San Diego’s PowerGenix Engineers a New Strategy for Nickel-Zinc Battery

6/1/11Follow @bvbigelow

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environmentally benign materials.)

“This isn’t a fringe, niche technology. It’s rapidly becoming ubiquitous in Europe, and I believe it will become ubiquitous in the U.S.”

In the United States, Squiller says government-mandated standards for improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions have forced automakers to aggressively innovate. As a result, he estimates that automakers in the U.S. market have compressed their new technology adoption cycles from five years to two.

PowerGenix recently unveiled its first production prototype batteries, and Squiller says, “We’ll be sampling to just about all the major auto manufacturers this summer. Then the qualification cycles begin.”

The company also has reached an agreement for a substantial investment with a large institutional private equity firm based in Hong Kong, which Squiller says is expected to close in the next 45 days. It has raised $60 million through four rounds of venture investing since it was recapitalized in 2003, and Squiller says its existing venture investors will be joining the unnamed private equity firm in the company’s fifth round. Those investors include Granite Ventures, Advent International, Braemar Energy Ventures, OnPoint Technologies, Bessemer Venture Partners, Technology Partners, and the Angeleno Group.

A PowerGenix NiZn battery

Although Thomas Edison was awarded a U.S. patent for a rechargeable nickel-zinc battery system in 1901, Squiller says PowerGenix traces the roots of its technology to Morris Eisenberg, a chemist and Stanford University lecturer who tried in the 1990s to persuade Apple Computer to use his design for nickel-zinc batteries in Apple laptops. Jeff Phillips, who was Apple’s power group technology manager at the time, was unconvinced because nickel-zinc lacked the power density of lithium-ion cells.

But Phillips later joined the aging Eisenberg at a Foster City, CA-based company called Next Century Power, which was started to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • d. begley

    I wish this technology would be conducive to American citizen employment,we have way too much technology that is favoring non domestic manufacture and employment worldwide.Sooner,than later,we as a country will not be able to purchase these goods,then what?We support all these countrys,to what avail,they all seem to despise us,I can only relate to my military service to this country when serving in certain foreign countrys!