Daimler invests in quick-charging battery developer StoreDot

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Daimler’s trucking arm has confirmed an investment in Israel-based tech startup StoreDot. The investment will help StoreDot commercialize its quick-charging, CEO Doron Myersdorf told TechCrunch.

Myersdorf did not mention any figures. But TechCrunch reported that the investment is $60 million, putting a value on the startup at about $500 million. Samsung and Norma Investments, which is led by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, were also involved.

Samsung and Daimler have both been investing in autonomous vehicle manufacturers as of late. While Daimler was expected to invest in a tech start-up that could possibly provide green energy to its next batch of cars and trucks, Samsung’s entry into the green energy automotive market was more surprising. The company recently launched the Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund.

Samsung also recently acquired automobile software manufacturer Harman International Industries.

StoreDot claims its technology can charge a battery within 5 minutes. This is in hopes of replacing today’s commonly used batteries that have lithium-ion components. These are the kind of batteries commonly found in smartphones.

Once the wireless version of the quick-charging technology has been developed, autonomous vehicles are likely to benefit from StoreDot’s technology.

A technological breakthrough like wireless devices is only as good as its power source. The increased use of smartphones containing apps that would track goods from shipping to delivery also increases the demand for more and cleaner sources of energy.

Through Harman, the South Korean tech company has achieved entry towards connectivity functions between smartphones and vehicle-related technology. Through Daimler, Samsung achieves a gateway to the automotive and trucking industries. And through StoreDot, it has found a potential solution for battery-based sources of energy for its new and fortified products.

The funding that StoreDot has solicited will boost its chances of getting a quality and buzz-worthy commercial launch for its technology. The goal is still to produce electricity-based sources of energy for Daimler’s trucking investment. But StoreDot will be at the forefront of this project with Samsung in order to make batteries that get charged within 5 minutes.

Daimler’s assembly line of electric trucks is set to be the beneficiary of the first batch of wireless chargeable batteries under the StoreDot brand name. Myersdorf mentioned other vehicles that will benefit from this endeavor. “We are working on the whole fleet, including luxury cars, passenger cars and buses.”

Daimler’s decision to invest through its trucking arm, Daimler Trucks Asia, was based on the comparison between gas-pumping times and electric-charging times. Pumping fuel at a station takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Charging an electric vehicle (EV) takes an owner half an hour to complete, if that EV owner is lucky.

Efforts to speed up the charging process are already being addressed by Tesla through its Supercharger network. But having more charging stations is not enough to solve the problem of slow charge times. Nor does it guarantee faster charging times. This served as an opportunity for Daimler to compete head-on with the tech giant that Tesla has become.

Enter the FlashBattery, a product under development by StoreDot that hopes to replace the lithium-ion batteries still in use in most EVs today.

The science behind the quicker charge times is explained in the presence of “new organic compounds combined with nanomaterials” found in these batteries. Different battery contents that absorb energy faster results in a charging time span that can finally compete with the gas-pumping times - 5 minutes or less, according to a report by TechCrunch[bs1] .

This turned out to be possible as StoreDot’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Doron Myersdorf, has discovered. “We could charge the full battery for a phone or a car in a minute or less.” It should not have to be the size of a brick, though, as that defies the comfort and convenience that the FlashBattery is supposed to deliver.

“This is a major challenge because we are breaking the rules of what is known in charging. This is why we are engaged with the process of trying to open and accelerate the adoption of new standards for charging, which includes the connector, the charging station and what runs in the car [or other device].” Myersdorf added.

Regulation is always a challenge. But the backing that StoreDot received from other tech giants like Daimler and South Korean conglomerate Samsung through its subsidiary Samsung Ventures served as a shot in the arm for the Israeli start-up.

In an era where tech companies compete by the speed of solutions delivered, speed has become the ultimate barometer of efficiency in devices today. It was a sentiment echoed by the Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, Marc Llistosella, in his statement provided to Business Insider. “When you ask a customer to wait 30, 40 minutes for charging … They don’t like it. Nobody likes it.”

Daimler’s investment is foreseen by other observers familiar with its recent foray into electric trucks. It just launched its battery-powered truck called the eCanter. It is a truck small enough for city operation and capable of running up to 80 miles on a single charge.

No launch date for the FlashBattery was announced yet.