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Three Startups Bring In VC Funds For Battery, Fuel Cell Tech

Lisa Sibley
Cleantech Group
August 28, 2009

An Azusa, Calif.-based advanced battery company looks to close $27M, ClearEdge Power brings in $15M and stealthy Khosla-backed Seeo raises $8.6M.

CFX Battery expects to have $27 million in the bank in the next 60 days, but the company is still keeping specifics of what it is doing on the quiet side.

The Azusa, Calif.-based advanced battery company’s CEO Joe Fisher told the Cleantech Group today that his company has secured $5 million of its $27 million Series B round, without disclosing investors.

The announcement was among at least three cleantech companies that secured venture capital financing today, according to regulatory filings. CFX would be the largest if it brings in the $27 million, which Fisher is confident it should be able to do quickly. He said the company is also open to new investors.

The company plans to use the funds to continue to advance its research and development, for manufacturing equipment as it scales up to production, for working capital related to the equipment, and potential acquisitions in the battery space, Fisher said.

“We’re looking for niche-type smaller companies that have good intellectual property and potential to fit into our portfolio,” he said.

Other funding announcements today included fuel cell micro-combined heat and power (CHP) generation system developer ClearEdge Power raising $15 million in its fifth round of financing. And Berkeley, Calif.-based Seeo, a Khosla Ventures-backed company, raised more than $8.6 million in new venture capital financing (see Khosla-backed Coskata, EcoMotors come out of stealth and Stealthy Khosla-backed battery startup driving economic makeover?).

ClearEdge Power, which has locations in California and Oregon, manufactures what it said it are highly efficient CHP systems for residential and small commercial buildings, based on its expertise in fuel cells, fuel processing and systems integration.

ClearEdge Power has a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Ore., where it has been ramping up for high-volume production growth.

Investors in ClearEdge include Applied Ventures, Big Basin Ventures and the Kohlberg family. The company has reportedly previously raised around $30 million (see Losing the water weight). The company’s CEO Russell Ford could not be reached for comment.

The stealthy Seeo is developing a solid-state battery based on a polymer electrolyte. The company thinks its technology is more stable, safer, and offers higher energy density than current lithium-ion batteries.

Seeo licensed its technology from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, while CFX is a two-year-old spinout from Caltech and CNRS, which translates to the French Center for National Research and Science.

CFX has raised a $15 million Series A round, with investors including CMEA Ventures, Harris & Harris Group and U.S. Venture Partners (see New year money goes to biofuels).

Fisher said the new $5 million in funding, which had an initial close of Aug. 14, signifies the company is getting support from investors to be able to take its technology and start to commercialize it.

CFX has what it said is a strong IP portfolio in three areas: lithium primary batteries, lithium-ion batteries and advanced rechargeable batteries, enabled by nanotechnology.

Fisher said the company is planning to bring its lithium primary batteries to market first in 2010, while continuing R&D; of its other two technologies.

CFX plans to manufacture the batteries at its facility in Azusa, which includes a 1,350-square-foot dry room. The company has potential plans to expand manufacturing elsewhere, although Fisher wouldn’t disclose where. For competitive reasons, he also wouldn’t indicate the production capacities of the current facility, which opened in December 2008.

He said the benefits of CFX’s lithium primary batteries include long-lasting performance in cold and hot temperatures, energy efficiency, and improved safety and environmental benefits.

CFX, a chemistry developed by Panasonic, stands for carbon, fluorine and the ratios of the two. Fisher said CFX typically has good energy density, but not good rate capabilities. Through nanomaterials, his company is trying to improve the rate capabilities of its products.

CFX is currently working with major OEMs and customers to develop strategic alliances and project development agreements. Its products can be made in the following form factors: coin cells, cylindrical, prismatic and thin film.

He said there is constantly a need for longer lasting batteries in niche applications in the military, medical, industrial and automobile sectors, with tire pressure sensors being one example. The battery-powered device senses a vehicle’s tire pressure and alerts the driver of under-inflated tires, while helping to improve fuel economy.

Redwood City, Calif.-based EoPlex Technologies is researching an energy harvester that would generate energy from the vibration of an engine or the rotation of a tire instead of battery power (see EoPlex cleans up ceramic printing with ‘secret sauce’).

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