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March 17th, 2010

Plug pulled on Firefly Energy, carbon foam battery design

Published on March 17th, 2010 | By: Peter Wray

There was a time when some people thought foam carbon composites technology would give lead-acid chemistry a new lease on life in a world of hybrid and hybrid-electric vehicles. The great hope was the carbon foam batteries could deliver enough energy density to make the transition, and Firefly Energy was going to lead the way.

Not anymore. Various newspaper reports indicate that the Peoria-based Firefly went out of business last week, a death that appears to be more or less caused by the company’s inability to impress the DOE that its battery design would be a game-changer or that its business plan would be successful. In other words, Firefly is a casualty of the (defensible) decision by DOE to select strategic “winners” – and by omission, “losers” – in next-generation energy storage systems.

I’m sure there are those around Firefly that feel they got shafted, and it is unfortunate that money was lost and jobs eliminated, but it seems they got their chance. The company received several rounds of development funding from the DOD and was backed by several venture capitalist firms. Prototypes of Firefly’s 3D2 batteries were submitted to the DOE and some batteries were tested in buses in Peoria, but the DOE apparently felt that the densities and benefits were exaggerated and lacked verification, and development of improvements was going too slow.

Firefly, not unexpectedly, disagreed with the DOE’s assessment, but alas, the battery business is very competitive in the U.S., but the stakes and competition are even more cutthroat on the world scale.

 


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