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German battery startup emerges from stealth

Illustration of an extra long battery with many charge indicator bars glowing green.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

German startup Theion emerged from stealth Tuesday to unveil a battery design, and CEO Ulrich Emmes tells Alan the company will be raising funding in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: The novel lithium-sulfur design, set to first deploy in space rockets, could enable cars to travel 600-plus miles on a single charge, CEO Ulrich Ehmes tells Axios. It would also enable a significant expansion in electric air travel.

Go deeper: Theion has raised about 5 million Euros (about $5.5 million), largely from Lukasz Gadowski, CEO of the technology-focused holding company Team Global.

  • It's preparing a "pre-Series A" funding round "in the next couple weeks," where it will seek "low-single-digit million Euros."
  • The company is also planning for a "double-digit-million Series A" round. It is currently "fully equity funded," Ehmes tells Axios.

Driving the news: There's no shortage of startups pursuing battery designs that last longer, charge faster, and rely less on critical minerals that come with a heavy human- and environmental price tag.

  • Theion's unique design eliminates the need for the cobalt, copper and other metals typically used in batteries, including nickel entirely.
  • The company says its design will provide three times the energy density at one-third of the size and one-third of the weight of conventional lithium-ion batteries.
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a global frenzy to secure the critical minerals, such as nickel, needed to meet breakneck demand for batteries and renewable sources of energy. Russia is an enormous source of nickel.

What's next: Theion expects to ship its first samples to two undisclosed French space companies at the end of this year.

  • The company plans to expand to the emerging air-taxi segment in 2023, and then longer-range electric aircraft and the automotive industry in 2024.
  • The company aims to open a mass production line in Germany in 2025.

Of note: Team Global's Gadowski has investments in the air taxi startups Volocopter and AutoFlight.

What they're saying: "Our process is completely different from the one traditional companies are using," Ehmes tells Axios. "We get rid of all this nickel, manganese, aluminum, copper — we just need lithium, sulfur, and carbon."

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