Summary:

The DOD this week awarded $2.4 million the development of li-ion batteries and $2 million for lead-acid batteries.

The Department of Defense is funding both sides of a new battle, not one between countries, but between battery technologies — lithium ion and lead acid. This week the department announced investments aimed at the development of automotive batteries that employ both technologies: $2.4 million to International Battery for lithium-ion batteries that can be swapped in for lead-acid batteries by soldiers in the field, and $2 million to Firefly Energy for lightweight lead-acid batteries made with carbon foam.

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International Battery is designing its Lithium Ion 6TLi Battery to be the same size as currently deployed lead-acid batteries so that soldiers can swap them out on location. The Oakland, N.J.-based company says its battery has four times the energy, half the weight, a significantly longer life and enhanced combat readiness as compared to the current lead-acid battery systems.

Meanwhile, Firefly Energy is using carbon foam to make more lightweight lead-acid batteries for use in military and commercial trucks. The batteries are for the military’s “Silent Watch” program, which allows reconnaissance vehicles to turn off their noisy engines and instead power sensor and communication arrays silently with on-board batteries. This is the fourth time the DoD has provided funds to Firefly, bringing the total received $12.75 million.

Both battery makers have considerable private capital. International Battery raised $25 million of financing from Digital Power Capital in 2007 to complete its manufacturing facility in Allentown, Penn. Meanwhile, Firefly has raised over $25 million in private funding from investors including Khosla Ventures, Quercus Trust and Infield Capital.

This is International Battery’s first contract with the DoD and the company says it’s currently making batteries for testing. Firefly Energy says it plans to start delivering batteries to the military by late 2009.

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