Calgary energy company joins Boeing in investment in battery tech that could electrify flight

Zunum Aero's hybrid electric jet. Image: Zunum Aero

Boeing has invested in Berkeley, California-based Cuberg, Inc., a start-up founded by former Stanford University researchers developing next-generation battery technology for potential aerospace and industrial applications.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures led the second seed investment round, which included a follow-on investment by HPC Energy Services, a Calgary-based integrated oil and gas product and service company that is looking to use the technology for downhole applications.

Cuberg developed an advanced battery cell that is designed to be a drop-in solution to existing large-scale battery manufacturing processes. It combines a lithium metal anode, proprietary electrolyte and high-voltage cathode to achieve high energy density and thermal durability.

The technology could be applied in areas where lithium-ion batteries are typically too heavy, such as battery-powered flight. Boeing has also invested in Zunum Aero, an electric-and-hybrid plane start-up.

"Cuberg's battery technology has some of the highest energy density we've seen in the marketplace, and its unique chemistries could prove to be a safe, stable solution for future electric air transportation," Steve Nordlund, vice-president of Boeing HorizonX, said in a statement.

Since it was established in 2015, Cuberg has grown with several rounds of financing and grant funding, and signed a multimillion-dollar joint development agreement with an industrial battery manufacturer.

Cuberg CEO Richard Wang is currently a member of the Cyclotron Road entrepreneurial research fellowship program located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Cuberg was named one of the top seven startups in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2016 National Cleantech University Prize competition.

"We are excited to partner with the world's largest aerospace company to extend Cuberg's battery capabilities to help power the aerospace platforms of the future," said Wang. "With funding from Boeing, we will expand both our team and our research and development facilities to help customers integrate our batteries into their products, while also scaling up our technology to fully automated production."