Startup M2E Power said Friday the company raised $8 million in its first round of funding for its battery technology that harnesses motion and turns it into an electric charge.
The Boise, Idaho-based company said the money would be spent on further research and development, and to help commercialize its product for mobile devices.
OVP Venture Partners led the round, and @Ventures and Highway 12 Ventures also contributed.
M2E's first target market will be the military.
"Soldiers are having to carry around 10 to 35 pounds of batteries in their packs for extended missions," said Regan Warner-Rowe, M2E's director of business development.
To alleviate the amount of weight a soldier lugs around, M2E is working on a battery pack that captures and stores kinetic energy from everyday movements made by people and vehicles to power a variety of mobile devices like night vision scopes and radios.
Warner-Rowe said the genesis of the technology was rooted in solving what she calls the "mobile crisis in the military."
Going kinetic not only reduces the amount of weight soldiers must carry, it all reduces the amount spent on batteries that often end up in trash.
According to Warner-Rowe, the Canadian Ministry of Defense estimates it spends $57,000 per year on batteries for each average soldier based in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Warner-Rowe doesn't have concrete numbers as to how much the company's military battery pack will cost. But she did say if the technology were applied to a cell phone, it would be within 20 percent of a lithium battery's current production cost.
The company, which was founded in 2006, expects to have prototype battery packs in the field by late January, and ready for sale by early 2009.
M2E also plans to go after the consumer mobile market where its first product will most likely be a cell phone pocket charger.
How It Works
M2E's technology consists of a micro-generator combined with traditional battery storage. The approach leverages physics principals where energy is produced when magnets move back and forth near a wire coil.
While the concept is not new, the company said it has manipulated the electromagnetic field to improve the efficiency of getting the most charge from the motion.
The technology originated in the Idaho National Laboratory and was licensed to M2E.
So how much energy can M2E's technology produce? It depends on the size of the system, Warner-Rowe said.
But she gave an example for some insight. For a low-activity adult, like those in an office job where the biggest jaunt is to the fax machine or lunch, in two hours he or she can find their cell phone charged with 30 to 60 minutes worth of talk time.
Helping mobile devices stay mobile longer is a hot spot of market interest. And companies are trying various approaches to tackle the problem like, Planar Energy Devices. The Orlando, Fla.-based startup raised $1.3 million of a $4-million round of venture-capital funding in late October for its thin-film technology (see Can Thinner Batteries be Better?).
And of course, among the approaches out there to reduce battery dependence and consumption, going kinetic sounds quite enticing.
But major hurdles still loom, especially if M2E wants to penetrate the consumer market. That's because companies, like handset- and PDA- makers will have to re-engineer their products to integrate M2E's technology. M2E's technology would not allow consumers to pop out an old cell phone battery and replace it with an M2E system.
But Warner-Rowe is optimistic the company can overcome such challenges. She thinks the combo of companies wanting to provide customers new and green features will be a driving force for adoption.