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Viridi Parente raises US$95m investment for ‘fail-safe’ lithium-ion battery technology

NYSERDA’s president and CEO Dorren Harris and New York State’s 63rd District Senator Tim Kennedy with Viridi Parente’s Green Machine equipment. The pair visited the Viridi Parente facility last year. Image: Viridi Parente via Twitter.

A US company which claims its lithium-ion battery technology can be “safely installed in nearly any environment” has raised US$94.65 million in a Series C funding round. 

Viridi Parente, headquartered in Buffalo, New York, is developing what it described as “safe, resilient, point-of-use battery storage technology,” aiming it at the heavy industrial and construction, residential and commercial energy storage markets.

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Occupying part of a large industrial campus that was built in 1923 by GM, the company was founded in 2009 and a year later unveiled its first all-electric excavator powered by batteries, thought to be the first of its kind in the world. 

It has two main brands: Green Machine, which makes electric battery-powered construction equipment, and Volta Energy, which makes scalable lithium-ion battery packs for distributed energy storage configurable from 50kWh to 5MW.      

Last month, reported that Volta Energy formed a partnership with KULR Technology Group, a maker of patented carbon fibre thermal management technologies which can act as a shield against thermal runaway in batteries. 

The shield’s Passive Propagation Resistant (PPR) solution is designed to prevent thermal runaway, which can be caused by short circuits or physical shocks to battery cells, and which can cause fires, from spreading from cell to cell. 

KULR has already provided the tech to NASA for its space missions, including the Mars Perseverance Rover, as well as to aerospace companies. Volta placed an initial order with KULR for US$1.6 million of high volume deliveries beginning this year, as part of a three-year deal.

“Volta Energy’s pack architecture uses the same carbon fiber thermal management technologies we developed for NASA’s demanding space program, including crewed missions,” KULR CEO Michael Mo said.

“Viridi has not only innovated fail-safe pack design using these new technologies, they have innovated methods for testing pack safety in extreme conditions that no one else has even attempted. We’re very excited to be part of the technology to bring fail-safe lithium-ion energy storage to point-of-use customers.”

Volta Energy claimed the integration of the thermal shielding into its battery pack architecture will make it safe to install the brand’s energy storage systems indoors and outdoors and could be used anywhere from data centres and manufacturing facilities to residential and commercial sites as well as medical or research facilities which have a critical need for resilient power. 

The majority of global innovation in lithium-ion batteries has been focused on passenger vehicles, Viridi Parente CEO and chairman Jon M. Williams said, noting however that “technology designed for cars does not translate into other sectors of the economy where safety, resilience and cycle life are the leading design requirements”.

With the passenger vehicle industry representing around 3% of the world’s GDP today, Williams said, “Viridi is developing safe, resilient and cost-effective point-of-use lithium-ion battery systems that will power the other 97% of our economy”.

The Series C funding round takes Viridi Parente’s valuation to US$700 million. Investors in it included National Grid’s investment arm National Grid Partners and equipment rental company Ashtead Group/Sunbelt Rentals. The office of entrepreneur and philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano led the round. 

“We are excited to be part of Viridi’s next growth phase. In a short period of time the market demand has been extraordinary, therefore the need to increase production to meet this demand is imperative,” B. Thomas Golisano said. 

“This funding round should not only help satisfy near-term demand but set the company up for longer-term growth.”

Safety testing for battery energy storage systems (BESS) generally tests for propagation from pack-to-pack within a system or further. International Fire Code and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 855 also stipulate limits on the amount of BESS equipment that can be installed in any space and instruct for separation distances of a metre between any units and between units and walls. 

Another company innovating in this area is Cadenza Innovation, a Connecticut-based startup which has developed a lithium-ion cell and pack architecture that is designed to prevent propagation between cells. Cadenza’s equipment is currently being trialled in an indoor, office setting, at a New York Power Authority (NYPA) facility.

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