Sparkz Inc. wins BRIDGE Grant from CEC to demonstrate feasibility of cobalt-free solid-state battery

The following article was published in October, 2021.


Battery startup incubated by US DOE, with exclusive licenses to produce domestic cobalt-free lithium battery, wins prestigious Bringing Rapid Innovation Development to Green Energy (BRIDGE) grant from CEC; rewarded $2.6 million for the first phase of work.   


KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Sparkz Inc., the battery startup with exclusive licenses from to produce domestic cobalt-free lithium battery, has won a prestigious grant for $2.6 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to extend its development into solid-state batteries. The solid-state technology has been exclusively licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. CEC funded the full amount possible for the first phase of the grant and will help Sparkz bridge the gap from their previous public funding awards to private investment.  

The CEC funding will help Sparkz begin to engineer its solid state, cobalt-free battery in the U.S. According to CEC, the funding’s purpose is to help the most promising energy technology start-ups mobilize more early-stage capital alongside investors and commercial partners.   

Sparkz will be announcing its private sector investors, customers and OEM partnerships in the near future.  

Founded by industry veteran and former U.S. Department of Energy executive Sanjiv Malhotra, Sparkz will begin commercialization of a cobalt-free, American-made Lithium-ion battery, while continuing its groundbreaking research and development focused on re-engineering the rest of the battery supply chain.   

“The California Energy Commission’s funding to Sparkz is an important step towards our mission to re-engineer the battery supply chain,” said Malhotra. “The California Energy Commission understands that to challenge China’s domination of next-gen battery production, and reach America’s clean energy potential, we need to build sustainable battery facilities in the U.S. Sparkz is quickly approaching this goal and putting Americans to work.”  

The company’s first commercial product will eliminate Cobalt, traditionally used in the cathode of a lithium battery, with the objective of reducing the cost of lithium battery production in the U.S., while also eliminating a primary environmental concern, and reducing chokepoints created by a foreign supply-chain.    

Sparkz will begin pilot testing with its OEM partners in early 2022. Its initial research shows the ability to reduce the cost of cell manufacturing by about 40%, while maintaining energy density and cycle-life comparable to chemistries that utilize cobalt. Sparkz is also evaluating locations for its first manufacturing facility in the United States to scale their licensed battery technologies to meet the demands of its existing customers in the mobility and grid sectors.  

The company also believes it is in the best position to meet four of the five goals from the recently released National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, which calls for eliminating Nickel and Cobalt from Lithium batteries by 2030 to develop “a stronger, more secure and resilient supply chain.”   

Sparkz was founded in late 2019 and has been in innovation mode. Sparkz has completed the transfer of 6 patents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which continues to be an R&D partner.  In addition to being 100% Cobalt-free, the patents also reduce production time significantly and enhance battery performance.

Copyright © Sparkz Inc. 2023

Founder & CEO

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra is the founder and CEO of Sparkz—the battery start-up reinventing the energy supply chain.


Malhotra has been a leader in the energy sector for nearly three decades as a founder, investor and executive. Most recently, he served as the inaugural director for the Energy Investor Center at the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), serving under both Democratic and Republican administrations.


At DOE, Malhotra led the Obama Administration’s initiative to boost public-private partnerships to accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed in national research centers like Oak Ridge National Labs.


Malhotra was recruited to the Department of Energy after a successful exit of Oorja Protonics—the world leader in methanol fuel cells—which he founded and led as CEO for 10 years. Oorja raised $50 Million in equity financing from leading VCs such as Sequoia, DAG Ventures, Artis Capital and others during his tenure. He boosted Oorja’s revenue and profitability growth, while expanding operations globally in Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, and India.


Oorja was acquired in 2014 by the Private Equity firm MinXing Growth Fund.


As an investor and consultant, Malhotra has worked at leading venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers as an advisor on clean energy and advanced materials.


Earlier in his career, Malhotra led the engineering and product development team at H Power, a pioneer in hydrogen fuel cells. As part of the management team, he managed the successful IPO, which raised more than $100 million in August 2000.


He began his career as a post-doctoral fellow at the renowned Lawrence Berkeley National Labs on electrochemical storage systems. Dr. Malhotra has authored seven patents and more than 40 publications in various fields of energy storage technology and materials. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering and an M.B.A from University of Iowa.