Dec 6, 2017 - Energy

New player enters the intense battery tech race

A new firm helmed by energy tech and finance veterans, called Volta Energy Technologies, says it's joining the race to develop the next wave of batteries. The company announced today it's got an innovative new model for vetting and funding promising breakthroughs in battery and other storage.

Why it matters: Improvements in battery technology are key to the growing commercialization of electric vehicles, as well as power applications that can help bring large amounts of renewable power into the grid and into homes.

  • This makes batteries a key tool in the battle against global warming, because they can help decarbonize both transportation and electricity systems.

The details: Volta is led by Jeff Chamberlain, whose past work includes spending a decade leading energy storage programs at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory — a major research lab that's working with the new firm.

  • The first two investors in Volta are utility giant Exelon and Albemarle Corp., a chemical company that's a major supplier of lithium, a key battery component. The amount of their investment was not disclosed. More investors will be announced in the future, a company representative said.

How it will work: Volta has a R&D agreement with Argonne, which is based in the Chicago area. The structure, according to the company rep, will enable use of Argonne facilities and expertise with private funds, not taxpayer dollars.

  • The idea is to provide Volta a way to validate and test technologies developed by outside entrepreneurs as the company's investors decide which products to try and bring to commercialization.

Yes, but: There's lots of competition in the battery market as government policies worldwide push EVs into the mainstream, and power companies, grid operators and others seek to blend renewables with greater storage.

  • However, Volta argues that this ability to validate and scale up new tech by working with Argonne will help give the new firm an edge over traditional venture capital firms and other investment vehicles.

What's next

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Impeachment: Then & now

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We are living in a measurably different political and media landscape than when the Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton of impeachment charges in 1999.

The big picture: These dynamics are setting the pace as President Trump’s legal team speeds through arguments to seek a fast acquittal.