Startup Gets Funding for Technology Eyed by Musk

  • Skeleton’s supercapacitors boost performance of electric cars
  • Tesla’s founder sees technology overtaking battery storage

A startup in Estonia making new energy-storage technologies that Elon Musk called key to the future of electric cars secured a new round of funding to expand in Asia.

Skeleton Technologies Group OU makes supercapacitors: light-weight electronic components that efficiently store and distribute high volumes of power. At present, they provide bursts of energy to help propel trains and buses. In the future, Skeleton and other manufacturers like Maxwell Technologies Inc. and Ioxus Inc., want to broaden their utility in a wider range of vehicles.

Skeleton can “transform the international ultracapacitor market” and become a “turnkey energy storage system specialist,” according to Nizar Ali, managing director of FirstFloor Capital, in a statement on Wednesday. The Malaysian investor located near Kuala Lumpur led a 13 million euro ($14.5 million) investment round in Skeleton. Terms weren’t disclosed.

In 2011, Tesla Motors Inc.’s founder Musk said he would bet on supercapacitors over batteries to deliver a breakthrough for electric cars. A spokeswoman for Musk didn’t respond to an e-mail asking whether the CEO is sticking to that prediction.

Skeleton said FirstFloor’s investment is a turning point for plans to expand beyond Europe and into emerging Asian markets, according to the statement.

“We especially see southeast Asia as a key growth region that has been undervalued by the market so far,” said Taavi Madiberk, Skeleton’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer, according to the statement.

The high-power energy storage market is expected to grow almost ten-fold to $2 billion a year by 2026 up from about $240 million currently, according to Franco Gonzalez, an analyst at IDTechEx. Supercapacitors could capture about $800 million to $1 billion of that potential market opportunity, he said by phone.

Skeleton, which also has operations in Germany, uses “curved graphene” in its capacitors, a method which the company says can deliver five times the power density of competitors.