Battery Maker Firefly Flashes With $15M

Firefly Energy, a company developing cutting-edge lead-acid battery technology that we profiled last week, has raised $15 million in new venture funding. The financing was part of a Series C round that brought on Khosla Ventures and Infield Capital as new investors, PEHub reports.

The Peoria, Ill.-based startup was spun out of construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar in 2003 to develop better lead-acid battery technology for commercial and military use. The company previously raised $10 million from Caterpillar, Stark Capital, KB Partners, the Illinois Finance Authority and Tri-County Venture Capital Fund.

Firefly says on its web site that it has developed a battery that is powerful and light enough to give the hybrid vehicle market a significant boost. Given that Vinod Khosla has referred to hybrid vehicles as toys (OK, specifically parallel hybrids), this investment seems to represent a newer series of investments into electrified vehicles.

Firefly representative David Reiners tells us that the company is first focusing “on military and commercial trucking markets. So a discussion of applications of the company’s battery technology in the EV market would be premature.” Reiner was more eager to point out Firefly’s contribution to potentially “huge diesel fuel savings and cleaner air that next-generation batteries will produce as more states adopt strict anti-truck-engine-idling regulations.”

On that front, this summer, Firefly is launching its Oasis battery, which is designed to power the sleeper cab electronics of semis when the truck is idling. Currently these systems are usually powered by the diesel engine but new idling restrictions will tighten regulations on the emissions of parked big rigs.

But beyond big rigs, Firefly’s batteries, which the company says are lighter, cheaper, more rugged and more powerful than traditional lead acid batteries, could certainly find applications in the growing electric and hybrid world sometime soon. So, while Firefly seems a little coy about its passenger vehicle plans, the company is definitely a strong contender for upcoming battery contracts as car makers all over the world start putting more battery-powered vehicles on the road.