Boston-Power Strikes Deal with Hewlett-Packard to Market Longer-Lived, Eco-Friendly Laptop Batteries

12/10/08Follow @wroush

After raising $70 million in venture funding and spending more than three years on the development of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, Westborough, MA-based Boston-Power has won its first big customer: It’s the supplier behind a new line of replacement laptop batteries from Hewlett-Packard. Branded as the “HP Enviro Series” but based entirely on Boston-Power’s Sonata technology, the batteries incorporate advances in design and chemistry that will allow them to be recharged much faster than conventional laptop batteries—and that will keep them from losing their capacity to store power over time, the way older lithium-ion cells do.

The Enviro batteries be available from HP early next year, and will have the same form factor as current HP laptop batteries, meaning they can be slipped directly into existing HP laptops. That will make Boston-Power the first U.S.-based company ever to enter the laptop battery market, a space wholly dominated up to now by Japanese and South Korean companies such as Sony, Sanyo, LG, Samsung, and Panasonic.

Boston-Power—which is funded by Oak Investment Partners, Venrock, GGV Capital, and Gabriel Venture Partners—has long been promoting its battery technology as a smarter alternative to conventional lithium-ion cells. Most lithium-ion batteries suffer from chemical buildups that cut their capacity in half after only one year of use, meaning that they usually have to be replaced several times over a typical laptop’s three-year lifespan. That’s not only an expensive proposition for consumers, since replacement packs usually cost $80 to $120, but also uses up precious resources during manufacturing and leads to greater shipping costs and carbon emissions.

Boston-Power\'s Sonata lithium-ion batteriesA single Enviro replacement battery, by contrast, is designed to retain 80 percent of its charging capacity over three years—meaning, in theory, that the replacement will never have to be replaced. Christina Lampe-Onnerud, a research chemist and Swedish native who founded Boston-Power in 2005, calls the company’s deal with HP “a celebration of cleantech” and of innovation in general. “The number-one laptop and notebook computer maker has prioritized the environment and created a whole new brand to give consumers a choice,” says Lampe-Onnerud (who participated in an Xconomy panel discussion on energy innovation last week). “I’m very proud that Boston-Power is the enabling technology for their first offering, and I’m extremely happy that we can be part of the solution for climate change instead of the problem.”

But if the Enviro batteries are so great, why aren’t they being included in new HP laptops, rather than sold only as replacements? That will probably happen down the road, Lampe-Onnerud suggests. Offering the Enviro as a replacement battery first “was the quickest, best way, in HP’s mind, to deploy this battery to as many people as possible,” she says. “I think you should expect to see other opportunities for collaboration [between Boston-Power and HP] in 2009.”

In fact, the market for laptop batteries is so commoditized—with no particular product standing out from any other—that it’s hard to imagine that HP would not eventually put the new Enviro batteries directly into its Presario and Pavilion laptops and turn them into a sales point (or at least market them as an option, the same way it offers buyers of new laptops a choice of graphics cards or hard drives).

“We will see during a 2009 a very interesting opportunity for our early adopters to get rewarded for working with us, because … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.sustainablestaffing.com/resumesmith Green Career Advisor

    This is the kind of technology that will lift Boston out of the recession. It may take a while, but a “green bubble” may be our best chance at getting through this nightmarish economy.

    Congrats on the good news, Boston-Power. Keep it up.

    Peter Nowicki | Sustainable Staffing Group