Munich-based software company, Twaice, has developed a battery analytics software which, thanks to a digital twin, is able to determine the condition of a battery. This software is to accelerate the development and market launch of batteries as well as facilitate their use as second-life batteries. Co-CEO Michael Baumann tells us what led to this development and why they have been a global and cross-industry company from the word go.
You’ve submitted your predictive battery analytics software for the ees AWARD. What can we expect from that?
We are currently in the middle of radical change, with e-mobility and renewable energies on the rise. Both sectors need batteries. Although they are the key enabler, they are also the Achilles heel of development since batteries are just such complex products. They are complex to develop and become less efficient over the course of their life span. At the same time, they are very valuable. By developing the predictive battery analytics software, we’ve created a software that helps to develop batteries more rapidly, bring them onto the market sooner, extend their life span and facilitate their use as second-life batteries.
The core technology of your software is a digital twin. Could you explain what that is and how it works in your product?
A digital twin is a model of the physical battery that runs in the cloud. We connect the battery systems of our customers, primarily vehicle or stationary batteries, with our cloud system and then record the battery data. Thanks to the digital twin, we always know the condition of the battery in question and how efficiently it is functioning. But this model-based approach also lets us see into the future. We can predict, how long the battery will still work for, what needs to be done so that its life span can be extended and how the storage system can be used more efficiently. To summarize, the digital twin makes batteries transparent.
You and your fellow co-founder, Stephan Rohr, started your journey in 2014 at the Technical University of Munich by researching the use of second-life batteries and battery life span maximization. In 2018 you founded Twaice with the aim of using the digital twin concept to enable the transition to emission-free mobility and a greener energy supply. Where did you get that idea from?
Stephan and I both did research in the field of second-life batteries. There I was able to look into the technical problems more closely. We were able to get the root of the main problem with both batteries in general and second-life batteries fairly quickly: They age. It’s something we’re all aware of with our smartphones. The same goes for vehicle and stationary batteries, except that in their case the batteries are extremely expensive. The aging tendencies of batteries in combination with their high asset value result in a huge level of uncertainty for all stakeholders – from manufacturers, to users and even those who are potentially using them as a second-life battery. Taking these technological findings as a starting point, we asked ourselves how we could solve this problem and how we could achieve transparency on battery behavior. And so the concept of the digital twin was born.
In your eyes, why is predictive analytics software necessary and why does it hold the key to further development and scaling of the battery market?
Currently, we are witnessing the rapid transition to e-mobility and renewable energies, and battery storage systems are indispensable to both of those. Batteries are the enablers but come with a lot of problems. For example, the development cycles take far too long and as a result, many battery systems are launched onto the market when they are actually already outdated. When they are being used, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding their life span or how long they will work efficiently for. Almost every day we hear about batteries being called back, be it vehicle or energy storage batteries. At Twaice, we are convinced that the battery analytics software is the panacea to all these problems. We also believe that in the future, it will be the tool used to operate all batteries throughout their entire life cycle, from development, to usage and then as a second-life battery. As a company, we’ve set ourselves the goal of making this software available across all industries and on a global scale.
Is the digital twin approach currently being used in the battery storage system sector or is it a new concept in that field?
We can safely say it is a brand new concept. I would even go as far as to say that, when we first founded Twaice, we didn’t just have to explain to people what battery analytics software was, but also why they needed it. Creating this awareness, that batteries are very complex and not at all transparent, was the first thing we had to do. Now that is common knowledge. The software itself however, is a novelty, as is the way in which we approach our solution, both on the technical side of things and in terms of a business model.
You cooperate with the reinsurance companies Munich RE and TÜV Rheinland. On your customer list are names such as Audi, Daimler as well as the fleet management company ViriCiti. You’ve also managed to secure 45 million US dollars in investor funding. What’s your recipe for success? How do you convince people to put their trust in you when you are still such a young company?
That’s a good question. I would say, if you take a step back, we very simply say: We solve a very big and very relevant problem with a very unique team. That is our recipe for success. As I said, renewable energies and e-mobility are the developments that are going to completely change the world we live in over the course of the next couple of years and decades. And in that area, batteries are the key component. The problems that we solve hand both of those disruptive developments the key to success. If you have a clever solution to a big problem, are progressing well with getting it onto the market thanks to building a great team, then you automatically attract investors.
You want to grow in the key markets, the next step is North America. Which other markets do you have in mind?
The issue that we’re resolving is a global one, which is why we’ve wanted to be a global company since the very beginning. Our business is currently strong in Europe. The next step is the USA since they face the same problems, especially in the energy market. Market access is also similar to in Europe. The Biden Administration in particular lets us expect to see many positive developments in the coming years. Because of that, we’ll increase our efforts in the USA. After that, it’s the Chinese market that we’d like to enter, as it can no longer be ignored when it comes to electrification. In many ways China is actually more of a leading market than we are. For example, for every 50 electric buses on our streets, in China there are 5,000, potentially even more. Because of that, we’d like to expand our business there fairly rapidly. Market access in China is of course much more complicated than in the USA. However, as I said before, the problems are similar and the market very attractive.
Are car manufacturers, utilities or battery producers your focus? And why?
Of course all groups of customers are interesting for us. Currently we are focusing more on the electric vehicle and energy sectors because they are both industries in which there is the greatest need for our solutions. For electric vehicles, the car industry is of course the leading market but electric buses, trucks and two-wheelers are also relevant to us – from manufacturers, to tier-1 to tier-X suppliers, to operators. In the energy sector, it’s more about integrators and operators of larger energy storage systems. At the same time, we work with third parties, such as Munich RE, who we offer an insurance solution for battery storage systems with, or TÜV Rheinland who we are currently working on a solution for the residual value determination of electric vehicles with.
Are you presenting at ees Europe for the first time? What do you expect from your participation at this exhibition?
No, we’ve already been to ees many times. This year, however, is our biggest presentation. For us, ees is a very relevant platform, above all in the energy storage sector, since all the big players in the industry are there. At the event, we hope that we will get to know new customers, kick start new projects and just spend a few enjoyable days there.