Lithium-ion battery startup Leyden Energy has raised $20 million to expand production, the company announced Wednesday. Although the company is initially targeting the gadget market, it’s also working with a Canadian company to develop batteries for electric bicycles.
New Enterprise Associates led the new round, which also included money from existing investors such as Lightspeed Ventures and Sigma Partners. Overall, Leyden has raised $38 million in venture capital since its inception in 2007, Nick Cataldo, vice president of business development at Leyden, told us.
It was only in May of this year that the Fremont, Calif., based startup announced its first commercial product, six months after it completed research and development work and began production in China, company CEO, Aakar Patel, said back in May. Leyden also announced its first customer, Dr. Battery, which is selling replacement laptop battery packs containing Leyden’s cells. Canada-based Dr. Battery, which sells batteries for a variety of mobile consumer electronics, plans to add batteries featuring Leyden cells later this year. Leyden also expects to see its cells inside tablet PCs later this year.
Although Leyden’s cells can run over 1,000 cycles and three years, Dr. Battery is currently offering Leyden-embedded laptop batteries with a 2-year warranty. Warranty terms aren’t determined solely on the performance of the battery cells. Dr. Battery takes into consideration the overall performance of the battery pack – it’s Dr. Battery, not Leyden, that designs the battery packs and the related electronics to run the cells.
Leyden has long talked about its interest in developing cells for the transportation market. But targeting gadgets first makes sense not just because it’s an established market, Cataldo said, but also because electronics manufacturers are pushing for higher energy density and other improvements so that consumers can run the growing number of applications on their gadgets. Any of the technology improvements made for the gadget market can apply to battery developments for electric cars, he added.
The company has received a $2.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission to build a manufacturing line in the state with Green Vehicles to produce 10 battery packs per month. Leyden also won an $117,733 grant from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium last year to develop cells for electric vehicles.
In addition Leyden also is working with Dr. Battery to put its cells inside battery packs for electric bicycles, Dr. Battery’s chief financial officer, Fan Chun, told me.
Although Leyden has played up a research effort last year to see if its battery cells would be a good fit for Brammo’s electric motorcycles, the company doesn’t have a supply agreement with Brammo. Brammo’s director of product development, Brian Wismann, told me in May that Brammo was waiting for the automotive version of Leyden’s cells. He said Leyden’s technology promises to deliver battery packs with good thermal management, energy density and longevity.
Leyden is particularly proud of its cells for performing well in high temperatures. Running too hot is a known problem for lithium-ion batteries, so battery developers are investigating new materials, cooling technologies and monitoring hardware and software to manage the operating temperatures of batteries. Leyden has focused primarily on improving the electrolyte and current collector.
Photos courtesy of Leyden Energy