Lithium Ion Battery Baby Steps: A 3-Year-Warranty Laptop Battery

The next-generation of lithium-ion batteries aren’t just here to power the first wave of electric cars and remake the power grid; they’ll be providing better energy storage for our gadgets and computers, too. On Monday, venture capital-backed lithium-ion battery player Leyden Energy (formerly called Mobius Power) is launching a replacement lithium-ion battery for laptops that won’t degrade (start losing its full charge) for at least three years, and will come with a three-year warranty.

Most standard laptop batteries start losing their ability to fully charge (providing fewer and fewer hours of battery life) after about a year and a half. Anyone who’s a laptop user knows how annoying it is to have a battery that suddenly won’t hold a charge for very long, even though it’s still early in the life of the laptop itself. Leyden Energy says its battery has one of the highest energy densities and run times for a lithium-ion laptop battery on the market, with 440 watt hours per liter and over 1,000 cycles, and the battery can operate at higher temperatures than traditional batteries.

Leyden Energy’s three-year warranty battery will cost a premium over a standard one-year battery, and while Leyden Energy hasn’t yet determined the exact price it will sell the battery for, Leyden Energy CEO and President Aakar Patel told me in an interview that a three-year battery will be less than double the cost of a one-year battery. Leyden Energy will also announce a deal Monday to sell its battery through the Canadian battery retailer Dr. Battery, and interested customers will be able to buy the battery online in a couple of weeks through the retailer.

Leyden Energy was founded in 2007 with a patent acquired from chemical giant Dupont (s dd), and a $4.5 million investment from investors at Walden International, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sigma Partners. Leyden’s secret sauce is an innovation for the electrolyte part of the battery. A battery has a positive and a negative plate and then an electrolyte in between, which is the substance through which electrons transfer back and forth while the battery charges and discharges.

While standard lithium-ion batteries use a salt-based solvent within the electrolyte that starts degrading at a temperature of between 70 to 80 degrees Celsius, Leyden uses a salt-solvent in its electrolyte that doesn’t degrade up to temperatures of 300 degrees Celsius. Leyden Energy holds a patent for this innovation. As Patel explained it to me, when a battery charges and discharges, think of the electrons as rods that move across the electrolyte (between the anode and the cathode) and fill holes on the other side. After a certain point in time, standard electrolytes, particularly at high temperatures, let the rods start to break down and the holes start to fill up, but Leyden’s battery can maintain the integrity of those rods and holes at higher temperatures for a longer period of time.

In the grand scheme of innovations, and with startups trying to change the game with designs for battery-powered cars with hundreds of miles of range, Leyden’s innovation is kind of like baby steps. But if Leyden can manage to get a deal with a major laptop manufacturer to embed the battery directly in a laptop, or market the battery with a popular laptop, then the company could do well. In 2008, Boston Power launched its three-year-lasting lithium-ion battery with laptop maker HP (s HPQ), and is backed by Oak Investment Partners, Venrock, GGV Capital and Gabriel Venture Partners.

Like Boston Power, Leyden Energy has been eying the electric vehicle battery market, too, and is working with Brammo to supply the battery for its electric motorcycle the Empulse, a more powerful version of Brammo’s original e-scooter the Enertia (which I test drove here). Leyden and a vehicle maker partner were also awarded a $2.96 million grant from the California Energy Commission to produce ten electric vehicle batteries per month. Leyden seems like it’s focusing more on batteries for the laptop and consumer electronics markets, instead of electric vehicles, as it seems like the market for electric vehicles is moving slower than some have expected (see A123 Systems (s aone), and Ener1 (s hev)).