PowerGenix charges up with $30M

PowerGenix, makers of nickel-zinc batteries, raised $30 million from investors last week, continuing a recent trend of venture investment in power storage companies.

The eight-year-old, San Diego-based company’s Series D investment round came from Bessemer Venture Partners, the Angeleno Group, Advent International, Braemar Energy Ventures, Granite Ventures, OnPoint Technologies and Technology Partners.

The company has now raised just over $60 million from VCs since 2003.

PowerGenix claims its nickel-zinc batteries are less toxic and store more power than nickel-cadmium batteries of the same size. The company is angling to get its batteries into power tools that use nickel-cadmium batteries and hybrid vehicles, which typically use nickel-metal hydride batteries.

PowerGenix is one of a handful of companies working closely with other elements, such as zinc. Camarillo, Calif.-based ZPower holds 12 patents on rechargeable alkaline zinc batteries and has raised $16.2 million from Intel Capital and OnPoint Technologies.

Swiss company ReVolt Technologies is working on a rechargeable zinc-air battery technology aimed at consumer electronics and mobile telephony. It has raised $27.4 million from Verdane Capital, TVM Capital, Northzone Ventures, Sofinnova Partners, Viking Venture Management and Sinvent.

VCs have ploughed more than $550 million into 25 new battery companies in recent years. Many of those investments have targeted lithium-ion innovations, perhaps the most ubiquitous battery type for high-performance devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and electric sports cars. Analysts at Frost & Sullivan put the revenue from sales of just this one type of battery at $5.89 billion in 2007 and predict manufacturers will sell more than twice as many units by 2013.

Interest in lithium-ion batteries has been stoked recently by venture-backed battery maker A123 Systems, which filed to go public in August.

The company, which raised $132 million from Sequoia Capital, CMEA Ventures, General Electric and other investors, is looking to raise $175 million from its offering.

A123 attributes much of its sales to the nascent electric car market, counting Think Global and General Motors as partners. Still, power tools are an important part of its business. More than half of its revenue comes from Black & Decker, according to its S-1 filing, which is a market PowerGenix wants to tap. A123 reports that the market for lithium-ion batteries in power tools is expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2012. —Alexander Haislip