It’s hard enough to remember to keep your smartphone charged up, so can you imagine how much harder it’d be to track the charging status of dozens of drones or robots? Now WiBotic has an app for that: a software platform that manages the battery-charging routines for mobile devices that use its wireless charging system.
Today the seven-year-old Seattle startup unveiled its first software product, an energy management package called Commander.
“Commander was developed mostly through listening and learning from our customers who were building robots, and then deploying robots, and then deploying fleets,” said Ben Waters, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
But Singh found out that Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder is a quick learner. “When he thinks something is important he can dive really deep and become an expert in that area,” he told Fortune. “He has gotten very deep into this area.”
Today QuantumScape reported eye-opening progress in its campaign to produce a solid-state alternative to lithium-ion batteries, the current industry standard for energy storage applications ranging from smartphones and laptops to electric cars and airplanes.
The Silicon Valley company said its tests with prototype single-layer cells demonstrated the ability to recharge batteries up to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes. The data suggest that the technology could produce car batteries capable of lasting hundreds of thousands of miles and weathering temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius (22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit).
Seattle-based Wibotic says it’s secured $5.7 million in fresh investment to ramp up development of its wireless charging and power optimization systems, five years after being spun out from the University of Washington.
“We’re heading into our toddler phase here,” WiBotic CEO Ben Waters joked during an interview with GeekWire.
Investors in the Series A funding round include Junson Capital, SV Tech Ventures, Rolling Bay Ventures, Aves Capital, The W Fund and WRF. The latest round brings WiBotic’s total investment to nearly $9 million.
KoBold Metals’ quest to find new sources of cobalt, a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, has received high-profile backing from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion innovation fund spearheaded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Andreessen Horowitz also joined in the Bay Area startup’s funding round, which was disclosed today. The amount of funding, however, went undisclosed.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures was created by Gates and a bevy of other billionaires — including Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg and Jack Ma — to make long-term investments in cutting-edge energy technologies. KoBold Metals uses artificial intelligence and “machine prospecting” techniques to search for likely locations of cobalt ore.
Boeing’s HorizonX venture investment team says it has led a seed funding round for Cuberg, a California startup focusing on next-generation battery technology for potential aerospace and industrial applications.
Among the most relevant applications would be power storage for electric airplanes and underwater drones — both of which are in Boeing’s wheelhouse.
“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 today in a statement.
South Australia’s state government turned on the switch for the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery today, marking a signal achievement for rapid deployment of renewable energy resources.
Technically speaking, the 100-megawatt battery bank built by Tesla isn’t the highest-capacity power storage system: Molten-salt batteries, for example, can store more energy for distribution over a longer time. Alphabet’s X team, the “moonshot factory” associated with Google, is currently seeking commercial partners for a megawatt-scale, molten-salt battery project called Malta.
Even in the lithium-ion category, there are bigger power storage systems in the works: A battery bank that’s being built for Southern California Edison can be expanded to store 300 megawatts of power.
But that battery isn’t due for completion until 2021 or so. What’s most notable about the Tesla facility connected to Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm is that it was installed under the terms of a “100 Days or It’s Free” deal with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Today’s switching-on ceremony took place just 63 days after the grid-connection agreement was signed in September, although Tesla got a head start on the project before the signing.
In response to a plea from Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, Musk promised in July to get the array of Powerpacks installed within 100 days of signing a grid connection agreement, or else the job would be done for free.
Musk had some wiggle room: By the time the agreement was actually signed on Sept. 29, Tesla had already completed half the project. Nevertheless, he was taking a risk on a project that’s thought to cost tens of millions of dollars.
Tonight Musk tweeted his congratulations to the team.
Seattle-based WiBotic today took the wraps off an integrated wireless charging pad for drones, as well as an onboard charger that weighs just 1.6 ounces.
The two new products are part of the University of Washington spinout’s strategy to provide a system for charging up robotic aerial vehicles as they go about their business, untouched by human hands.
The plug-and-play system is set up to send power wirelessly at short range from the pad’s transmitter to the charger’s receiver. Then the transmission is converted into electricity for a drone’s batteries. It’s an alternative to switching out batteries by hand, or hooking it up to a direct-contact charging system.
One hundred megawatts. That’s how much electrical power the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery system will store when Tesla builds it for the state of South Australia.
And it’ll be built in 100 days, or it’s free.
The agreement, announced today in Adelaide, follows through on a pledge that Tesla CEO Elon Musk made during a Twitter exchange with Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes about South Australia’s power woes back in March.