ReVolt Technology gets established in new Portland digs

ReVolt Technology LLC, which aims to develop the next generation of electric car batteries, has relocated some of its top research scientists to Portland and expects to complete its new headquarters near Portland International Airport in September, says CEO James McDougall.

The company is working on adapting its rechargeable zinc-air technology to automobiles, as a cheaper and efficient alternative to lithium-ion technology.

The objective, McDougall says, is “three times the performance at one-third the cost.”

That means the battery would enable a motorist to drive three times as far before recharging the car battery, a crucial consideration for people considering electric vehicles.

ReVolt now has about a dozen employees here, including three European scientists who recently emigrated to Portland. The company expects to have about 25 employees in Portland by year’s end.

“Portland is our North American headquarters, but it’s also our de facto world headquarters,” McDougall says, “because the senior management team and the founder of our company spend a disproportionate amount of our time in Portland.”

ReVolt’s technology was created at a Norwegian research complex, but it established a European headquarters last fall in Dortmund, Germany, after an initial spell in Switzerland.

The Portland and German offices are both working on research and development in parallel fashion, McDougall says.

ReVolt won a $5 million stimulus grant from the U.S. government, plus state tax credits. Terms of the federal grant require it to develop a demonstration system by 2013.

“It’s probably a good five years before you could see it going into a vehicle that you could purchase,” McDougall says.

Ultimately, the company expects to produce the battery here, though high-volume production could take place anywhere, he says.

A grand opening at the new Portland headquarters is expected in September, when the public will be invited.