VoltServer Adds $250K to Build “Internet Protocol of the Electricity World”

7/26/12Follow @xconomy

Earlier this week, Rhode Island-based Slater Technology Fund announced that it had backed VoltServer, a new startup out of the Ocean State, to the tune of $250,000.

Charlestown, RI-based VoltServer is developing technology around packet energy transfer, a method that breaks up electricity into smaller chunks to transmit high volumes of power more safely than traditional systems. It is focusing on cell phone towers and charging stations for electric vehicles as its major applications, says Steve Eaves, the founder and CEO of VoltServer.

The idea goes back about 10 years, he said, and it comes from his own incubation company, Eaves Devices, which focuses on companies in the energy sector. In the meantime, Eaves launched Modular Energy Devices in 2006, a company that built lithium-ion batteries for the telecommunications market and was bought last year by industrial battery manufacturer EnerSys (NYSE: ENS). Modular was also backed by Slater, which is a state-backed venture fund that puts $3 million in seed funding a year into local life sciences, IT, and energy companies.

Eaves says that recent advances in digital signal processor technology and transistors allowed him to expand on his previous work and start VoltServer earlier this year. The startup’s technology works to prevent electrocution in areas where electricity is exposed to people—such as floor charging systems for electric vehicles—by reducing the amount of time someone comes in contact with electricity to tiny fractions of a second.

“You normally had to limit the amount of electricity in those applications in the case where someone came in contact with it,” Eaves says. “Now you can transfer very large amounts of electricity.”

The hardware processes the energy data for transfer and “verifies that it got to the other side,” Eaves says. “It’s like the Internet Protocol of the electricity world.”

The result is that exposed cell phone towers can run with higher voltages and less copper, thereby reducing material and installation costs and the weight of the tower. And for electric vehicles, it’s an “enabling technology,” he says.

“It just wasn’t possible to charge electric vehicles in a reasonable time frame if you had to expose the conductor,” Eaves says. The company is focusing on those two areas now because they are “closest to market,” but he says the technology has big potential. “ It’s a new way to treat electricity, so we definitely see applications on the grid,” he says.

VoltServer is starting to beta test its technology with customers in the wireless industry, like companies that manage cell phone towers. The new money is “focused on getting the products to proof,” and completing the tests in independent laboratories that larger telecom companies require before purchasing the technology, Eaves says. The company will look to do a full Series A raise in less than a year, he says.

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