Ottawa’s GBatteries Energy lands $1.2M in federal cash

An Ottawa startup that says its battery system allows electric cars to be recharged almost as quickly as gas vehicles can be refuelled has landed $1.2 million in federal funding.

GBatteries Energy Canada received the grant this week from Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s SD Tech Fund, which helps finance clean-technology projects. The money will help the Ottawa firm develop longer-lasting batteries for electric vehicles.

CEO Tim Sherstyuk, who founded the company with his father Nick in 2012, says its technology drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to charge the batteries that power everything from cars to smartphones and wearable devices.

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He says existing batteries in a high-end Tesla, for example, take about 40 minutes to recharge to 80 per cent capacity. His company’s Active Battery Management System cuts that process down to 10 minutes – without significantly shortening the battery’s lifespan.

Over time, he explains, chemical processes during the recharging cycle damage lithium-ion batteries and cause them to degrade – which likely comes as no surprise to anyone who has owned the same smartphone for more than a year. Speeding up the recharging cycle only accelerates the damage.

“The faster you charge a battery, the shorter its lifespan will be,” says Mr. Sherstyuk, 23, a former chemistry student at Carleton University who dropped out to focus on building his company.

After a year of experimenting, he and his father figured out a way to counteract the damage caused by continuous recharging and dramatically extend battery lifespans.

Mr. Sherstyuk likens an aging lithium battery to a brittle balloon. If you try to blow up the balloon in one huge breath, it will pop.

“The rubber would start to crack and eventually it would break,” he says. “Our technology puts a little bit of air into that balloon, measures to make sure everything is OK and then keeps going.”

Problem-solvers by nature, Mr. Sherstyuk and his father, an electrical engineer, originally launched GBatteries in their basement.

“We always did geeky projects together,” Mr. Sherstyuk says. “It kind of started off as one of those projects and we grew it from there.”

In 2014, the company entered Y Combinator, a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley. There, GBatteries caught the attention of several Bay Area investors, who have provided seed funding “in the range of seven figures,” Mr. Sherstyuk says.

Today, the 10-person firm is working with several academic partners on its research. GBatteries won’t disclose revenues or specific customers, but Mr. Sherstyuk says its client list already includes some household names.

“We’re working with companies you know. You probably have their phone in your pockets or you’re using their chips inside your phone.”

The company is now collaborating with two partners, eCAMION and S&C Electric Canada, to refine its and demonstrate its system on electric vehicles. Mr. Sherstyuk believes the technology could soon make electric vehicles as convenient to operate as their gas-powered counterparts.

“Our mission is to enable electric vehicles to charge as quickly as it takes for you to fill up a tank with gas,” he says.

While cars are the company’s focus at the moment, he says the technology can be applied to a vast range of consumer products.

“Batteries are in everything,” Mr. Sherstyuk says. “Cars are going electric, there are more wearable devices, there are more (Internet of Things) devices, planes are going to go electric at some point. All those things need batteries – particularly, they need batteries that can charge quickly and live long. There are very, very few companies that are working on this problem from what we’ve seen publicly. Our technology, I believe, is the best on the market today. The market is incredibly huge.”

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