Specifications and standards are the essential language of industry. Imagine a world in which they did not exist — purchasing choices would be based more on emotional criteria than on data- driven criteria, systems developments would be left up to the systems supplier and the customer would have no way to understand what he was buying or getting upon delivery. It would largely be chaos. Now imagine a world in which specifications and standards exist, but the industry and products to which they apply were not compliant and the consumer wasn’t aware. The very same chaos would reign.
In the energy storage market, the product specifications and standards by which products are developed or characterized are essential to establish the integrity of the purchasing and integration process. Suppliers and developers bear the burden of full and honest disclosure regarding performance specifications and compliance with standards, but it seems hard to come by in our industry.
First, there is a lack of standardization. The standards are often adopted as de-facto, based on whatever someone did when he got there first, such as setting the common cell diameter of 60 millimeters. Alternatively, standards may be nonexistent, leaving it up to the industry players to decide how to best to serve customer needs. There is a small and growing number of standards built and defined to a widening array of standards topics, but the collection is small, the adherence is scant and the awareness in the industry is low.
Product specifications can be even less developed. They are typically created by the suppliers of the products. Often these specifications are not related to the true performance of the product, which would otherwise enable a potential customer to do a valid comparison and make an informed buying decision. The customer is left to validate the specification on his own. And when the specification is developed in the absence of standards defining how to measure and report performance, then the buyers are subjected to whatever someone wants to tell them about the performance of the product, with no method of understanding its true capability.
Prevalent examples of this are the reports from research and academia highlighting “breakthrough” research technologies and results. For example, energy density improvements are quoted, but no indication is given as to how the value was measured or derived. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the reporting is done to the advantage of the researcher, and often, this is absolutely the case. Reporting energy density of raw materials or technology in a test tube (which inflates the significance of the result when compared to the same material or technology in a full cell) and failing to define how the measurements were conducted is just as misleading as intentionally reporting false information. It is left to the unwary consumer to try to determine what is being reported and how to compare it to a known benchmark.
This is a call to action for customers, potential customers, suppliers and other technologists to work together to create standard methods for developing technology and specification standards that enable a valid comparison so performance differences are understood. Anything less leaves consumer at a serious disadvantage, and those providers of technology or products who stretch the limits of integrity in reporting specifications are hurting entire industries.