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It’s been quite awhile since we’ve heard anything from battery startup Sakti3. The seven-year-old University of Michigan spin-out has been heads down working on a high performance “solid-state” lithium ion battery and on Wednesday announced that it’s produced a battery that can double the range of an electric car (like a Tesla Model S) or double the usage time of a gadget like a wearable device.
On top of that, Sakti3 said its batteries are safer to operate than the current standard ones, and that down the road the batteries could be produced commercially for around $100 per kilowatt hour, Sakti3 CEO Ann Marie Sastry said in a statement on Wednesday. For comparison’s sake, Tesla has said at one point that it’s currently buying lithium ion batteries for its cars for somewhere between $200 and $300 per kilowatt hour.
Solid state batteries have solid electrodes and electrolytes, compared to traditional lithium ion batteries that use a liquid electrolyte. That means solid state batteries are less flammable and can be safer to operate. The Sakti3 team made this video of an engineer dropping hot soldering material onto the cell, and it continues to operate in a safe temperature range.
Solid state batteries also can have a higher energy density (the amount of energy stored for a set volume). Sakti3 said the energy density for this latest battery cell is 1100 watt hours per liter, which translates into a 9-hour usage time for something like a smartwatch (from 3.5 hours) or a 480 mile electric car range (from the 256 mile range of a Tesla).
Yeah, imagine an almost 500-mile range Tesla car. Crain’s Detroit Business called the company one of the top 10 most innovative partly because it received four patents last year around battery manufacturing, a solid-state propulsion systems and automotive hybrid tech. MIT Tech Review named them one of their top 50 most disruptive companies of 2012.
Sakti3 is still in the pilot stage and isn’t yet producing these batteries commercially at scale. But the company says it made its breakthrough energy dense battery on “fully scalable equipment.” The company is backed by $30 million in venture funding from Khosla Ventures, GM Ventures, Itochu, and a grant from the State of Michigan.