One of the biggest challenges that product teams run into when creating an innovative product, is the power source. For many emerging technology products in the wearables or medical device space, the form factor for the amount of power the battery provides, demands something unique to that application. These needs are not easily met by stock batteries. In this blog post we address the most common objections to custom battery development that we encounter when we talk to prospects. Sometimes we find those objections to be valid, and we tell prospects a stock battery is a better option for them. If you find yourself asking the same questions, here are some ways to think about the problem to aid in your decision.
a) Battery Development Takes Too Long and Costs Too Much
The initial cost of development and production is a concern for businesses
The assumption is that there is an off the shelf, commercial battery that is perfect for the product being developed. However this is often not the case for emerging technology products that strive to provide a unique benefit or user experience. The battery requirements for such products can be demanding and may push the limits on size, flexibility, biocompatibility or power/energy density.
It is inherently more expensive to design a custom battery for a product than being able to buy one commercially. Custom equipment and parts may be necessary for production, and that makes cost rise. We tell companies in this situation, that they must be able to show ROI and be able to build a business case for battery development. The business case can only be built if one of the following applies:
- Companies believe they will end up with a higher functioning product that gives them a revenue lift. For instance, you could use a lithium coin cell for a transdermal patch application, but a flexible battery would enhance the user experience. Then the questions change from “how much will this cost the company?” to also asking “how much more will people be willing to pay for this product, when it has vastly improved due to a customizable battery that fully meets the needs of the device?”
- You cannot take a product to market without a custom battery- there is simply no other option because the product requires a custom battery.
- The investment in battery development reduces product cost because they can avoid a higher cost alternative that is overkill
Once a business has identified that they do need a custom battery, comes the realization that engineering a battery solution and getting it to production take time. There is some recalibration in product launch timing at this point.
If on the other hand, you are not able to build a business case, then a commercially available battery is the right choice for your product.
b) Risk Management
Is the Risk Involved Too Great for the Company? How Do We Manage the Risk?
There are other companies who have realized that they need a custom battery, but the objection comes from a sense of risk that custom battery development brings. What happens if the product turns out to be impossible and too expensive for mass production? Companies ask us how would help them manage the risk. We tell them that a structured phase gated approach all the way from battery feasibility studies to prototyping, production and full scale up is a good way to mitigate risk. The initial stages are low budget with short timespans, while the later stages increase in budget, timeline and deliverables. Each phase is tied to deliverables that project managers are able to present to their leadership to get buy-in for the next phase.
As with companies who seek their services, custom battery companies do not want to waste their resources either. Why send engineers into a project if it is a waste of their time. Discovering if the battery is feasible comes early on in the process, if a stage gated approach is used.
c) I am Unsure
A Stock Battery Kind of Works, but the User Experience is Not Good
We would say you need to do more market-backed research to understand the importance of a custom battery in your end customer’s experience. In many cases, there is definitely knowable and verifiable data about customer product satisfaction, and whether you can justify an ROI.
An example of this is a flexible battery vs a lithium coin cell. You could answer this question by doing market research, and battery companies often help support this effort by building low cost mock-ups. You could figure out how much this would change the consumer’s perception of the product. How much more would they be willing to pay for this enhanced user experience?
d) This can be Done Internally; We Don’t Need to Hire a Third Party
While it May Seem like a Cost Savings, In-House Battery Development Often Does Not Have a High Success Rate
If you have the manpower for internal battery development, this may seem like a viable option, but historically this idea ends up being a greater waste of resources than hiring professionals. Only a few companies have succeeded with internal battery development, in our experience.
While anyone can make a functioning battery and slap in into a device, getting to a battery that is commercially viable and one that will last longer than a few months is incredibly difficult. Battery experts can attest that people fail due to lack of experience. This explains the inherent costs of hiring an outside party with decades of experience.
In-house battery development should be an option for you, only if you have a product team that has the experience of developing commercial batteries.
Most people start with the assumption that there is an off the shelf battery solution for their innovative product. There is no denying that battery development involves time and money. It is very important that companies do their research and arrive at the conclusion that application specific battery development will yield a significant ROI for their product. Otherwise there will be no pay-off.
Once you have done your research, you will be able to arrive at the right decision, whether that involves a stock battery or a custom battery. As always, talk to us if you have battery related questions, or need help with deciding on whether application specific battery development is right for you. You can also visit our battery resources page or battery fundamentals page for more basic information that you may find helpful when doing your background research.