By Eric Peterson | May 01, 2023
American Fork, Utah
Solar generators, backup systems, and energy storage products
Spun off from the now-shuttered emergency preparedness brand, Lion Energy is working to forge a missing link for the electrical ecosystem.
"The focus is on lithium-based energy storage systems," says Hortin. "The idea is: Clean energy is here, and that's the transition and that's where the world is going."
"We've created these monopolies, and we have this understanding: This is what you're here for, and you guys take care of it, but I think there's a lot available with technology to be able to do some help closer to where the actual consumption of the energy occurs."
"With the transition to EVs, it's going to become much more necessary," he adds. "We throw away roughly 70 percent. We're 33 percent efficient with the energy that we deliver right now from the grid."
"A lot of those other issues might not be best served from the utility. They might be best served either onsite. With energy storage systems, it's already created energy we can access at any point in time. It's stored there and it's deployable instantly. That is a huge step in the right direction for managing our energy consumption and making it more of a flat line, so to speak."
After starting with the portable Safari ME solar generator, the company expanded into RV batteries, power banks, and residential backup systems. Next is a commercial system, POWERsave, slated for release in mid-2023.
"We try to be that company people can go to for every product," says Hortin.
He highlights the UT 1300 as "the best lithium RV battery on the market," adding, "Some people will use that for home energy storage, but it's a really good product. It's well-engineered, it's got a really good chemistry inside. We focus on LFP chemistry because it's the safest on the market and offers the most life cycles. In energy storage, that is what is most important."
The Sanctuary residential backup system is leading sales, and Hortin also has high hopes for POWERsave in the commercial home market. "We're trying to make the install as simple as possible," says Hortin.
With a team of 40 engineers on staff, Lion Energy assembles many of its larger products at its facility in American Fork. A second location in Georgia is the hub for distribution and testing for the East Coast. The two facilities are 130,000 square feet combined.
"We try to be as efficient as possible," says Hortin. "If it makes the most sense to do it where we're getting the cells, we do that, with the ambition of doing everything in the U.S."
Lion Energy is working to bring battery cell production in the U.S. by funding American Battery Factory's gigafactory in Tucson, Arizona. "We're trying to get everything U.S.-manufactured," says Hortin. "The key to that is producing the cells in the USA."
The company has been experiencing "very big" growth, says Hortin. "We see the demand continuing to grow in the future, especially as we deliver these larger systems."
Challenges: Educating the consumer. "This is a new way to think about how you might use power in your everyday life," says Hortin. "I think our LionESS technology is critical in people just understanding what they use. Because it's been so easy in the past, people just don't understand how much energy their devices consume."
He adds, "We sell a lot through Costco. A lot of times it's education and teaching people what they're consuming and how they're consuming it."
Another is "keeping up with the growth and not growing too quickly," he adds. "We are focused on providing the best-quality products to the market, and as we grow and add new employees, we need to be able to integrate them and give them an understanding of our expectations."
Opportunities: Hortin sees opportunities in the consumer, commercial, and utility markets, with residential and systems driving the growth.
"Just to put 12 hours of energy storage on our system, you need 5.5 terawatts of storage," he adds. "When you think about how big that is, I think there's going to be a lot of opportunity, and we're trying to understand where we might fit."
Hortin forecasts the upcoming POWERsave commercial system will drive growth for years to come. "No matter what size you're dealing with, you can use energy storage in your business," he says. "Every manufacturer should have some energy storage on their building."
That also goes for EV owners: "With EVs coming to market and being widely used, the next issue is going to be when people come home at night and plug in. It's all happening at the same time on the grid, and our products help to absorb the amount of energy that's being consumed."
Needs: A reshored supply chain. "That is what we are working on every day, certainly for the next year, trying to prep ourselves to do 100 percent of the manufacturing here in the U.S.," says Hortin. "It's a big undertaking to be able to make that transition, but I think it's necessary, and in the long term, it's worth it."