A contingent of Chinese officials and northern Nevada business leaders gathered Tuesday, July 12 to celebrate a partnership between a Reno startup and a Chinese energy company.
Dragonfly Energy, a Reno-based lithium-ion battery technology company, recently announced the investment of $2 million from Chinese company Dynavolt Renewable Power Technology Co., Ltd.
“This is the right time in the right place with the right people for success,” Junming Wang told the audience gathered in the new headquarters of Dragonfly Energy.
Wang is the science and technology counselor in the San Francisco office of the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China. He was accompanied by Yuhong Jiang, consul of science and technology at the consulate.
For its investment, Dynavolt acquired one-third ownership stake in Dragonfly, while the Reno startup’s five founders retain their ownership.
“Dragonfly is Dynavolt’s first U.S. investment,” Denis Phares, CEO of Dragonfly, said. The company is using the investment to widen its product offerings and accelerate research and development.
Dynavolt is a leading maker of energy storage products and is increasingly looking to lithium-ion and other renewable technology. Dynavolt’s chairman, Lewu Chen, said in a press release that the investment in Dragonfly Energy “gives them access to technology that is expected to lower their manufacturing costs.”
Wang said part of his mission at the Chinese Consulate is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship between the two countries along the lines of the Dragonfly-Dynavolt partnership.
The Chinese delegation and northern Nevada business leaders, including representatives of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, also met with Governor Brian Sandoval in Carson City before the press conference.
The governor talked about the “Silicon Bridge” — referring both to the Reno area as the next Silicon Valley, and to the technology bridge with China being built with company partnerships.
“In China many similar cities (to Reno) are transferring from a traditional economy to technology,” Jiang said in an interview before the event. “We want to know what Reno is doing. Reno has a successful transformation (from a tourist economy).
“The partnership with Dragonfly will not be the last one.”
As a result of the Dragonfly/Dynavolt partnership, the Chinese company has opened a U.S. office in Texas, which is lead by CEO Brian Berney.
“There’s more momentum than you can imagine,” Berney said. “The process will allow us to integrate (Dragonfly’s) technology into (Dynavolt’s) batteries. The new batteries will be lower cost and allow more people to have storable energy. …
“Dragonfly is destined to become a household name.”
Dragonfly Energy began about two years ago as a research and development company looking for manufacturing methods to reduce the cost of energy storage, a challenge to the future of renewable energy such as solar power, and a goal also being pursued by lithium-ion giant Tesla.
While Tesla is pursuing the technology for high-performance electric vehicles and power arrays, Dragonfly is going after moderate power applications such as camper trailers, marine uses, and off-grid solar power storage.
Dragonfly, like its namesake, is small and nimble, a feature that has allowed it to fly rapidly into production with its flagship lithium-ion battery, a 12-volt deep cycle battery pack.
The company recently moved into a facility on Longley Lane, which will allow production to increase.
“It’s not a huge facility but it’s way bigger than my garage,” Phares said. “We’re following a line of giants (that got their starts in a garage).”
Using a combination of automated and hands-on processes, Dragonfly’s five-person staff — including CEO Phares and COO Sean Nichols at the work benches — can produce and sell about 80-100 battery packs a month.
So far those packs are selling without advertising.
The automated processes allow “us to produce as many as we can to satisfy demand; and demand is pretty great,” Phares said.
To increase production, Dragonfly expects to increase staff to 10 by the end of the year, Phares said.
While the 12-volt battery pack is Dragonfly’s first product to go to market, the company also manufactures packs designed for specific products, such as GoPeds, which are manufactured in Minden.
Gabe Patmont, CEO of GoPed, said the company began using Dragonfly batteries about two months ago, replacing a less reliable and more expansive battery imported from China.
Besides reducing costs, the Dragonfly battery used in the GoPeds can be recharged many times more than the battery they previous used, Patmont said in an interview following the press conference. “The overall cost to the customer is decreased.”
Lower costs while reducing the environmental impact of energy use, is what Dragonfly is after.
Kristina Miranda, who was hired recently as a staff accountant at Clausen & Company, is currently enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno and is earning a Bachelor of Science in business administration.