e-Zinc powers up with $42 million CAD to validate energy storage solution in the field

With beefed-up leadership team, CEO feels Chris Hadfield-backed e-Zinc is ready for pilot production.

Toronto-based e-Zinc has raised $42 million CAD ($31 million USD) in new funding as it gears up for field demonstration projects of its long-duration energy storage solution.

The round, which e-Zinc classified as follow-on funding to its 2022 Series A round, was led by Evok Innovations, with support from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Crown corporation Export Development Canada, and Ultratech Capital Partners. Other participants included existing shareholders Toyota Ventures, Eni Next, Anzu Partners, BDC, and Graphite Ventures.

“With this new investment, we are well positioned to transition to a production-oriented stage and focus on our operational excellence.”

James Larsen

e-Zinc has developed a zinc-based energy storage system that it claims can be less expensive compared to lithium-ion systems for long-duration applications. 

The system has three main components: a top-charging unit, a middle-storage unit, and a bottom-discharging unit. Zinc absorbs energy at the top, moves to the middle for storage, and releases energy at the bottom when air is introduced. The zinc then recirculates back to the top to be recharged.

e-Zinc claims its batteries offer several benefits over traditional lithium-based grid-scale batteries, including longer energy storage duration, recyclability, and immunity to thermal runaway due to their water-based electrolytes, which the startup says make the batteries safer and more versatile.

The startup was founded in 2012 by Xiaoge “Gregory” Zhang, a former senior scientist and research and development (R&D) manager at Vancouver mining company Teck Resources. Zhang retired as CEO in 2018 after handing the reins to James Larsen.

The following year, e-Zinc faced two significant blows. In August 2021, Zhang, who was serving as a director at the startup at the time, died at the age of 64 following a battle with cancer. A fire also took place at e-Zinc’s battery testing lab that same month, forcing the startup to move that lab’s capacity into its manufacturing facility. Larsen noted a forensics team determined the fire was not caused by e-Zinc’s technology, rather it was due to a faulty power bar.

James Larsen
James Larsen, CEO of e-Zinc (Image courtesy of BDC)

However, the startup quickly rebounded—launching a new facility two months later and securing $31 million CAD in Series A funding in 2022. Three years on from its annus horribilis, e-Zinc is looking to use its latest round to accelerate product development and move into its new 42,000-sq. ft pilot manufacturing facility in Mississauga, Ont.

Larsen told BetaKit the facility completed construction in April, and he expects the whole company to be operating out of it in the fall.

In 2022, e-Zinc struck partnerships with Toyota Tsusho Canada Inc. and the California Energy Commission to demonstrate that its energy storage systems could deliver long-duration energy storage on a commercial scale. 

Part of the recent funding will support these field demonstrations to validate that e-Zinc’s zinc-air batteries can store energy for 24 hours. For a point of comparison, according to the United States’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory, lithium-ion batteries can store power for just four hours or fewer.

“With this new investment, we are well positioned to transition to a production-oriented stage and focus on our operational excellence,” Larsen said in a statement. “Following the upcoming pilot demonstrations and the validation of our manufacturing processes, we will have proven the advantages of our innovative energy storage solution and the infrastructure needed to bring our proprietary technology to market at commercial scale.”

The new funding also follows a number of changes at the top for e-Zinc. The company recently appointed Rhonda Landers as CFO, Zakiul (Zaki) Kabir as CTO, Rob Howard as COO and Balakrishnan (Balki) Iyer as chief commercial officer. Larsen told BetaKit all hires were made in 2023.

In a statement, the startup said each hire “brings a deep understanding of the energy technology industry and experience developing and scaling operations for innovation-led organizations,” and will allow e-Zinc to grow and advance from its product development phase to commercialization.

Feature image courtesy of e-Zinc.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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