I think the thesis that energy storage technologies will be critically important for alternative energy, the smart grid AND electric vehicles is pretty well-accepted.
But it won't be just batteries vying to play a role in energy storage.
The idea that high-premium ultracapacitors will stake a claim in this sector just got some more legs in the form of a $21 million venture capital round for one of the players in this market, Ioxus. The value proposition that ultracapacitors bring, according to the companies that make them, is their ability to handle more charge and discharge cycles than batteries, especially in short bursts of high power. In some cases, you might see ultracapacitors used in tandem with batteries. One example might be for regenerative braking, when energy is captured during the braking process.
Ioxus, which has its headquarters in Oneonta, N.Y., makes high-performance ultracapacitors that are designed for transportation and alternative energy applications (to name just two of its foci). Its latest $21 million infusion comes from Energy Technology Ventures (which is related to GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips), Northwater Capital, Aster Capital and Braemer Ventures. The money will be used for development and to expand sales, marketing and manufacturing resesources.
In the press release about the deal, venture capitalist Kevin Skillern (with GE Energy Financial Services) said:
"Ioxus is developing lighter, more compact and cost-efficient energy storage technologies that will be relied on to complement or replace rechargeable batteries in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products such as handheld electronic devices, hybrid electric vehicles, wind turbines, aircraft and medical equipment."
I spoke with Ioxus CEO Mark McGough earlier this year (before the VC deal was announced) about what makes his company's product unique. in a word: "density." McGough says the Ioxus components offer two times the power density of typical ultracapacitors. The technology is being tested in these areas:
- In the military, as an option for portable power (something to keep the microwave transmitters up and running)
- In hybrid bus companies, which are using them for regenerative braking
- In warehouses, for forklifts
- In the start-stop systems of micro-hybrids
- In configurations that complement windmills
McGough won't name names, only to say Ioxus is in field tests with several "blue chip" companies. It is also focusing on China (especially for hybrid bus applications and wind turbine solutions). The company expanded its presence in China in March 2011.
Related posts about the green technology potential of ultracapacitors: