Imara Corporation Launches Its First High-Power Lithium-Ion Battery Cell

Imara is providing battery cells to customers in the power tool, outdoor power equipment and transportation markets.

Imara’s patented technology breaks through conventional battery technology barriers that require a trade off between fast power discharge and high energy density for extended run time. The company’s batteries deliver a unique combination of power, energy, cycle life and safety compared to today’s commercially available high-power cells. This translates to more holes drilled by a power tool, more grass mowed by a lawn mower and more miles driven by a vehicle, while significantly reducing warranty costs for manufacturers and battery replacement costs for end-users.

Imara’s technology enables a new class of "green" applications. An hour of use of a typical 4-stroke gas-powered lawnmower replaced with Imara battery power eliminates the emissions equivalent to 11 SUV’s driving on the highway for an hour. Replacing one two-stroke weed-whacker or leaf blower with Imara battery power is equivalent to taking 17 SUV’s off the road.

"Historically, few domestic battery companies have been able to move from the R&D lab to commercialization. Imara now joins the ranks of the limited number of companies able to cross the chasm into production," said Imara Corporation CEO & Founder, Jeff Depew.

Imara was recently named one of the three lithium-ion battery companies in the Global Cleantech 100 by Guardian News and Media and Cleantech Group(TM), LLC (alongside A123 and Boston-Power). The Global Cleantech 100 highlights the most commercially promising private clean-technology companies around the world. The list recognizes companies that tackle some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges with the most advanced clean technology innovations.

The Hybrid Revolution Demands Better Batteries

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are winning converts with their lower emissions and fuel consumption. Manufacturers are designing HEVs and plug-in HEVs that require more powerful, more durable, and cost-effective batteries than those available today.

Imara advanced lithium-ion batteries meet tomorrow’s HEV demands for exceptional cycle life, higher charge and discharge rates, and higher energy density. Their extended lifecycle means they’re more cost effective over years of service.

What’s more, Imara provides an eco-friendly answer to the question: where on earth are all those batteries going to come from? If HEVs make up just a fraction of the vehicles manufactured over the decade to come, demand for high-quality li-ion batteries will far outstrip present supply—in Asia as well as the West.

To meet that demand, Imara is exploring plans for mass production of HEV batteries close to automotive assembly plants—so manufacturers can shorten supply chains, reduce transportation costs and environmental impacts, avoid the growing pitfalls of offshore sourcing, and rely on locally-made quality and reliability.

Versatile Energy Bank with a Small Footprint

From massive utilities to wind farms to tiny alternative systems, energy providers need an efficient way to store and release high-quality electric power on demand.

Utilities need high-capacity bulk energy banks so they can manage and modulate the grid, stabilize voltage and frequency oscillations, provide ramping duty, and provide ride-through protection against outages.

When the real load on the grid exceeds scheduled consumption, spinning reserve is rapidly brought online to compensate. Imara’s high-power, energy-dense solution can provide the spinning reserve needed to balance the grid.

Imara’s proprietary lithium-ion technology offers an advanced alternative to today’s storage and modulation options. With higher power capacity, lighter weight, and higher energy density, Imara’s batteries require a far smaller footprint than stockpiles of lead-acid cells. And long before one Imara extended lifecycle battery is through, many more lead-acid batteries will need disposal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Imara

Q: What does Imara do?
A: Imara employs patented materials science to design and manufacture high-power, long-runtime, extended cycle-life lithium-ion battery cells and packs. Imara batteries are designed primarily for high-power applications including power tools, outdoor power equipment, and vehicles.

Q: Where is Imara headquartered?
A: Imara is headquartered in our research and manufacturing facility in Menlo Park, California. By locating R&D along with pilot manufacturing and small volume production, Imara can rapidly develop new cells and optimize the manufacturing process. Once validated, our manufacturing lines will be deployed in the U.S. and globally near our customers’ locations.

Q: Who is financing your company?
A: Imara Corp. is funded by top-tier Silicon Valley venture capital firms Battery Ventures and Nth Power.

Q: How did the business start?
A: Imara Corp. was founded by Jeff Depew and George Blomgren in 2006 to develop and commercialize next- generation high-power and high-energy lithium-ion batteries and packs, targeting power tools and emerging cleantech markets. The initial core technology, patented and under exclusive license from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), was developed and funded in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Partnership for the Next Generation Vehicle (PNGV) initiative.

Q: What industries are you working in?
A: Imara is currently focused on providing lithium-ion batteries and packs for the power tool and outdoor power equipment industries. These markets have an immediate need for higher power-to-weight energy storage solutions, and have short cycle developments that allow for near-term revenue opportunities. We are also engaged with customers in the electric two-wheel and hybrid vehicle markets.

Q: Do you have plans to move into other industries?
A: Our initial focus is on power tools and outdoor power equipment. However, as the demand for lithium-ion batteries and packs increases in other markets like automotive, grid modulation, and specialty applications, we will keep actively seeking new areas of opportunity. Imara also is developing larger-format cells for the cars of tomorrow, including solutions for high-power hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) batteries that are cost-effective and have exceptional cycle life.

Q: How big do you expect Imara to grow?
A: Imara will grow by providing higher power performance, longer runtime, and extended cycle life to our customers so that we grow when their products excel in the market. We further enable a new class of applications, so that customers can move beyond existing battery electric applications to “cut the cord“ or replace 2-stroke engines with our leading power-to-weight ratio technology.

Q: What makes Imara batteries unique?
A: Imara’s scientists have developed patented battery technology that expands the envelope of power and energy capability, enabling new markets. Specifically, our products have a technical advantage for mid- to high-range power/energy ratio applications.

Imara has developed an innovative materials-agnostic technology for controlling the morphology of the cathode material. This results in exceptional performance in high-power applications where long runtime is required, provided the battery can support high peak and continuous currents.

The low-impedance characteristics and efficient performance, coupled with relatively high energy density, enables cells to deliver the most work to drive applications. The result is more power at a given energy level or more energy at a given power level.

Q: How does your lithium-ion battery work?
A: Lithium-ion batteries are a type of rechargeable battery in which a lithium-ion moves between the anode and cathode during discharge, and from the cathode to the anode when charging. The electrodes are protected from short circuit by the use of a separator material that, when soaked with an electrolyte, allows the flow of lithium-ions but prevents physical contact between cathode and anode.

The four primary functional components of a lithium-ion battery are the anode, cathode, separator, and electrolyte, for which a variety of materials may be used. Imara technology has been demonstrated to provide a substantial lifecycle and high power advantage on a variety of lithium-ion cathode blends, allowing us to focus on materials with high theoretical energy density. By doing so, we provide high power without compromising runtime or cycle life. We are able to use standard electrolyte, anode, and separator materials to keep our costs down.

Our battery is compact, lightweight, and powerful, and offers consumers the option of having a cordless power source.

Q: Is there a safety concern associated with lithium-ion batteries?
A: Imara batteries and packs are designed and manufactured with safety as the primary concern. The materials selected are inherently safer than the materials subject to recalls in the laptop industry. Our cell is designed with a deep knowledge of our manufacturing variation to ensure that we design in appropriate safety margins. Imara’s manufacturing process includes environmentally controlled rooms. All of our packs use circuit protection and other safety measures to ensure robustness.

Q: Using batteries can reduce emissions, but doesn’t producing batteries create more pollution than it eliminates?
A: No. Imara batteries and packs are designed with the end-consumer and environment in mind. We believe in taking responsibility for the environment from the “cradle to the grave” of our batteries’ production and lifecycle. Although our batteries can be disposed of in landfills, we work with customers to establish recycling programs. We treat our facilities’ exhaust emissions to the highest standards.