Ionic Materials Inc., a battery-material developer backed by Silicon Valley luminary Bill Joy, raised $65 million to build a production line and commercialize its technology.
Investors in the Series C funding round include Joy and Alliance Ventures, a venture capital company comprising automakers Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Ionic declined to identify other participants.
Ionic is developing a polymer electrolyte material for solid-state alkaline batteries, a concept that will compete with the dominant lithium-ion technology. Alkaline may offer advantages that appeal to the electrical, automotive and consumer electronics industries, notably lower costs and improved safety in sensitive settings such as airplanes, Joy said.
“We’re the key ingredient to make the new battery,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Zimmerman said in an interview. “We’re teaching others how to use our materials.” He also plans to use the funding to hire more workers and build out a polymer production facility at the company’s Woburn, Massachusetts, headquarters.
Solid-state alkaline batteries have yet to be commercialized, and will face a well-entrenched incumbent. Prices for lithium-ion battery packs have dropped 24 percent since 2016 as demand surged, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and competition among major manufacturers will likely drive them down more.
Investors including Alliance are keen on solid-state’s prospects, including for electric vehicles. Alliance plans to collaborate on research and development, and Ionic will produce the polymer and send it to battery manufacturers.
Ionic will face challenges turning its technology into a commercial product, said Logan Goldie-Scot, a San Francisco-based analyst with BNEF.
“There’s a huge amount of interest” in solid-state alkaline batteries, he said in an email. “But historically it’s proven impossible to transition from small-scale demonstrations to high volume manufacturing.”