World’s first domestic hydrogen battery developed by Australian firm
The world’s first commercially available line of hydrogen-powered domestic products, including a barbecue, a bicycle and most crucially a unit that creates and stores hydrogen power, has been developed by an Australian company, LAVO, working with the University of NSW.
The LAVO battery, which is about the size of a large fridge, can be hooked up to an existing array of solar panels. Inside it, electrolysers use that power to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The oxygen is vented and the hydrogen stored in a patented hydride – a fibrous metal alloy not dissimilar to iron-filings in appearance – in canisters inside the unit for use as needed.
LAVO’s chief executive, Alan Yu, says the unit can store three times as much power as the largest popular commercially available wall-mounted batteries, allowing it to power the average household for two to three days on a single charge.
Unlike other lithium batteries, it can also constantly recharge itself rather than waiting until it has been fully discharged.
He said the system, which costs around $34,000, has a lifespan around three times longer than current lithium batteries and should last users around 30 years. When the hydride is degraded it can be melted down and reused, giving the system significant environmental advantages over its competitors.
Because the hydrogen is stored in a solid state inside the hydride, the system avoids the risks of fire associated with hydrogen stored under pressure or in liquid form. The LAVO battery system is already available on the market.
The battery would not only act as a hot water service but act as something like a domestic power bank, with users able to remove cylinders of charged hydride from their own units to power household items such as the barbecue and bicycle. LAVO hopes that even people who have not purchased the battery system might be able to use its hydrogen canisters available via exchange like a Sodastream tank.
LAVO’s head of marketing, Matthew Muller, said the company expects its initial customers to include homes and businesses on the edge of the national grid, such as mines and agribusinesses. One eco-lodge is already a customer.
In addition, Gowings Bros, the investment company that evolved from the famous mens’ clothing business, announced this week it had signed-on as an investor and further committed to buying 200 of the power units for its properties around the country.
Professor Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, who leads the Hydrogen Energy Research Centre at the University of NSW, and has worked on the system with LAVO, says products like this are crucial to the development of a domestic hydrogen industry and in keeping with the federal government’s plans to build a competitive low-carbon economy.
“Hydrogen technology exists in an ecosystem, we can either import technology like this or we can develop it ourselves and build the jobs here,” he said.
He said the hydride used in the LAVO system had the potential for much broader future applications, including as a possible means of exporting hydrogen.
At present hydrogen can be generated at scale using either renewable energy to split water, known as green hydrogen, or using gas, which emits carbon that may in future be captured and stored, known as blue hydrogen.
Either way future exporters of hydrogen would then have the problem of shipping, which Professor Aguey-Zinsou says could be solved by the hydride used in the LAVO system, which is safer and easier to transport than hydrogen stored under pressure or converted into ammonia.