter’s participation in the project will make it possible to recover sufficient quantities of these materials to produce batteries that will then be tested in real conditions. Renault is also part of the consortium, which will give us an industrial perspective focused on the transport sector for the objects we are going to develop.

However, we propose to go even further and have these actors collaborate to better understand the issues related to battery assembly, safety issues and X-ray and neutron imaging techniques. These are concepts that are well known to academics and have recently started to be used by industry.

How did this project come about?

At a meeting about two and a half years ago, it occurred to me to couple imaging techniques and security. It was then that I discussed it with one of the partners, the Münster Electrochemical Energy Technology (Germany). Six months later, and over the next year, I discussed the idea with a researcher from the University of the Basque Country and Polymat, who in turn became a partner. We checked whether there was already evidence of interest and, little by little, we built up the consortium. About a year ago, once this critical stage was over, we contacted Zabala Innovation.

Why?

One of the industrialists, Blue Solutions, was convinced that we needed the support of a specialised company to help us keep the consortium together – a task for which we had no experience – and to have a rhythm of work that would allow us to meet the project submission deadlines. Today I can say that he was right. With its expertise, Zabala Innovation structured and coordinated the drafting of the project to better meet the expectations of the European Commission.

What was this experience like?

It went very well. The three consultants who worked with us, Cristina Catalina, Sara Marin, and Audrey Bretaud-Kelle, intervened almost every day. As soon as there was a problem, it was raised and we were able to work on it. Thanks to this framework and the meetings organised with the partners and Zabala Innovation to address specific points, I was able to go beyond my limits as a researcher in all these aspects.

It was a very good and intense collaboration, as there was also a weekly meeting with key partners, such as Blue Solutions and Polymat, which allowed us to move forward at a very intense pace, maintaining it until the presentation of the project.

What made the difference in the evaluation of the project proposal was the quality of the impact part. That allowed us to be selected and get the funding. So I do not doubt that if I had other project ideas, I would work with Zabala Innovation again.

Didier Devaux

“What made the difference in the evaluation of the project proposal was the quality of the impact part”

Didier Devaux

Researcher and coordinator of SEATBELT

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