Firefly Energy Inc. said Monday it has lined up a manufacturing partner to launch its first battery, which will primarily power TVs and other amenities in a truck driver's sleeper car.
Firefly, a developer of led-acid battery technology, signed a contract with C&D Technologies (NYSE: CHP), which will make Firefly's battery under the Oasis brand. Oasis batteries will roll off C&D's factory in Milwaukee, Wis., beginning in the first quarter of 2009.
Founded in 2003, the Peoria, Ill-based Firefly has been developing batteries for the commercial and military markets. The company closed a $15 million, third-round of financing in June this year from investors including Quercus Trust, Khosla Ventures and Infield Capital (see Toyota Drives Toward Greener Fleet).
Firefly closed a $10 million round in 2006 and a $4 million round in 2004. Its other investors include Caterpillar, BAE Systems, Husqvarna and KB Partners.
The startup said it has developed a more advanced lead-acid battery that can last nearly twice as long as the lead-acid batteries commonly found in cars today. Its technology reconfigures the lead grid of a conventional lead-acid battery cell to create a sponge-looking structure saturated with lead oxides.
Firefly is targeting the emerging electric car market in which competing battery makers are developing nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries (see Japan, U.S. Strive to Set Car-Battery Standards). Firefly claims its battery can perform comparably to the two other technologies but at a fifth of the cost.
Many carmakers have a particular interest in lithium-ion batteries, which can hold more energy in a given space than other battery technologies. But on the downside lithium-ion batteries are much more expensive and require further safety improvements (see Electric Car Market Could Race for Materials).
Firefly will first target the long-haul trucking market with its Oasis battery. The battery aims to solve a problem faced by truckers who must obey new state rules on diesel engine idling. In the past, truckers would leave the engine on to power TVs, air conditioning, microwave ovens and other electronics while they were taking a break.
But new state laws are limiting the time long-haul trucks can idle their engines in order to reduce emissions. Higher fuel costs also have prompted trucking companies to seek ways to reduce expenses. California's law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008 (see California's list of idle reduction technologies).
Firefly declined to disclose the value of the manufacturing contract, but a company spokesman said that the company plans to disclose its distribution and sales plans in the coming months.
The car market presents a tremendous opportunity for battery makers. Many American, Asian and European automakers are planning to launch plug-in hybrid or all-electric passenger cars in the next few years (see Chrysler Eyes 2010 for Launch of One of Three Electric Cars and Chevy Volt Goes West).
On Monday, lithium-ion battery maker Ener1 Inc. said it had completed the purchase of an 83 percent stake in South Korean lithium-ion cell maker, Enertech International.
Last week, Reuters reported that General Motors had picked LG Chem of South Korea and Michigan-based Compact Power to supply lithium-ion battery packs for its plug-in hybrid Volt, which is due for launch in November 2010.
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