The growing EnerVenue team. CEO Jorg Heinemann is in the front row wearing a blue shirt. CTO Dr. Yi ... [+] Cui is in the front row wea
I introduced EnerVenue to readers of this column in December 2020 and opined that its innovative re-formulation of Metal-Hydrogen batteries were the technology we needed for grid-scale storage. Less than 10 months later, there is good evidence that other smart investors agree with me.
This morning, EnerVenue announced that it had closed a Series A funding round for $100 million that CEO Jorg Heinemann told me was oversubscribed by two and a half times. For those of you not up on venture capital lingo, this means that investors wanted to invest $250 million, so EnerVenue management had to turn a whopping $150 million worth of investor money away. File this tidbit under the “It’s Nice to Be Loved” category.
The investment round was led by a few firms you may have heard of – Schlumberger and Saudi Aramco. I was surprised to learn that these two giants of the carbon extraction world were so bullish on battery technology, but Heinemann told me that both companies were aligning themselves for a zero-carbon world and grid-scale battery storage technology was a perfect vehicle to do that.
Schlumberger announced that, in addition to its investment, it had agreed on a major distribution and manufacturing agreement with EnerVenue. A business unit of Schlumberger called Schlumberger New Energy will be manufacturing, selling, and distributing EnerVenue-powered battery installations in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, Africa) region as well as in other geographies.
According to Heinemann, Schlumberger New Energy, led by technology veteran Ashok Belani, has established a subsidiary that focuses on energy storage solutions; it is this subsidiary that will leverage EnerVenue’s technology.
Heinemann was extremely happy with the agreement, which provides access to Schlumberger clients in a large and economically important region. This agreement follows the April 2021 announcement that EnerVenue had partnered with Towngas, Hong Kong’s first public utility and one of the largest energy suppliers in Greater China, to supply Metal-Hydrogen batteries to Towngas installations in the Sinosphere.
“The fact is that any of our three anchor partners – Towngas, Schlumberger, and Aramco – could individually take up 100% of our production over the next five years is amazing commercial validation for us at EnerVenue,” commented Heinemann. “We are thrilled that that such sophisticated companies see the benefit EnerVenue offers by quickly reducing the costs of a known, proven technology.”
The $100 million Series A investment will go to build up production capacity at the company’s North American headquarters in Fremont, California, then to build out a gigafactory at an American location yet to be announced.
Heinemann said that the company had originally only planned to raise a $50 million Series A round (still enormous as far as “Series A” goes), but that, due to the overwhelming investor interest, the board and management had decided to scale up production capacity faster than originally planned.
Part of the decision to move ahead with the gigafactory construction was apparently driven by the huge technical progress made by the company in the short time since I featured EnerVenue in Forbes. A few weeks after I published the original story, EnerVenue had released its fifth-generation design and was running 18 months ahead of the technical roadmap it had charted out when the company was founded.
For someone who is used to listening to CEOs make excuses about why they are lagging behind their original tech roadmap, my conversation with Heinemann was refreshing, indeed!
The batteries that EnerVenue are going to market with have the same wonderful characteristics I mentioned in the first article. To summarize using this quote from the company’s press release, EnerVenue batteries are:
- Durable: Operates in -40° to 60°C (140°F) ambient temperatures; 30+ year lifespan; projected 30,000+ cycles without degradation and at varying rates; excellent overcharge, overdischarge, and deep-cycle capabilities
- Flexible: Broad range of fast and slow charge capabilities; future-proof with no limitations on use cases; scalable form factor for a broad range of stationary use cases
- Safe & Simple: No fire or thermal runaway risk; low-cost materials; energy density per square foot is equal to or better than lithium-ion batteries; ultra-low operating costs
- Efficient: 80-90% depending on cycle-rate
- Proven: Nickel-hydrogen batteries have completed more than 200 million cell-hours in orbital spacecraft and more than 100,000 charge/discharge cycles
- Recyclable: Built with no toxic materials and easily separable parts, batteries are designed for 100% recyclability
In addition to these characteristics, I was pleased to find out that the only substances used in EnerVenue batteries are those which are widely available on any continent. This means that batteries can (and will) be manufactured in the region where they will be used, cutting out the need for global, energy-intensive supply chains and reducing the risk that a shortage in some rare mineral component would threaten manufacturing and distribution plans.
Since I have also been talking to companies like Arenko and Swell – which provide software overlays to allow battery operators to be able to manage charge / recharge operations to minimize grid charges and also being able to sell power back to the grid – I asked Heinemann if EnerVenue batteries had the technical capabilities to allow them to be used as a drop-in replacement to Lithium-ion batteries in installations running this type of software.
He answered that, in fact, they will perform in substantively the same way as Lithium-ion batteries when installed, but that – because EnerVenue batteries do not have the same cycle life constraints as Lithium-ion batteries – the software needed to manage charge / recharge cycles could be made much simpler. This is great news all around!
Heinemann knows, as I know, that we need to radically rethink the way we power our lives, and that the economic incentives embedded in the capitalistic system encourage smart, far-sighted investors to do just that.
Intelligent investors take note.