The electric vehicle market is booming. Along with that is the demand for specialized warehouse space designed and equipped for the unique storage needs and handling requirements of the batteries that power these “green” vehicles.
Most electric vehicles use batteries with lithium-ion technology. Both the finished batteries themselves, as well as the raw materials used in their manufacture, are comprised of sensitive raw materials and components susceptible to failure if stored under improper environmental conditions. Also, the permitting requirements for these facilities require specific safety and environmental systems and must be built and managed to exact standards to ensure product integrity and control.
Among the most critical factors is maintaining strict, consistent temperature and humidity control within the facility to ensure product quality and safety. That is why RK Logistics partnered with Polygon in the outfitting of its new 208,000-square-foot facility in Kyle, Texas, where the company is storing graphite, anode, coils, and other materials meant to supply the gigafactory of a major electric vehicle manufacturer.
Achieving and maintaining proper environmental conditions was critical to success. Excessive heat can cause products to spoil, and in the case of finished batteries, potentially result in catastrophic failure from breakdown in battery components that can lead to fire.
RK Logistics is a leader in providing purpose-designed solutions and services for the storage and handling of EV batteries, both finished goods and raw materials intended for production. Over nearly 10 years of experience with EV battery logistics, the company learned the value of paying close attention to securing a proper climate control solution, which in the case of the Kyle facility, was an on-demand temporary solution of equipment and support services from Polygon.
In 2023, RK Logistics took possession of the building which was a shell and small office space with limited power and wi-fi. About 60,000 square feet of the warehouse would need to be air-conditioned to properly store the critical materials. The client requested that starting in June, conditions would be below 50% relative humidity with a top range temperature of 78° Fahrenheit. The challenge for RK was the need for an immediate solution. Discussions with vendors revealed that due to supply chain issues, the delivery of permanent HVAC equipment was estimated to be 40-50 weeks out.
“Waiting a year to start protecting the materials was not an option,” said Site Manager, Matthew Beckert. “We had a lot of HVAC vendors come through for site visits, but their technical solution and lead time fell short. I needed a strong temporary solution – and fast.”
Beckert knew he needed an engineered solution but also needed to start accepting materials nearly immediately. He put in place an initial contingency plan, which consisted of 44 refrigerator trailers stationed around the warehouse costing about $1,500 per day plus diesel.
It was expensive and worked, but time was ticking. That is when he found Polygon.
Beckert shared RK’s requirements with the Polygon team and hosted a site visit. Polygon started developing a full solution for the warehouse. It consisted of:
- Dehumidification equipment – Two (2) DX-80 tons and one (1) R-5000. The cooling equipment coupled with the dehumidifier offers independent control of the temperature and the humidity.
- Remote Monitoring – Five (5) ExactAire Multi Sensors recording temperature and humidity 24/7 with one (1) communications gateway. The sensors are battery-powered, and communications are not reliant on Wi-Fi.
- ExactAire Smart Controller – Three (3) units to automatically turn equipment or specific functions on and off based on the sensor data and pre-set thresholds.
- Generator – (2) generator to power climate equipment when in use.
Polygon operational technicians and engineers installed the equipment in July and spent 2 weeks optimizing it for fuel consumption and performance.
“Polygon communicated very well regarding how and why they were making adjustments and what we could do to manage risks,” said Beckert. “They explained how we could be proactive with the equipment or what to watch out for so they could support us more effectively.”
Once the solution was fully up and running, RK Logistics had a manageable administrative role in checking the generators and monitoring system performance. Every morning Beckert and his team review data on the conditions of the warehouse. He sends a weekly report on temperature and humidity to his clients to reassure them the materials continue to be stored in safe in-spec conditions. “The monitoring equipment works very well. We are able to communicate with the client regularly and verify that the site is always within proper environmental ranges, which puts everyone at ease,” he shared.
Below are several weeks of temperature and relative humidity recordings from ExactAire.com. Each line is an average of multiple sensors positioned throughout the buildings to give a macro view of overall conditions. Similar reports and charts as well as alerts and notifications can be created on individual sensors.
The following is a custom dashboard built with direct input from RK Logistics. It is accessible to them and their client 24/7 and displays real-time data of the critical conditions.
“The Polygon team has been terrific. The technical solution, the data, and the level of service is exceptional. I see Polygon as a partner, not a vendor,” said Beckert. “I wish I had called them sooner.”
The Polygon system is equipped with a Smart Controller which monitors temperature and humidity and operates the system only when needed to maintain the building within proper environmental ranges. Based on refinements that were identified and implemented during start-up and six weeks of operation, RK Logistics estimates it achieved an over 50 percent savings in system fuel consumption with the Polygon equipment and its smart controls, versus a system running 24/7.
While the system runs on outside diesel generators, RK Logistics plans to switch it to in-house power by the end of 2023, achieving further cost savings and a significant reduction in its carbon footprint. The Polygon Smart Controller will continue to modulate equipment to drive energy savings.
Beckert commended Polygon on its performance and ability to deliver an effective solution on time and on budget. “Polygon performed up to and above our expectations,” he said. “We looked at many vendors for this project and Polygon stood out at every stage. Initial planning, MEP design, quoting and installation were handled in a thorough and professional manner, with a superior level of service and communication. The instruction and ongoing support we’ve received has been excellent.”
Partner Relationship - Polygon took ownership of the design, execution, and management of the total climate control solution for the client.
Fuel Savings - Offering an integrated system meant some 50 percent less fuel cost so the client was able to recoup costs associated with their contingency plan and realize further savings.
Continuous Verification and Documentation - Daily and weekly reports on interior conditions gave the client and their customer peace of mind that their critical battery materials were safe, and temperature and humidity risks were well mitigated.
For more information on custom temporary climate solutions, visit www.polygongroup.us/TCS.
Through November 2023, RK Logistics has handled over 4 billion EV batteries through its facilities without incident since 2014. For more information on RK’s specialized warehousing, logistics and transportation management solutions for the EV industry, visit https://rklogisticsgroup.com/warehousing/.