Saratoga Energy scales up carbon nanotube production as founder completes Y Combinator

Patented process turns C02 into low-cost carbon nanotubes that can slash charging times & boost battery performance for electric vehicles & grid storage

During the three months Saratoga Energy founder Drew Reid spent with the renowned start-up incubator Y Combinator, the company scaled up production of its low-cost carbon nanotubes from 100 grams per day to half a ton a year. Next step: raising seed funding and scaling production to 20 tons per year.

“We sell better carbon nanotubes at one-twentieth the price of any other producer’s,” Reid told an invitation-only Demo Day audience of investors and journalists. “We’ve developed and patented a revolutionary electrochemical process that converts carbon dioxide to carbon nanotubes.”  

Carbon nanotubes have a variety of promising applications, from slashing battery charging times while boosting capacity, to making tires and roads much more durable. But the high cost of making carbon nanotubes has limited their deployment.

“The current carbon nanotube market is only about $5 billion,” Reid said. “But if you can sell carbon materials for one-twentieth the price — which we can do — this market explodes. Completely new applications in aerospace, batteries, roads, concrete, and carbon fiber open up, and carbon nanotubes become a $100 billion market. And no one else can compete with us on technology or on price.“

In the past two years, Saratoga Energy has received over $2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the California Energy Commission, which are interested in the potential for more affordable carbon nanotubes to dramatically improve charging speeds and performance for electrical vehicles and grid applications. 

“Our inexpensive nanotubes allow manufacturers to make electric-vehicle batteries that charge three times faster than they do today,” Reid said. “When charging your car’s battery only takes as long as stopping at the gas station for a fill-up, that’s a game-changer for electric vehicles. “

Another benefit of Saratoga Energy’s technology: It turns carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — into nanotubes.

“Given the potential variety of uses and potential volume of the market for Saratoga Energy’s nanotubes, Saratoga Energy’s manufacturing process could help to address climate change in a number of ways,” Reid said.

Saratoga Energy was accepted into the winter 2019 Y Combinator class — the largest and most selective class to date. Y Combinator invests in each company and helps founders develop their ideas and products to the point where they become attractive for larger-scale investments. 

“Participating in Y Combinator’s program for start-ups has been the most stressful and most rewarding experience in formation of Saratoga Energy so far,” Reid said. “They invest in you because they believe in you, and it’s intense – you do a lot in three months.”