Upstart Boston-Power is within months of having its long-lasting batteries shipped in notebook PCs, as it eyes expansion into portable power packs and electric cars.
The three-year-old company says its Sonata batteries are able to recharge to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes, versus two hours to get to a 90 percent charge in conventional notebook batteries. And Boston-Power's batteries can be recharged 1,000 times before their performance starts to wane, versus 150 times in today's laptops, according to founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud. Typically, the amount of computing time that a laptop battery supplies goes down after hundreds of charges.
I caught up with Lampe-Onnerud on Tuesday at the Fourth Conference on Clean Energy in Boston. Ironically, we bumped into each other at a water cooler where I was doing what so many laptop toters are stuck doing: plugging into a free outlet because my battery was dying.
Lampe-Onnerud says the arrival of Sonata batteries will mean a completely different user experience, allowing people to go all day without having to carry cords and search out public power outlets.
Hewlett-Packard last year said it has tested Boston-Power's batteries.
Without mentioning HP by name, Lampe-Onnerud said Boston-Power expects to announce its first customer soon. A company representative on Wednesday said Sonata-powered laptops will be available early next year. Lampe-Onnerud added that the company is working with smaller laptop providers as well.
Boston-Power, which has raised $70 million, has a technology road map to improve further on performance. In its labs, it has batteries able to recharge 1,400 times. Next year, it intends to release a portable power source for recharging consumer electronics, either through a USB connection or a small solar panel, Lampe-Onnerud said.
In two years, it expects to have a product for plug-in electric cars, she added. "The specifications for laptops and electric cars are remarkably close," she said.
The company has done a number of things to improve lithium ion battery performance and safety, according to Lampe-Onnerud. The company has also redesigned the battery pack to have fewer cells and has made a number of manufacturing improvements, she explained.
She argued that the Sonata batteries are a "clean technology" because they are more energy-efficient. The company also seeks to use less harmful reactive chemicals and no heavy metals.
To manufacture its batteries--a significant business challenge for any new battery company--Boston-Power has set up factories in Taiwan and China.