Seattle energy startup builds Oregon factory
EnerG2, a Seattle-based advanced materials startup, broke ground Tuesday on a plant in Albany, Ore., where it will manufacture components to make electric-car batteries last longer and work more efficiently.
Seattle Times staff reporter
EnerG2, a Seattle-based advanced-materials startup, broke ground Tuesday on a plant in Albany, Ore., where it will manufacture components to make electric car batteries last longer and work more efficiently.
The company got a $21.3 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy to help build the facility.
Albany was chosen because one of EnerG2's partners, Oregon Freeze Dry, is headquartered there.
The freeze-dried-food giant had available land and the know-how to turn an empty warehouse into a high-tech factory.
The plant will make synthetic high-performance carbon material used in ultracapacitors, which store and release large amounts of energy "maybe a thousand times faster" than traditional batteries, said CEO Rick Luebbe.
It's scheduled to go online in October 2011 and will employ at least 35 people when running at full capacity. Luebbe, one of three company co-founders, expects that will happen right away.
"We do anticipate from our customer base that it'll be oversubscribed in October 2011," he said.
EnerG2 currently has 25 employees in Seattle, up from four just 14 months ago.
Most ultracapacitors use activated carbon — a way of processing carbon to give it more surface area — from natural carbon sources such as coconut husks. EnerG2 creates its own activated carbon using a process that Aaron Feaver, co-founder and chief technology officer, developed as a University of Washington graduate student under professor Guozhong Cao, who researches nanostructured materials and its applications for energy.
EnerG2 can make activated carbon with fewer impurities, making its ultracapacitors more efficient, at a lower cost than companies using natural sources of carbon.
Ultracapacitors are currently used in electric, hybrid and "heavy hybrid" vehicles, such as garbage trucks and Mack Trucks, to quickly store energy generated from braking and use it to power the next acceleration.
Fuel efficiency in hybrid trucks with an ultracapacitor system improves by 30 percent. And the life span of the engine's battery increases, Luebbe said.
When an electric vehicle without an ultracapacitor system stops and starts, energy is released through a chemical reaction in the engine's battery, which eventually wears it out.
An ultracapacitor stores the energy in the form of a static charge on the surface area of the activated carbon and then releases the ions without wearing down the battery.
Taking the stress of stopping and starting off the engine's battery can get the battery system's lifetime range up to 150,000 miles, Luebbe said.
"In that regard, it's a great enabler for all kinds of electric drive systems," Luebbe said.
Jason Bacaj: 206-464-3320 or firstname.lastname@example.org