Fed­eral cash for Nova Sco­tia bat­tery startup

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BRETT BUNDALE

DARTMOUTH, N.S. The fu­ture of lithium-ion bat­tery longevity — a key com­po­nent in a world with­out fos­sil fu­els — may lie in an unas­sum­ing, bunker-style build­ing in a Hal­i­fax-area in­dus­trial park.

This is the of­fice of Novonix Bat­tery Test­ing Ser­vices, a Dartmouth com­pany hon­ing high-pre­ci­sion bat­tery test­ing sys­tems for tech firms like Ap­ple and Tesla Mo­tors.

The startup was spun off from Herzberg Medal-win­ner Jeff Dahn’s ground­break­ing bat­tery lab at Dal­housie Univer­sity. Aus­tralia’s pub­licly traded Novonix Group bought a ma­jor­ity stake in June, and the firm is now ramp­ing up ef­forts to grow its cus­tomer base.

With the help of a $500,000 loan from the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency an­nounced Tuesday, Novonix plans to move to a larger fa­cil­ity, add to its eight-per­son team and ex­pand equip­ment sales and test­ing ser­vices.

De­mand for high-pow­ered, long-last­ing lithium-ion bat­ter­ies is ex­pected to soar as re­stric­tions on gaso­line- and diesel-fu­elled cars mount and re­new­able en­ergy-stor­age needs in­crease. Test­ing and length­en­ing the life ex­pectancy of the recharge­able bat­ter­ies will be­come an in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal com­po­nent to re­search and devel­op­ment.

In what could be a giant step for the firm’s lithium-ion bat­tery test­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Dahn — who has teamed up with Tesla, the Cal­i­for­nia elec­tric car and so­lar panel com­pany — has also as­signed a new patent to Novonix.

“It’s very hard to make a lithium-ion cell that lasts a long time,” says Dr. Chris Burns, Novonix pres­i­dent and CEO. “It’s even harder to prove it.”

The pow­er­ful recharge­able bat­ter­ies fuel ev­ery­thing from cell­phones and lap­tops to vac­u­ums and elec­tric ve­hi­cles. They’re even be­ing used in grid-en­ergy stor­age projects.

Novonix has nar­rowed down the test­ing pe­riod from months or even years. “We de­vel­oped and com­mer­cial­ized a sys­tem that is more ac­cu­rate than what any­one else is build­ing in the market and that al­lowed re­searchers to gain in­sight into the per­for­mance of their bat­ter­ies in only a few weeks ...,”Burns says.

Largely through word of mouth, Novonix has amassed an im­pres­sive ros­ter of mar­quee clients in­clud­ing Pana­sonic, Dyson, Bosch and 3M.

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