Earlier this year, when I completed my list of “43 battery storage companies to watch,” Bosch and Seeo were both on the list. I guess I need to update the list now, as Bosch has just acquired Seeo.
In all honesty, I was much more excited about Seeo when making that list, since there had been some hot news about the startup that made it look quite promising. Bosch, meanwhile, has been offering energy storage products that are quite expensive (and, thus, not super competitive). However, Bosch is a huge company with plenty of competent people, so I figured it could find its way forward. Acquiring Seeo, for example, could propel it to the front of the class. We’ll see.
Seeo was spun out of Berkeley Lab in California, and pulled in Samsung (another company on my list) as an investor. Regarding its special battery, Green Car Congress summarizes, “Seeo’s cell design couples a solid lithium metal anode with a conventional porous lithium iron phosphate cathode and Seeo’s nanostructured solid polymer electrolyte (“DryLite”). The electrolyte is entirely solid-state with no flammable or volatile components.”
Going on: “In January 2015, Seeo was awarded a contract for technology assessment from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors. Under the contract, Seeo will deliver its DryLyte battery modules to USABC for testing under a 9-month assessment program. These modules are based on Seeo’s current cell technology, which provides an energy density of 220 Wh/kg.”
We don’t get to see the specifics of the Seeo acquisition, but we do know that Bosch has acquired all of the intellectual property + the research staff. For more details on the Seeo battery technology, check out the Green Car Congress post.
Lux Research quickly chimed in about this big acquisition news. In bold lettering, Lux wrote: “It is the first instance of a major automotive player outright acquiring a next-generation battery developer, highlighting the strategic importance of advanced energy storage for the automotive value chain.”
But Lux doesn’t consider it all roses and unicorns for Bosch now. In fact, it sees some issues with Seeo that may or may not be resolved with Bosch in control:
Bosch’s acquisition of Seeo (see the full Lux profile of Seeo here — client registration required) comes at a crucial time for the fragile startup. Seeo has been trying to pivot from lower-energy LFP (lithium iron phosphate) cathodes towards higher-energy NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) cathodes to keep ahead of the competition. It was also looking to set up joint ventures to help it scale up production of cells capable of 350 Wh/kg, a crucial step in proving its new technology. However, its high appetite for burning through cash, its unproven cost claims, and technical issues like low ionic conductivity (which limit power and require the battery be heated to about 80 °C) place it mid-pack in our Lux Innovation Grid of interviewed solid-state battery developers:
It’s an interesting time, indeed. And if anyone tells you they know who will come out on top in this battery storage race, don’t believe them. This is a complicated market with numerous promising technologies, but each with their own limitations and challenges.
I’m still excited about Seeo, and eager to see where Bosch takes its tech. But I’m also excited to see what happens with a few dozen other battery companies, and I’m not placing any bets just yet.