High performance energy storage | Skeleton Technologies X Marubeni

Japanese trading giant Marubeni invested in March 2021 in Skeleton Technologies, an Estonian startup manufacturing ultracapacitors, an essential component of high capacity energy storage devices. The two companies also entered a strategic partnership to expand the sales and distribution of ultracapacitors to the Japanese and Asian market, in sectors such as vehicle manufacturing, smart cities and distributed renewable energy systems. 

The partners

Skeleton Technologies, energy storage innovator from Estonia

Estonia-born energy storage startup Skeleton Technologies was founded in 2009. They started to develop the first model of graphene based ultracapacitors in the same year. Ultracapacitors are electricity storage devices, offering high power density, almost instant charging and discharging, high reliability, and very long lifetimes. This makes them a highly desirable product as the demand for energy storage technologies intensifies. 

Ultracapacitors - Skeleton Technologies

Skeleton Technologies products are being used in various sectors including renewable energy production, electric grids, heavy transportation and automotive. According to Skeleton Technologies the use of their ultracapacitors have decreased fuel consumption in trucks by up to 32%. In electric vehicles the use of ultracapacitors and batteries combined can increase range by 10% and battery lifetime by 50%. Ultracapacitors also protect and stabilize power grids that work on intermittent power sources such as wind and solar.

Skeleton technologies hope their ultracapacitors are the key to empowering the kick start for electrification. Despite being a young company, Skeleton technologies already have many accolades to their name for their commitment and innovation towards a sustainable future. These include the best startup award at Ecosummit 2015, and most recently being selected for one of the 2021 Global Cleantech 100. 

Marubeni, a major trading house in Japan 

Marubeni - Source: Reuters

Marubeni is a Japanese trading house (sogo-shosha) first established in 1918 as Itochu Shoten, before it later became a separate entity in 1949 to become the company it is today. They first started out as a textile trading firm and later expanded their business into cereal, paper pulp and electrical and industrial plant businesses. Today, Marubeni’s business is organised into five groups: food & consumer products, chemical & forest products, energy and metals, power projects and plant group and transportation and Industrial machinery. 

In March 2021 Marubeni released their ‘Long term vision on Climate Change: Towards Net-Zero GHG Emissions’ action plan. As part of this, Marubeni aims to increase their ‘Green Revenue’ to 1.3 trillion yen by 2023 and invest in businesses with low/zero carbon goals. Marubeni have had past interests in the electric vehicle market,  in 2017, the company joined the Hydrogen Council and in 2018 signed a cooperation agreement concerning battery recycling with Northvolt.

The partnership: expanding super batteries in Japan and Asia

In response to Prime Minister Suga’s announcement in October 2020 declaring Japan’s carbon neutrality by 2050, Marubeni were on the search for a company that could enable carbon neutral electrification - one of their key priorities for their net zero plan. 

Being the largest ultracapacitor manufacturer in Europe, as well as having the highest performance level on the market, Skeleton Technologies immediately caught the attention of Marubeni. Masayuki Omoto, COO of the next generation business development division of Marubeni said, ‘Skeleton technologies fit perfectly into our portfolio as they fill the gap for high power, extremely long high cycles and efficient storage devices, the company has validated its competitive advantage in real-life applications and has shown strong commercial traction.’ 

Whilst Skeleton Technologies have a good customer base in Europe, their reach in Asia has been limited. Therefore, the partnership was a complementary match for both parties.

Skeleton Technologies is currently investing in technology development and scaling up a new product line for the automotive sector. The cooperation with Marubeni covers Asia, (excluding China and India) and will offer new resources to commercialize Skeleton’s graphene based super batteries. 

While having a strong focus on the expanding electrified and hydrogen-based transportation market, Skeleton and Marubeni will also cooperate on new applications of Skeleton’s patented curved graphene material, the key enabling technology behind Skeleton’s ultracapacitors’ performance advantage.

In June 2021, Marubeni and Skeleton Technologies signed a distribution agreement making Marubeni the sole distributor of Skeleton Technologies products in Japan and Asia. Sales have recently begun in Japan and are anticipated to take off in the rest of Asia in the near future. 

As a first step, this partnership aims to address the market of industrial clients, such as vehicle manufacturers. Then, as the second step of the strategic plan, Skeleton Technologies ultracapacitors will be deployed by Marubeni in larger scale, infrastructure based projects such as smart cities and distributed energy systems.

Solar farm - Source: Unsplash

Taavi Madiberk, CEO and co-founder of Skeleton Technologies stated: “Marubeni is a major conglomerate keen on advanced technology businesses and now becomes a key strategic partner for Skeleton Technologies. Our cooperation will drive the Asian automotive market’s adoption of our technology in the near future as the cost down will be much faster than for lithium-ion batteries”.

More information

Pictures from: Skeleton Technologies, Reuters, Unsplash

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