Better Batteries: Venture Capitalists Throwing Money at Battery Makers

Tech News

Venture capitalists are on the look out for new battery technologies. Just since July, the following companies have received over $75 million in financing from investors to develop better energy storage: Deeya Energy, Firefly Energy, Gridpoint, Infinite Power Solutions, and Li*On Cells.

Innovations in chemistry and nanotechnology are paving the way for new, safer and more efficient technologies to become available. This is definitely a good thing, as most would agree that battery technology feels like it is way behind for our day and age.

The global market for batteries / energy-storage devices is expected to increase at a 7% annual rate through 2010 to $74 billion, up from $48 billion in 2005. “Batteries are the new hot topic for investors,” said Sunil Paul, an entrepreneur turned investor. “People have realized that a major advance in energy storage would be a game-changer.”

These new companies are hoping to develop new offerings that range from utility focused energy storage to microbatteries. Advancements in battery technology is usually measured via some combination of the lifetime of a battery, power density (ratio of available power to weight), and energy density (ratio of energy to weight).

Lead-acid technologies is a hot topic right now as it “…has been engineered to only about 20% to 40% of its potential,” according to Firefly Energy Chief Executive Ed Williams. “It has been the least-engineered chemistry of the past 20 to 40 years in terms of the maximum potential of its chemistry.”

But lithium ion technology is improving as well. Li*On Cells and A123 Systems have some good stuff in the works. And A123 has seen an increase in orders of lithium-ion batteries since Sony’s fiasco of faulty batteries / exploding laptops. “That’s a key differentiator of our technology over the conventional lithium ion battery,” explains founder Ric Fulop, “Our battery is noncombustible and won’t cause thermal runaway.”

Batteries that don’t blow up are a good thing, to be sure. But I think we can all agree that improvements in battery life is where the real excitement exists. Here’s hoping $75 million (and counting) will help create the next big leap in battery technology.

See this article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) for other details.

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