A Bill Gates and Khosla-backed battery startup, Ambri, has reached an important milestone: it’s opened up its first small scale factory.
Five-year-old, Bill Gates and Khosla-backed, EcoMotors is finally commercializing its efficient engine technology. And it’s got a killer deal to do it: a $200 million plant being built by Chinese auto giant Zhongding Power.
Ambri (formerly called Liquid Metal Battery) gets the spotlight on The Colbert Report in an interview this week. Watch the video on this startup that was created by an MIT Professor and which has backing from Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, oil company Total and ARPA-E.
As recent woes in the battery industry from the likes of A123 Systems have shown, it’s difficult to innovate and scale new battery technology. The solar industry has faced similar challenges, and could offer some lessons.
Controversial cleantech investor Vinod Khosla spoke at the Energy Storage Association this summer and, as usual, he made news. And argued that the smart grid is hype and predicted that embattled battery maker A123 Systems won’t exist in 10 years. At the core of Khosla’s view is that all of the smart grid efforts, from demand response to smart thermostats to dynamic pricing to advanced meter readings, don’t matter if you can store energy at around $100 per kilowatt hour. We’re a long ways from storing energy at $100 per kilowatt-hour. But, yes, if you can easily store energy, then you can forget about the demand side of the energy equation, which is essentially what the smart grid is all about—regulating demand on energy because of supply volatility owing to renewable energy introduction. Given that Khosla referred to lithium-ion batteries as “toys that can’t be deployed at scale,” I’m thinking we’ll have to make the grid smarter until we have that easy grid storage solution.
Biofuels were envisioned to help to make the world a better place, but here comes a National Research Council report on Tuesday that casts doubt on the environmental and economic benefits of biofuels and the U.S.’s ability to meet its own production mandates.
We’ve got a new biofuel IPO to watch this morning — and so far, it isn’t going so well. KiOR, the Pasadena, Texas-based company with technology to turn wood chips and other biomass into a substitute for crude oil, made its decidedly lackluster Nasdaq debut this morning, after pricing its shares at $15 last night to raise $150 million — about a quarter less than the previously revised target price of $19 to $21 per share. So far, the company’s shares are trading flat — a departure from the well-received IPOs of biofuel companies Solazyme and Gevo earlier this year. What’s the difference? For one, KiOR’s approach to the biofuel market is decidedly different, since it’s making a crude oil substitute rather than algae-based oils and other products, as Solazyme does, or biochemical and fuel precursor bioisobutanol, as Gevo does. Those two companies are also targeting production of biochemicals before they start making biofuels, giving them early markets to generate revenues. KiOR is betting the farm on entering the fuel market from the get-go. Also, KiOR has no reported revenues and says it will rely on a $1 billion Department of Energy loan guarantee to scale up its plans for multiple commercial production-scale facilities. Interestingly, KiOR is 70-percent owned by backer Khosla Ventures, which gives the firm effective control over the startup — an unusual arrangement.
Biofuel startup KiOr’s could raise as much as $241.50 million in an IPO on the Nasdaq, at a maximum offering price per share of $21. KiOr estimates that it will price its shares between $19 to $21 per share, and could price shares this week.
A next-gen, lithium-ion battery startup — backed by Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures — called Seeo has raised another $15 million from investors, according to a filing. Khosla Partner Pierre Lamond is listed on this latest filing, and Seeo previously raised at least $10.6 million.
Some of the best ideas on our network sometimes come from reader comments. In response to our piece last week on Why the LinkedIn IPO is Bad For Cleantech, commenter Bill Hewitt, I think hit a nerve with his suggestion: “Clean tech has gone beyond VC.”