February 10, 2011 source: greentechmedia
A conversation with Nat Goldhaber
How does a startup get into batteries?
The first wave tried to produce their own battery cells. While some, such as A123 Systems and Boston-Power, have managed to build factories, it’s taken hundreds of millions of dollars to pull off, and most of the others have blown up like a Dell notebook stuffed with shorted 18650 lithium cobalt cells.
The next wave, and potentially the most successful in the long run, could revolve around the traditional Silicon Valley strengths in chip design and software, says Nat Goldhaber of Claremont Creek Ventures. Battery startups will emerge that will focus on producing battery management systems that wrap around cells from mondo-manufacturers like LG Chem.
“We can take your cells and make them longer, and you still get the glory of being a manufacturer,” he said. As an added bonus, a successful battery management company could help newer Chinese manufacturers get into higher-value markets like automobiles and motorcycles. A smooth battery management system could homogenize differences between similar, but not exactly matching cells.
Claremont, in fact, has just invested in such a company. Expect to hear a name soon.
Technically speaking, some companies already sell battery management systems. Still, most of the time, battery management systems are an adjunct to another business. Tesla Motors, for instance, sells its battery management to Daimler but is at its heart a car company.
What else might come to the car market in the near future? Alphabet Energy, another Claremont company, has created a chip that converts waste heat into electricity directly via silicon nanowires. The material is far more efficient than traditional waste heat techniques. (The idea originally came from Arun Majumdar, the former UC Berkeley professor now running ARPA-E.) …
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