The rule of thumb for a battery startup business is take a scientist’s budget to build a lithium-ion battery company and multiply it by 10, says Charles Gassenheimer, the CEO of Ener1, which, through its subsidiaries, makes batteries, nanotech and fuel cell technology. Gassenheimer — who says Ener1’s battery business EnerDel will need upwards of $900 million and will seek to raise more equity funding sometime this year — sat down in our video studio and chatted with us about the lithium-ion battery market, including government funding, its car partner Think, its talks with startup Fisker Automotive and the real game-changer in the battery equation: China.
On EnerDel’s previous plan to supply batteries for Fisker’s upcoming plug-in Karma model, Gassenheimer says don’t count EnerDel out from all of Fisker’s plans. EnerDel and Fisker’s talks broke off earlier this year, and A123Systems swooped in to take the deal. But Gassenheimer tells us you’ll probably see EnerDel batteries in Fisker’s next-generation electric vehicle Project Nina, though he also said it’s too early to talk about any type of deal or specifics between the two firms.
Ener1 has a 31 percent stake in electric car maker Think, and has been working with Volvo. In addition to two original equipment manufacturing deals that Ener1 hopes to announce this year — one in Europe and one in Asia (as we reported earlier this month) — Gassenheimer says that with a little luck Ener1 will have one of the world’s largest revenue streams associated with lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles in the coming years.
When it comes to government funding Gassenheimer tells us that the lengthy loan and grant process for green cars has taken longer then expected but that Ener1 is now going through the due diligence process of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program (for a cheat sheet of winners and losers under that program see here). Ener1 has also drawn the first funds from its $118.5 million federal grant, awarded last year under the Department of Energy’s highly competitive battery grant program.