Battery Maker Boston-Power Lands $60M

Boston-Power has raised $60 million in a fifth round of financing — cash that the startup hopes will fuel a rapid expansion of its capacity to build energy storage devices for plug-in cars and grid storage for the power grid.

Previous investors Foundation Asset Management and Oak Investment Partners led the round, which Venrock Capital and Gabriel Venture Partners also joined. According to Boston-Power, this latest funding brings the company’s total investment to $185 million since its founding in 2005.

Boston-Power founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud says the new funds will help the company expand manufacturing, sales and marketing, while also supporting research and development of its lithium-ion battery technology.

Based in Massachusetts with manufacturing operations in Taiwan, Boston-Power initially focused on the market for notebook batteries, supplying upgrade batteries for Hewlett-Packard laptops. But May 2009 the company unveiled a battery for plug-in vehicles, and late last year it joined a Swedish government-backed coalition (including struggling Saab) developing electric cars.

Boston-Power said today that it now expects the first vehicles under the project with Saab to roll out during fall 2010, with more cars coming out in 2011. Lampe-Onnerud told us earlier this year that Boston-Power had other auto projects in the works, and was involved with automakers testing vehicles at various scales and stages — from tens to thousands of cars per month. The company is still keeping mum on additional customers, but it said in a release today that it expects to announce “additional customers in the transportation and utility markets from around the world,” by year’s end.

Today’s funding and the planned expansion could open some new opportunities for Boston-Power. That’s the idea, anyway. Running up against capacity constraints, Lampe-Onnerud told us in February that supplying cells for 20,000 cars, “would sell out our capacity.”

For the foreseeable future, any expansion in production capacity will most likely take place overseas, according to Lampe-Onnerud. After the Department of Energy denied Boston-Power’s request for $100 million to set up manufacturing operations in the U.S. last year, she said, “We went right back to China.”