Northvolt, the high-profile Swedish battery startup launched by a former Tesla supply chain VP, just announced that it has acquired a US-based battery startup, Cuberg, and it seems to think that it has hit a grand slam with this acquisition.
Northvolt claims that the duo will be developing next-gen batteries with “a lower price point, better performance and increased safety.” By 2025, they intend to be producing 1,000 Wh/L battery cells. (We’ll dive into the context of this in future articles.)
But who the heck is Cuberg? We actually covered it twice before in 2018. If you’ve been reading for 3+ years, perhaps you recall that. If not, Northvolt’s PR team does a nice job summarizing the startup’s relatively short history: “Cuberg spun out of Stanford University in 2015 with the goal of commercializing next-generation battery technology based on a groundbreaking liquid electrolyte combined with a lithium metal anode. Cuberg counts numerous innovative mobility companies among its customers, including Boeing, BETA Technologies, Ampaire and VoltAero. The company’s investors and financial backers include Boeing HorizonX Ventures, Activate.org, the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the TomKat Center at Stanford.”
Northvolt knows batteries — well — and it seems to be impressed in what Cuberg has accomplished in its 6 short years of life, including its efficient operations.
“The Cuberg team has shown exceptional ability to develop world-class technology, proven results and an outstanding customer base in a lean and efficient organization. Combining these strengths with the capabilities and technology of Northvolt allows us to make significant improvements in both performance and safety while driving down cost even further for next-generation battery cells. This is critical for accelerating the shift to fully electric vehicles and responding to the needs of the leading automotive companies within a relevant time frame,” said Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder, Northvolt.
Here’s more from Cuberg’s new owner:
“Cuberg’s batteries, based on its breakthrough electrolyte technology for lithium metal anode, are optimally designed for commercialization. Validated by trusted third parties, the cells deliver more than 70 percent increased range and capacity versus comparable lithium-ion cells designed for high-rate electric aviation applications. Building on this foundation, Northvolt and Cuberg will mature its automotive and industrial product portfolio with the ambition to industrialize cells in 2025 that exceed 1,000 Wh/L, while meeting the full spectrum of automotive customer requirements.
“Critically, Cuberg’s technology addresses the biggest challenge with emerging battery technologies, which is effective manufacturing scale-up. Cuberg has already demonstrated compatibility of its technology with the existing lithium-ion manufacturing ecosystem, which minimizes time to market and enables rapid commercial deployment in the electromobility market. The new technology will be deployed at scale in electromobility markets within three years, beginning with electric aviation.”
That echoes Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s frequent comment that prototypes are easy, large-scale manufacturing is hard. Northvolt seems convinced that Cuberg has not only developed a next-gen battery with great energy density and cost but has also come up with an efficient manufacturing process for these battery cells. Why, then, do we have to wait until 2025 for the mass production to begin? We’ll try to find out and report back. Overall, though, 3 years is quite a short timeframe in this industry.
Expanding into the US market with this acquisition, Northvolt is setting up a technology center in Silicon Valley (natch) to work on making the battery cells more fit for use in automobiles as well as further materials research. I guess it will be like a second homecoming for Carlsson. If you missed our long interview with Carlsson about his background at Tesla, starting Northvolt, the future of batteries, scaling up battery production across the globe, using 100% renewable energy for battery production, and securing battery minerals, see:
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Naturally, Northvolt/Cuberg will be looking for ways to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning (high “signing fees” but hopefully worth the long-term investment).
The cofounder and CEO of Cuberg also offered a few initial words on its new corporate home.
“We are very excited to join forces with Northvolt to build the future of clean energy together,” said Richard Wang, CEO and cofounder of Cuberg. “Northvolt brings incredible technology and manufacturing capabilities that will accelerate the commercialization and adoption of our lithium metal technology. Their deep engineering experience and bold spirit perfectly complement Cuberg’s own culture of rapid innovation.”
What do you think of this new development in the über-fascinating EV battery industry?