Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Batteries: The Venture Capitalist's Holy Grail

This is a week old but worthwhile for a few reasons, not least of which are the reader comments.
From the WSJ's Venture Capital Dispatch blog:
Envia Systems Advances Its Battery Technology On A Dime
 Envia Systems, a maker of batteries and battery components for electric vehicles, promises to be a clean-technology venture capitalist’s dream: a company that’s accomplishing technological feats, producing samples and signing big-league customers, all on a dime.

Customers such as General Motors footed the roughly $6 million bill the start-up had last year for its small factories, and research and development expenses. GM, which is struggling to sell more of its Volt plug-in hybrid cars, also is an investor in Envia, and Jon Lauckner, who was just named GM’s chief technical officer, is a director on the start-up’s board.

Meanwhile, the $17 million the company raised from venture investors in early 2011 lays untapped.
The Newark, Calif.-based company recently showed to the world a battery cell, using an improvement on the basic lithium ion chemistry, that packs double the energy into the same weight as batteries currently on the market. That world record translates into half the cost–a tantalizing promise in an industry that knows that high battery costs are the main obstacles to getting millions of electric vehicles on the road. Alternatively, such energy density could mean double the mileage on an electric charge for the same cost.

“Everybody is fixated on dollars per kilowatt hour,” said Kevin See, analyst with Lux Research, who analyzes the battery space. Envia’s test cell equates to a cost of $150 per kilowatt/hour, down from more than $300 in today’s vehicles. For that reason, said See, “Envia is one of the few companies we view positively in the emerging battery space.”...MORE
Microsoft famously didn't need venture capital either.
(Technology Venture Investors was the sole VC investor and got that plum only because Marquardt and Ballmer were buddies)
That's the Holy Grail, finding a company that doesn't need you but will let you in.

The battery on the other hand....that's going to be a longer slog than the press releases would lead one to believe.