Peoria Company Lighting The Way For Energy Revolution

By WEEK Producer

July 15, 2010 Updated Jan 16, 2009 at 11:55 PM CDT

In an age of cutbacks, plant closings, and rising unemployment it's easy to view the local economy with discontent.

But pockets of prosperity do exist.
Take Firefly Energy, for example.

As America searches for ways to become energy independent, the Peoria start–up is answering the challenge with innovative battery technology and changing the rules of the road.

Hitting the road is more expensive than ever for the nation's truckers.

But new battery technology developed right here in the Heartland could help drivers cut costs while staying cool in their cabs.

"We've got these tanks right here that are filling up with acid."

Look around Peoria's Firefly Energy and you'll see a team of scientists, engineers and technicians thinking outside the box - taking everything out of it, really - like a battery autopsy, discovering what works and what doesn't.

"It's real exciting to come to work every day and know that your work could potentially change the battery marketplace," said Firefly engineering technician Jeremy Aplin.

You see, the lead acid battery market hasn't changed much since it's development in 1859. And that's the problem. The batteries are corrosive, heavy and don't last long.
But Firefly's Microcell foam technology could change all of that.
It's even caught the attention of the U–S military.

"We've put the Firefly 3D technology in these prototypes and based on funding from the military, we're delivering them samples for them to test," said company co-founder Mil Ovan.

Side–by–side comparison tests with competitors show Firefly's lighter weight Microcell foam grid is less corrosive and longer lasting.
We're there as Firefly rolls out the technology on a production line for the first time.

"I haven't been as excited in my career as I am now."

Mil Ovan co–founded Firefly in 2003. He's encouraged by the incoming Obama administration's focus on battery technology.

"They recognize that too much has been spent on fuel cell development and that really hasn't gone anywhere."

Just this week at the Detroit Auto Show Michigan's Governor called on the federal government to invest more in research and development for auto–related alternative energy technologies like batteries for electric cars.

"A lot of these advanced batteries are coming from China and so if we're thinking of reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil, but we're replacing that with batteries from China, we're replacing one energy security risk with another," said Ovan.

The demand for better battery power is so great that Firefly is adding 13–thousand square feet to a facility it just relocated to last Spring.
The company expects to produce 200,000 Oasis truck batteries this year. Ovan says that's just the beginning of what Firefly will do.

Firefly Energy is located on Galena Road in the old Foster and Gallagher building.
It employs 45 people - some from small town mid–America -.others recruited from California's Silicon Valley. It's chief electro chemist relocated to Peoria from Bulgaria.

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