Federal cash for battery startup
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.