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John Doerr Mentions Kleiner's Stealthy Lithium Ion Battery Startup

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John Doerr, the prominent cleantech venture capitalist for Kleiner Perkins, gave his standard earnest speech before a Senate Committee hearing on how greentech investing can spur the economy on Wednesday morning. As per usual, he first chided the U.S. for not doing enough to cut carbon emissions and invest in cleantech, and then laid out his broad plan on what to do next.

But for industry-watchers interested in Kleiner’s portfolio, it’s worth pointing out that Doerr mentioned a new “stealth mode” lithium-ion battery maker. He says the  unnamed startup “creates stable, durable lithium ion batteries with higher effective storage capacity” that can power electric vehicles “twice as far, and eventually three times as far, to over 100 miles before recharging.”

Doerr also gave a few clues on the company’s origins and future plans — supposedly the startup was found “outside the U.S.,” but is building manufacturing plants in the Midwest and will ship batteries at the end of the year. Doerr positioned the company as no less than an automotive breakthrough and said: “This technology could be a key driver for the electrification and revitalization of our automotive industry, helping us retain and create many jobs.”

Kleiner has openly invested in electric car companies, like Fisker Automotive, that will use lithium-ion batteries and in energy storage company EEStor (though Kleiner Perkins doesn’t list the company on its web site). EEStor says its energy storage technology for vehicles can provide 10 times the energy of lead-acid batteries at one-tenth the weight and half the price, and move a car 400 kilometers after a five-minute charge. But EEStor isn’t working on lithium-ion batteries that we know of.

Kleiner has previously invested in deals where Khosla Ventures (founded by former Kleiner partner Vinod Khosla) has done early seed stage funding. That firm has backed Sakti3, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company developing a next-generation lithium-ion battery for electric vehicles. According to this Detroit Free Press article (one of the only detailed ones we’ve seen on the company) Sakti3 will build factories to turn Michigan “into a major producer of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.” But also, according to the article, Sakti3’s technology is based on research conducted at University of Michigan — not overseas.

If anyone has ideas on Kleiner’s secretive lithium ion battery company, add them in the comments or email us.

14 Responses to “John Doerr Mentions Kleiner's Stealthy Lithium Ion Battery Startup”

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  2. Politicians, industrialists, and environmentalists who see battery powered vehicles as the wave of the future are overlooking the fact that 50% of the world supply of lithium comes from impoverished, landlocked Bolivia. This is a country that until now was best known for killing off famous foreigners (Che Guevara, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and being the source of a new form a venereal disease. Lithium ion batteries are four times more efficient than the current generation of nickel cadmium batteries, and are essential for electric cars to finally become economically viable. But now that the country finally has something the world wants, nationalism is rearing its ugly head. Local politicians see their country as the Saudi Arabia of the highly corrosive, toxic, reactive metal, and are already discussing ways to restrict access. The only other supplies are to be found in Chile, Argentina, Australia, China, and Nevada. Should the US invade to insure supplies? Iraq worked didn’t it? The best way for opportunistic investors to play this is to buy Sociedad Quimica Y Minera (SQM), Peru’s largest producer of lithium.

  3. Enough Already

    When will people realize that A123 cells are a dead end. There simply is no energy to make them valuable in any industry, especially EV and PHEVs. That is why they are trying for a second time for IPO. No VC are willing to invest in them anymore.

  4. DR_sfZed

    BYD is one of several Chinese companies that are pioneering Li batteries – mostly using iron or magnesium to reduce the safety issues at the cost of some energy denisty. China has quietly become the World’s leader in e-vehicles, They used a graduated licence fee to switch 50%(and growing) of their polluting motorbike industry to e-motorcycles and now produce 25m/yr. These are increasingly Li powered. So China already has vast experience with e-vehicles and Li batteries. I would guess BYD is trying to make a USA position for 2010 car sales. Warren Buffet – a large BYD stockholder – would certainly make the introductions.

    In the meantime, we should all listen to John Doerr – he’s the smartest guy I’ve met.

  5. Good comment:
    “anyone who claims that the country will greatly benefit by building exorbitantly expensive electric cars and electricity producers needs tio be committed.”

    So your investment philosophy is….. to back the staus quo? LOL Fortunes are made due to innovation and technical change pal, not by naysayers.

  6. ken beauhert

    Doerr once aganin shows why Kleiner perkins has fallen on such hard times over the past year – they have backed something like 11 out of 12 losers in a row. They are simply incompetent. Now one of their salesmen is pushingthe idea of an “unnamed” company which, for some unimaginable reason, would want to locate a factory in the sky-high labor cost area of the American Midwest. As for a company that can make a li ion battery that can drive a car even up to 100 miles, I have to wonder where in the world Doeer has been living during the past two years. Mars? The Tesla battery pack propels their car more than twice the 100 mile range that Doerr, for some inexplicable reason, seems to imagine is remarkable. What’s remarkable is how Doerr manages to keep his job. He’s a total incompetent.
    Of course, anyone who claims that the country will greatly benefit by building exorbitantly expensive electric cars and electricity producers needs tio be committed. Or, at the very least, examined closely.
    No wonder Kleiner Perkins has made so many blunders lately. I wouldn’t invest a penny in that company. They make Madoff’s schemes look not all that bad.