Ina Fried

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Leyden Energy Raises $20 Million to Build a Better Battery

While mobile devices seem to get faster, more powerful and smaller every year, there is one attribute that seems to be perennially wanting: Battery life.

Fremont, Calif.-based Leyden Energy hopes to change that. The start-up is focused on a new battery chemistry it says should allow its batteries to run 25 percent longer on a single charge and last for three years, as opposed to the typical single year of useful battery life.

The chip industry touts the fact that performance tends to double every 18 months or so, a maxim dubbed Moore’s Law in honor of the Intel founder who noted the trend. Battery life, meanwhile, has barely been able to double over the past 20 years, Leyden CEO Aakar Patel said in an interview.

And Patel would know, having spent his career in the battery industry. Before starting Leyden, Patel was chief operating officer of a battery distributor and also spent five years at Duracell.

“We don’t follow any Moore’s law,” Patel told AllThingsD.

Leyden may not be able to change that entirely, but Patel said significant improvements are possible by changing the electrolytes from those used in the current crop of lithium-ion batteries. Patel’s approach has drawn significant interest, including a $20 million Series B investment round being announced on Wednesday. New Enterprise Associates is leading the new funding round, which also includes new money from the company’s existing investors Lightspeed Ventures, Sigma Partners and Walden Capital.

NEA partner Ron Bernal, who is joining Leyden’s board, said he has been tracking the company for about 18 months and is pleased with the progress it has made.

“A year ago when they were out, they hadn’t quite delivered everything,” Bernal said. At this point, however, Bernal said he is convinced that the company is on the right track and will be able to deliver on the big gains it is promising. “With what they’ve shown and delivered, it’s pretty compelling.”

Leyden started back in 2007 and now has 30 employees.

“We went in with one single premise, which is how we could make batteries better,” Patel told AllThingsD. The company is aiming to see its batteries power everything from consumer electronics to electric vehicles.

Although the company is in volume production, it has thus far publicly announced only one deal — an agreement with a Canadian after-market firm called Dr. Battery. Patel said it should also have some deals with tablet companies to talk about in the coming months. In addition, the company has nearly $3 million in grants from the California Energy Commission to produce electric vehicle batteries.

“For a relatively small company we have done amazing things,” he said. “We’ve been fast to commercialize our product.”

The challenge, clearly, will be getting to greater scale, something Patel said the new funding should help with.

“We always had commercialization in mind,” he said. “We didn’t just want to innovate for the sake of innovation.”

The company is relying on an unspecified manufacturer in Asia to make its actual products, which are designed using Leyden’s process.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus