Battery startup gets funding to develop cobalt-free products

(Bloomberg) — .Conamix, an Ithaca, New York-based battery-technology startup, raised $2 million from investors including an Exelon Corp.-backed company focused on innovations in energy storage

The Series A funding is part of an $8 million commitment from Volta Energy Technologies and another backer, according to Conamix Chief Executive Officer Charles Hamilton. The company is developing cobalt-free electrode materials for lithium-based batteries.

Conamix’s technology is intended to reduce the cost of batteries used for electric vehicles and grid storage. It “enables significantly higher energy density at a lower cost,” Jeff Chamberlain, Volta’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

Cobalt is sourced primarily from the politically volatile Democratic Republic of Congo, presenting a “significant supply risk,” James Frith, a London-based analyst at BNEF, said in an email. While cobalt-free batteries exist, it’s challenging to make a material with a high energy density that can work for 10 years, he said.

Hamilton said it’s crucial to find an alternative. “The world needs lower-cost materials that drop in to existing manufacturing infrastructure to keep up with the growing demand for automotive and grid energy storage,” he said in an email.

Exelon is an investor in Volta, which also supports Ionic Materials Inc., a battery-material developer backed by Silicon Valley luminary Bill Joy.

(by Brian Eckhouse)