Battery Startup ActaCell Lassos Cool $1M from Texas

actacell-logoUpdated with additional info from ActaCell: Lithium-ion battery startup ActaCell has just added the state of Texas to its corral of high-profile backers. The state is providing a “pre-seed award” of $250,000 to ActaCell, according to a release from the Austin-based company this morning, and putting another $750,000 on “reserve” for the startup, which nabbed $5.8 million in first-round financing last year from investors including’s RechargeIT program, DFJ Mercury, Applied Ventures (the VC arm of Applied Materials (s AMAT) and Good Energies.

Founded in 2007, ActaCell is working to commercialize lithium-ion battery cells and packs based on technology developed in the Material Science and Engineering labs of professor Arumugam Manthiram at the University of Texas at Austin. DFJ Mercury managing director Ned Hill said back in 2008 that the batteries — meant to have longer life cycles at lower cost than currently available options —  would be particularly valuable for the plug-in hybrid vehicle market. But ActaCell (one of our 13 lithium-ion battery startups to watch) has let few details slip since it spun off from the university.

battery-li-utThe funding announced this morning comes from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a program designed to support commercialization and manufacturing of emerging technologies in the state. (Award winners have to commit to locating a “substantial percentage” of the work resulting from the funds in Texas.)

The $1 million from the fund is more than pocket change for ActaCell at this stage. However, it’s small game, compared with the $600 million project that the company had planned to participate in as one of the 50 members of the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries (NAATBatt) — if stimulus funds had come through for the consortium’s planned li-ion battery plant earlier this year.

At this point, the state funding, combined with the “final tranche milestone” of the Series A financing round, will allow the company to expand the “technical and managerial ranks of the company” and complete development of an R&D facility, ActaCell President and CEO Bill Ott says. Previously the company said that it will bring a product to market in 2010. We’ve asked for an update on that time line — more when we know more.

Update: ActaCell CEO Bill Ott tells us this morning that the startup plans to develop a beta product during 2010. The main use of the $250,000 from the Texas fund, and the additional $750,000 that ActaCell can request if it hits two technical milestones, will be expanding the company’s ranks of technical and management staff. According to Ott, “specifically focusing on senior talent from the Li-Ion battery industry is a key effort for ActaCell in the near term.”

Graphic credit Manthiram Laboratory