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Bosch furthers its interests in electric vehicles and acquires a startup battery maker

bosch-photovoltaics-ctrThe electronics and auto parts giant Bosch announced the acquisition of Seeo Inc, a California-based startup with exclusive licensing rights to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s portfolio of patents for lithium polymer battery cells.

Bosch has a long-standing interest in electric vehicles from a strategic supply partnership with Tesla Motors to their own series of charging stations, but this acquisition could represent a major step for the company’s effort in the field.

Bosch is an important supplier in the automotive industry and one could argue that in a future where the industry is battery-powered, there will be no more important part to supply than battery cells. Hence why Tesla is building a massive battery factory in the Nevada desert. Now Bosch acquired all of Seeo’s intellectual property and its staff.

The company didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Seeo made some important breakthroughs in solid state battery technology, but like most battery breakthroughs, there’s almost always drawbacks holding the tech from going commercial.

Where Seeo excels is with energy density. The company achieved an impressive 350 watt-hours per kilogram in lithium polymer cells. For comparison, of all the battery cells currently in use in battery-powered cars, Tesla is currently the leader with Panasonic’s ~230 watt-hours per kilogram cells.

But energy density is not all. The cells need to be able to withstand thousands of cycles without major degradation, have decent power density and of course have the potential to scale at a reasonable cost.

At the moment, very little information is available for these metrics, but last year, Seeo’s CEO Hal Zarem said the company had “groups of cells” achieving cycle testing to “over 2,000 cycles”, which is encouraging.

Battery breakthroughs have disappointed over the years and we are disillusioned about the time-frame of a true revolution of the energy storage industry, but with a little luck, Bosch’s acquisition could indicate the company is closer to the commercialization of high energy cells than we thought possible.

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