ElectronVault later this year will take the wraps off of a technology it claims will make it easier for you to get into the market for electric cars and energy storage.
The company, run by the husband-and-wife team of Rob Ferber and Linda Maepa, has developed a technique for quickly, cheaply and comprehensively wiring batteries together to form a battery pack. Wiring batteries together in a notebook pack is simple: notebooks only have six to nine cells. But an electric car like the Tesla Roadster can have thousands, and the number grows when you contemplate multi-megawatt storage facilities. Incomplete or damaged connections can create problems, while some of the more sophisticated technologies, such as laser welding, can be expensive.
ElectronVault has come up with a single-step process that functions in a parallel, rather than serial, fashion. The number of cells in a pack is not an inhibiting factor and it is compatible with existing manufacturing equipment and processes.
"All of our technology is between the cells and the power terminals. [...] We're an electric joining technology," Ferber said. "It replaces all current joining technologies."
Just as interesting, ElectronVault's business model will, ideally, give end-users more bargaining power in the storage business. The company plans on licensing its know-how to car companies and others. Thus, instead of having to buy completed battery packs from manufacturers, they will be able to buy cells and, with ElectronVault's know-how, weave a battery pack together themselves. As an added bonus, these battery packs will be able to mix and match cells from different manufacturers, ameliorating spot shortages.
Will the company make it? Who knows, but we love covering mystery startups here, particularly those founded by people with a track record. Prior to ElectronVault, Ferber was a science director at Tesla, where he worked on batteries; he also helped AC Propulsion retrofit a Scion for electric drive. While in grad school back in the '90s, he got recruited to serve as the first CTO of eToys.
Licensing in batteries is a growing phenomenon. Argonne National Labs licensed battery technology to LG Chem and General Motors. Meanwhile, battery component makers Envia Systems and Amprius recently raised $17 million and $25 million, respectively. Licensing is never easy. Most potential licensees prefer to avoid it and risk lawsuits. But in cars, an opportunity may exist. Large manufacturers, particularly in emerging nations, want to gain early market share and don't often have the technical expertise in-house. (Keep an eye on Porous Power and PolyPower, too.)
The company's process complies with the warranty terms of the majority of battery cell manufacturers. Right now, the company is in discussions with Chinese vehicle makers, as well as grid operators in South Africa.
But what is it exactly? Again, Ferber's not saying, but he said to think broadly about botany. More information will likely come out at a user conference this fall in China.