Ambri is one of the “potentially breakthrough” energy storage companies we’re watching. If you’re not familiar with the name, it is the company that spun out of liquid metal battery research conducted by Donald Sadoway* and some of his students at MIT. Still not ringing a bell? You’ve very likely watched Sadoway speak about the technology in a March 2012 Ted Talk. Still not ringing a bell? Well, read on anyway — this is a company to keep an eye on.
In August 2012, we wrote that Ambri had… become Ambri. We also wrote at that time that the startup had received funding from Bill Gates, the giant oil company known as Total, and the well known cleantech venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. That was in addition to $6.9 million from the Department of Energy’s high-risk, early-stage ARPA-E program.
Not long after that announcement, Donald Sadoway appeared on The Colbert Report. A rare move for such a researcher.
So, what’s been happening since then?
Well, frankly, we haven’t really heard anything from the company. But we just found out that it has been doing a lot (to be expected). Here’s a paragraph from the new 2013 Progress Update from Ambri:
Ambri has accomplished a lot in the last year. Our liquid metal battery continues to be distinguished as a low-cost and long-lifespan electricity storage technology providing hours of discharge capacity while also meeting second to second power needs. We are enthusiastic about Ambri’s market opportunity to transform the electricity grid — for the first time enabling the largest and most critical supply chain in the world to be operated with warehouses everywhere. Once commercial, Ambri looks forward to integrating unlimited amounts of intermittent resources, reducing electricity costs by mitigating congestion and price volatility, and lowering the amount of investment required in the entire grid value chain—from generation, to transmission and distribution infrastructure. [sic]
Okay, a lot of verbiage there and not much substance on the progress Ambri has been making — we already got the story above. Here’s a bit more on the technical side of things:
- > 7 months continuous operation, 75-80%DC-efficiency
- < 10 min assembly
- 4” square cell selected as commercial cell; meets cost target, system voltage, and provides redundancy
- redesigning ‘lab’ cell into ‘commercial’ cell
System: implementing design
- clear roadmap to commercial systems
- Operating cells in parallel and series strings
- Fast tracking bmS development; industry standard power electronics
Manufacturing: Scoping underway
- Simple manufacturing/assembly processes under development and being validated
- Engaged with world leading component suppliers and manufacturers
- Developing low-cost recycling processes
- On track for delivering commercial prototypes in 2014 and expect to ramp to full commercial roll out 2015 and beyond
That’s about all we’ve got. Other than that, Ambri reports that the team has grown from 10 employees (beginning of 2012) to 33 today, including four new members of the leadership team. And we learned a bit about Ambri’s office culture:
“While you can find many of our engineers and scientists at Ambri until the late hours of the evening, it’s not all work. Our ping pong table is often utilized, we drop everything every six months to put our all into a company service day, we’ve assembled a top-tier dodgeball team and we all eat lunch together each day.”
In other words, these are normal people who hang out together and sometimes perform public service. I imagine this is exactly the update you were anticipating, right?
By the way, here’s a snapshot of the full leadership team:
In all seriousness, this is indeed a cleantech team to watch, and on the bottom of the Ambri 2013 Progress Update was included this tidbit:
“Ambri has in hand the necessary capital to deliver commercial prototypes to customers in 2014.” So, I guess that’s the target?
Other big energy storage startups we’re keeping a close eye on are:
- Eos Energy Storage
- Zinc Air, Inc. (which is about to change its name, since it produces zinc-iron redox flow batteries)
- And a few others…
Check out all of our Ambri coverage here for more background on this company and its technology.
*Notably, Donald Sadoway is also working on a much greener way to produce steel, which currently comes from a seriously harmful production process that is responsible for a huge portion of our greenhouse gas emissions.
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