Houston startup Zeta Energy is one of 12 teams selected for a federal program to develop new battery technology for electric vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week.
The DOE doled out $42 million in funding through its EVs4All program, which aims to develop cheaper, more efficient batteries that can be produced domestically.
Zeta Energy is working to develop a fast-charging, lithium-sulfur battery. Head of Investor and Government Relations Todd Foley said that while a lot of battery designs rely on raw materials from other countries, one thing that makes Zeta’s technology unique is that they use material feedstocks that can be sourced locally – from Houston’s petrochemical facilities.
“The game-changing thing here is that our feedstocks are domestic, including a byproduct – if not waste product– from the petrochemical industry,” Foley said.
He said they’re in early talks with petrochemical companies in the Houston area to provide these materials as they get closer to commercialization.
Specifically, Zeta uses sulfur as the primary material for the cathode, which they combine with carbon, according to CEO Tom Pilette.
“And we do that in a very unique way that enables a very dense opportunity for energy storage,” he said.
Zeta Energy was founded to build off battery technology that was developed at Rice University.
Pilette said the DOE funding will help bring their technology to commercialization, which they aim to do by 2027.
“It’s a much shorter time horizon than some of these longer-term projects that are out there,” said Pilette.
He said in addition to electric cars, their technology has applications for electric grid storage as well.
Zeta Energy was the only Texas-based project selected for the Evs4All program.
“By addressing battery efficiency, resiliency and affordability, the projects announced today will make EVs attractive to even more drivers,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, said in a press release.
President Biden previously set a goal for half of all new vehicles sold in the US by 2030 to be zero-emissions vehicles.
New tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles also kicked in recently, and with more electric vehicles set to be on the roads, Texas has also been working to expand its network of charging stations.
The Texas Department of Transportation released a plan last year indicating it would place electric vehicle charging stations every 50 miles along most interstates to support long-distance travel, according to The Texas Tribune.