Four Lesser-Known Green Car Companies Backed by Khosla

We just checked in on Khosla Ventures’ portfolio on its web site and we noticed four startups we haven’t looked into before that could deliver some interesting innovation to the electric car space: Sakti3, Firefly Energy, Ramu and Tula. As Khosla’s more than a dozen biofuel investments have yet to bear fruit, the investing team looks like it’s adding to its battery and electric vehicle bets. While we don’t know much about these firms, but here’s what we could find:

Sakti3: Khosla’s web site calls Sakti3 a thin-film battery company (we hope that’s a placeholder name.) According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Sakti3 is developing “high-power batteries that will withstand the rigors of automotive use.” The technology for this process stemmed from research performed at the University of Michigan by the company’s CEO, Professor Ann Marie Sastry, says the MEDC article. MEDC cares because Sakti3 is spending $1 million on manufacturing the batteries in Ann Arbor, where Michigan hopes it will create 230 new jobs.

Firefly Energy: Not as under the radar as the other three, given the company was spun out of the R&D labs of Caterpillar in 2003. According to Firefly’s web site, CTO Kurt Kelley was in charge of trying to improve the life and efficiency of lead-acid batteries at Caterpillar when he came across a corrosive-resistant, more efficient “composite foam material” to replace the lead. Caterpillar spun out the startup and seeded it with money, and several years later it has landed in Khosla’s portfolio.

The company says it has “the first battery powerful and light enough to finally give the hybrid auto the power to take off with a huge share of the market.” Didn’t Khosla contend hybrids are toys? Firefly says their battery is better because it can be lighter, has a better energy density than the standard, works well in cold temperatures, and is a lower-cost option than other hybrid batteries like lithium ion and nickel metal hydride.

Ramu and Tula: OK, so we know very little about these two companies, only that Khosla’s portfolio describes Ramu as “a new design for electric motors” and Tula as “a digital processsor chip to improve mileage.” Vinod Khosla also briefly mentioned Tula at the Fortune Green conference a few weeks ago, citing it as an example of a new startup in the transportation space. Anyone know more about these ventures?