April 22, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Climate tech funding news: BattGenie works its magic; lithium refining startup gets Gates’ support

BattGenie team, from left to right: Manan Pathak, Chintan Pathak and Venkat Subramanian. (BattGenie Photos)

Here’s the latest funding news for climate tech startups across the Pacific Northwest.


The news: BattGenie — a startup on the short list for best names because, let’s face it, batteries are kind of magical — was chosen for an accelerator that provides $250,000 in non-dilutive funding.

The gist: BattGenie is a University of Washington spinoff that has developed software to goose the performance of lithium batteries that power electrical vehicles, consumer devices and other electronics. The software helps optimize fast recharging while extending the life of batteries.

The backers: The accelerator is a partnership between energy giant Shell Global and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and goes by the much less fabulous name Shell GameChanger Accelerator Powered by NREL (GCxN). In addition to the cash, the accelerator provides access to research and development resources at NREL, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility based in Colorado.

The history: The company got its start with a grant in 2013, and incorporated in 2017. The technology came out of the lab of Chief Technology Officer Venkat Subramanian, a chemical engineering professor now located at the University of Texas.

Its other two co-founders, CEO Manan Pathak and Chief Product Officer Chintan Pathak, both earned their doctoral degrees from the UW. The company has employees in Seattle and Austin.

The revenue: The startup says it has large corporate customers in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia in the fields of electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and battery manufacturers.

The take: As the world weans itself off fossil fuels, batteries will become ever more essential players, powering vehicles, marine vessels and planes; plugging into the electrical grid and elsewhere.

“The accelerator’s funding will allow us to validate our technology at a full battery pack-level (400V system that powers a car), which is critical for automotive applications,” said Pathak via email. “The resources required for such testing can only be found at an original equipment manufacturer’s facility or at national labs.”

Saad Dara, CEO and co-founder of Mangrove Lithium. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Mangrove Lithium

The news: Vancouver, B.C.-based Mangrove Lithium landed $10 million in a funding round that was led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

The challenge: Lithium-based batteries are the oldest, most widely used batteries. The kicker is that lithium is in limited supply, mining it causes environmental damage, and there’s a race to produce more of it in the U.S., China and elsewhere.

The tech: The Canadian company is focusing, at least initially, on a more efficient process of refining the mineral from lithium brines, which is a greener alternative to open pit mines. Brines represent 60% of global deposits, according to the startup. The new funding will help build Mangrove’s first commercial-scale plant.

The company’s lithium refining technology works on sources as well, including hard-rock, clays and recycled battery contents.

The founders: Mangrove spun out of the University of British Columbia, and all four co-founders are alumni or researchers with the university.

The investors: Breakthrough Energy Ventures is a big fan of batteries. The $2 billion investment fund has backed ESS, an Oregon company building iron-flow batteries, as well as Form Energy and fellow lithium producer Lilac Solutions. Christina Karapataki, an investor with Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is a Mangrove board member.

Existing investor BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice also participated in the Series A round.

Other deals:

Takachar, another company coming out of University of British Columbia, recently won two big prizes: Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Earthshot Prize in the Clean Air Category, and a prize from Elon Musk’s XPrize and Musk Foundation. The total won equals $1.6 million.

The startup has developed a portable machine that can take biomass such as crop waste from fields that would otherwise be burned and convert it into biofuel and fertilizer.

— Microsoft is teaming up with Ballard Power Systems and Caterpillar for a demonstration project to test large-format hydrogen fuel cells as backup power for data centers. The project is being built at Microsoft’s Quincy site in Eastern Washington.

Ballard announced this month that it will be providing the hydrogen fuel cell power generator. Caterpillar is the lead contractor on the project that costs an estimated $33.7 million, including $5.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

— General Fusion, a fusion energy company from Vancouver, B.C., landed $130 million in a Series E round.

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