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More Hope Than Hype: PolyPlus Pushes Toward Lithium-Sulfur

It’s often said the “future is electric” but despite what Elon Musk may tweet, others less outspoken but just as informed don’t think lithium-ion can fully get us there, so advanced battery companies such as PolyPlus are working hard to deliver said future on time.

Actually, Tesla has conceded new technologies will eventually be required, and PolyPlus CEO and CTO Steven J. Visco said his Berkeley based company is working on perceptibly needed rechargeable lithium-sulfur and lithium-air chemistries.

“What’s happened over the past couple of years is the growing realization that lithium-ion chemistry will not take EVs to a mass adoption vehicle,” said Visco in a one-hour interview on Wednesday. “It’s just too expensive and they’re too heavy.”

The PhD chemist should know, having personally overseen 57 U.S. patents and more than 200 international patents. He co-founded the now-27-employee company in 1991 that spun out from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and to date it has resisted venture capital funding.

While PolyPlus is pushing the edge of what’s possible, it more modestly resists tendencies seen by some in the battery development field – who are perhaps trying to keep paying investors interested – to verge toward over-promising and under-delivering eye-popping energy density projections on the horizon.

And, unlike A123 Systems that came and went with a splash of vanishing capital, PolyPlus is a comparatively lean machine albeit with over 140 patents for its efforts.


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