BASF pumps $50M into battery maker Sion Power

Lithium-sulfur battery maker Sion Power said in a government filing near Christmas that it had raised $50 million from an unnamed investor. Now the mystery is over. The company on Thursday revealed that the equity came from German chemical giant BASF.
Tucson-based Sion is among the crop of U.S. battery makers with an ambition for a slice of the electric car market, though it also is targeting the military market as well. In fact, the company has demonstrated its battery technology in an unmanned aerial vehicle for the Army.
The company is not so new – it was a spinoff from Brookhaven National Laboratory and became Moltech in 1994. It changed its name to Sion Power in 2002 and devoted its resources to amassing patents.
The hefty investment from BASF will help Sion commercialize its lithium-sulfur battery technology, Sion said. The two knew each other long before the funding announcement: BASF established a technology development agreement with Sion in 2009. It looks like Sion has met some milestones to prompt the new round of investment.
Sion also won an ARPA-E grant of $5 million in 2010 and promised to deliver a lithium-sulfur battery that can last more than 300 miles between charges. In 2009, it got a federal grant of $800,000 for a 3-year project to work on new electrolytes for lithium-sulfur batteries.
While developing new anode and cathode materials remains a popular pursuit for battery companies, coming up with new electrolytes has gotten more attention in recent years. Startups that focus on electrolytes, which affects the performance of the cathode and anode and the overall battery life, include Seeo, which moved into pilot production last year.
Photo courtesy of Sion Power