Monday, May 09, 2005

Energy storage and cleantech investing

As this Financial Times article describes, many feel that batteries are ripe for a surge in innovation. This has attracted the attention of many cleantech investors, who see that improved battery technology could enable other anticipated clean technologies, and could lead to improved energy efficiency.

For example, batteries are currently a limiting factor in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. Improved battery technology that would extend the range of battery-powered locomotion would enable these types of cars to achieve in the near future what fuel cell vehicles are expected to achieve in the longer-term. This Red Herring article describes this debate and mentions how big the market for such batteries is already ($2.9B in 2003).

But transportation is not the only place where improved battery technology could help grow clean technology markets. There are other examples in:
  • Sensors, where improved batteries would help spur growth in wireless sensor networks,
  • Electricity infrastructure, where batteries could help a number of "smart grid" applications,
  • Improved backup power systems,
  • Clean energy generation such as wind and solar, where the power generated is variable, to help "smooth out" supply,
  • And numerous others.
With these kinds of applications in mind, cleantech venture investors are keeping an eye out for any improvements in battery technologies, and many are specifically targeting this space.

On the flip side, energy storage may be where fuel cells make their biggest initial impact (as previously described here), through "battery replacement" applications. A lot of cleantech investors are making big bets in this space as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, battery technology has been "ripe for innovation" for the past twenty years, without much progress.

Agreed we sorely need lots more venture investment in this area, as the big conglomerates have been far two focused on nothing further than next quarter to put in the kind of money this problem deserves.

If I may be so bold, this is the kind of thing that the Feds should be pouring cash into as basic research, but I defy you to find anything specific to battery cells on the NSF, DARPA, NASA, or NIST grant programs.

-- James Salsman

1:54 AM  

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