Battery maker raises $45 million, expands production capacity

Greg Turner

The energy level is going up at Boston-Power Inc.

The maker of a quick-charging, longer-lasting lithium-ion battery recently landed $45 million in new venture capital - nearly twice what it had previously raised to date - and linked with a top manufacturer to start mass production of its promising product.

Thursday's news marked a big step for the company that only three years ago was based in the carriage house at founder Christina Lampe-Onnerud's Salem End Road residence in Framingham.

"We have had a pretty interesting 2007,'' she said in an interview. "I am so looking forward to this year. It's going to be the fruition of a lot of late nights and a lot of hard work.''

Boston-Power, now based in an office on West Park Drive in Westborough, has worked with HYB Battery Co. Ltd., a manufacturer in China, to produce its Sonata product. It signed a new deal with GP Batteries, the world's 10th largest battery manufacturer, to expand production at a factory in Taiwan.

Lampe-Onnerud said the goal is to ramp up production to about 1 million lithium-ion cells per month by the end of this year. Three of Boston-Power's Sonata cells go into each battery pack designed for laptop computers, compared to six cells per power pack using other types of batteries.

Although Lampe-Onnerud couldn't name names yet, laptop makers have been lining up to test the Sonata battery and place purchase orders.

"We will come back soon with customer announcements,'' she said. "We have been approved by quite a few players.''

The Sonata batteries are designed to perform "like new'' for three years and recharge to 80 percent capacity in only 30 minutes, compared to other batteries that start to fade in three to six months and take three to four hours to re-energize. The Sonata's lower cost could also help cut the price tags of notebook computers.

Sales of laptops are expected to overtake desktop computers for the first time in the United States in 2008 and worldwide in 2009, according to Framingham-based research firm IDC. The shift is coming because of lower product costs and better technology.

Boston-Power is focusing on the laptop market this year but sees other areas that could use a new kind of juice.

"The company's technology promises to be equally compelling for a range of other applications, including hybrid and all-electric vehicles,'' said Bandel Carano, managing partner at Oak Investment Partners, in a statement.

Oak Investment Partners, a venture capital firm with offices in Westport, Conn., Minneapolis and Palo Alto, Calif., led the latest funding round for Boston-Power. Other investors include Venrock Associates, Granite Global Ventures and Gabriel Venture Partners.

Boston-Power has raised a total of about $68 million since it started in 2005.

"We've been in a super-luxurious position. We've had a lot of interest from the start,'' Lampe-Onnerud said. "Boston-Power has been able to attract quite a bit of attention in this space and this time it seems like we hit what we have forecasted.''

The company employs 40 people in Westborough - up from 27 in February - and 10 in China. Lampe-Onnerud said she expects the local work force to double in the next few years as the company adds sales, marketing, engineering and laboratory staff. The factories in China are expected to deploy 300 workers for battery production.

Boston-Power expanded its management team with a chief operating officer, Declan Shalvey, and replaced its chief financial officer with Robert Andersen, who has more experience with international accounting and taxes, according to Lampe-Onnerud, who serves as CEO.

"(Shalvey) is quite a powerful executive with a lot of knowledge in processes and systems and making global organizations work together,'' she said. "He has the ability to look at big systems and at the same time keep track of the details.''

Major growth may still be ahead for Boston-Power but the company has already started considering an office expansion or relocation to a bigger space elsewhere in MetroWest.

"We want to grow the company to meet market demand but not so our core atmosphere'' at the office is lost, Lampe-Onnerud said.

(Greg Turner can be reached at or 508-626-3909.)