EFY chanced upon Voltx.ai, a firm that claims to offer an innovative design tool for battery designers, and spoke to Anton Doos, the CEO, to understand the tool better and their revenue strategy.
Q. Can you please explain your product in detail?
A. Voltx.ai is a productivity suite for battery designers. It has multiple tools along with a dashboard with a materials database where users can search, compare, edit, and add parts.
One of our tools, the Pack Designer, combines parts and generates over 1000 battery pack designs per second. Then it compares all the designs and shows you the best. Doing this manually would be impractical because it would take too long (in mathematics, it is known as a combinatorial explosion problem). So, by using automation tools, engineers can much more quickly gain insight and come up with the best designs.
Another tool, the Configuration Designer, is a digital grid paper for battery designers. We see many businesses relying on MS Paint or Excel to draw their configurations because there are no better alternatives. Our Configuration Designer lets engineers draw and flip cells and connections, change cell models, and in real time simulate short-circuit, current load, and others. These automation features lead to faster and better designs.
Q. How can users access Voltx.ai?
A. Voltx.ai is still in the alpha stage. A free version is available for users to use and submit feedback.
Q. Any indication of the kind of fee that you are expecting to charge?
A. We are planning to charge US$500 per month for five users. There is also an early adopters’ discount for companies who provide us with feedback.
Q. By when do you plan to turn this into a paid product or service? And are we correct to assume that it will be a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model?
A. Yes, it is a SaaS model with a freemium account. We are on track to go live with paid accounts before summer (2022). Our intention for the free accounts is that DIY users can get sufficient utility and business users can try out the software before deciding to upgrade.
Q. Since you may add more features to Voltx.ai later based on user feedback, won’t that delay industry-readiness of your product?
A. I believe industry-readiness looks like a sine-wave adoption curve. Our modus operandi to advance adoption is to continuously identify user problems and add solutions as features. It is all under the umbrella of the overall vision of using automation to reduce the time between concept and manufacturing. When enough problems are solved, users will find enough value, and the product will be ready for market.
Through feedback from our early adopters, we believe our next set of features will make our software market-ready. One example of this is, while talking to our users we identified that many wanted to export our designs to CAD to integrate into their existing workflow. Most businesses have standard operating procedures, and almost every engineering team relies on CAD at one point or another in their process.
Our solution created a new Export to FreeCAD button, where within twenty seconds of clicking the button the battery design will open as a CAD model on your computer and can be integrated into any existing workflow.
Q. Why do you consider your product to be a milestone for battery design and production?
A. The algorithm we invented solves some difficult problems with very accurate results. We have compared the batteries designed manually by professionals with the batteries designed through our software. The results have shown very little difference. There is a considerable efficiency gain from this, going from tasks that take hours to tasks that take seconds.
Q. Can you provide examples of some difficult problems solved by your algorithm?
A. One problem with battery design is that of a combinatorial explosion of possibilities due to the number of different cell models, configurations, and other parts.
Think of it like chess. The first chess computers quickly outperformed humans because they could analyse hundreds of thousands of moves quickly. The way people design battery packs now is like chess—humans use knowledge, experience, and intuition to constrain the total search size. This must lead to less than optimal results since the full search space of potential battery designs has not been created or analysed.
One of the ways we solved this problem is with a highly optimised algorithm that can generate the designs thousands of times per second. A second part is how we analyse and sort the results from most to least useful to present users with the optimal design.
Q. What benefit can battery design engineers receive compared to any other similar product? What is your USP?
A. Other battery software we have seen focus on simulations, especially for EV packs. We focus on automating the design of any battery pack so that users can start manufacturing as soon as possible.
Q. How is that different from other battery design tools?
A. From what we have seen, other battery design software are usually a sub-feature of their main software. They have high-cost software for enterprises that are designing electric vehicles and large-format battery packs. These tools focus on simulations, particularly thermal simulations.
Think of a company like Toyota designing a new electric vehicle. Our software is for any business that designs battery packs, everyone ranging from DIY to startups to enterprises. It is lower-cost than competitors, and we are more focused on small and medium format packs, although we can produce large format packs as well. That means robots, drones, home power systems, or anything else you can imagine powering is what can benefit from our software.
Another big difference is our vision and overall focus on automation and Industry 4.0. The tools we provide are intended to speed up the engineering workflow—both to find the optimal design quickly and output the necessary information to begin manufacturing. What we are building today will run tomorrow’s smart battery factories while our competitor products are not guided by this vision.
Q. Which companies and institutions are using your software? What kind of products are they developing?
A. There is a wide range of people using the software. We have seen one company build a battery design for a giant solar yacht. We have seen electric bikes, robots, drones, home solar systems, and many other applications.