Battery makers are raking it this summer — and not just from the government. With the first major round of stimulus awards for plug-in vehicle batteries less than a month behind us, startup CFX Battery has secured the first $5 million of a planned $26.9 million round of financing, according to regulatory filings reported by Dow Jones.
CFX (included on our list of 13 battery startups to watch) has now raised a total of some $20 million since its founding just over two years ago. Like fellow battery startup Seeo, which has also raised a new round of funding this week, CFX emerged from research in a university lab. According to Volkswagen electrochemistry chief Joerg Huslage, that’s where we’ll see most of the groundbreaking innovations for batteries in coming years.
Caltech professor Robert Grubbs, along with the Nobel Prize-winning director Rachid Yazami (who was leading France’s National Center for Scientific Research but had been a visiting associate at Caltech) spun CFX out of the Southern California university in 2007, getting help from the university’s tech transfer office to raise its first $15 million.
Huslage noted yesterday at IBM’s Almaden Institute in San Jose, Calif., that U.S. and Europe have some catching up to do when it comes to supporting cutting edge battery research and recruiting top talent to conduct it in university programs. Pasadena, Calif.-based CFX is a good example of a startup using intercontinental collaboration and university resources in a way that could help the U.S. play catchup.
According to the Los Angeles Business Times, CFX plans to initially focus on building “primary” lithium batteries, which can’t be recharged. By the end of this year, CFX aims to have three manufacturers buying those batteries for use in military devices, defibrillators and other products. The idea is to build a business in those established markets, and then reinvest the revenue into the company’s rechargeable battery work for applications including electric cars, as well as mobile phones and laptops.
CFX is currently growing its team and seeking alliances with major equipment manufacturers. Already, however, the startup is looking beyond lithium. Anticipating a lithium squeeze down the road and eying lower-cost alternatives, Yazami tells the New York Times that he is also “trying to develop a battery powered by nano particles of sodium and water.”