Another Granholm Green Energy Winner That Was A Bust
$50 million taxpayer dollars down the tubes
A company called Sakti3 was dubbed a Center of Energy Excellence in 2010 by Michigan officials who gave it millions of taxpayer dollars to develop green energy products. Like many other companies that received favors during the tenure of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, it did not enjoy great success.
Sakti3 was actively promoted by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation under Granholm, who is now the U.S. secretary of energy. The company’s stated goal was to create solid-state batteries for appliances and electric vehicles. The batteries were said to be safer than lithium cells, have a longer lifespan and be more environmentally friendly.
But after 13 years, $50 million in taxpayer subsidies (according to Venture Beat) and a $90 million corporate buyout, the company’s run appears to have ended.
The company was a partner with the University of Michigan and received a $3 million grant from the state agency in charge of delivering corporate subsidies. It also received several rounds of additional funding from General Motors, Itochu Technology Ventures and Dyson, in the pursuit of next-generation lithium batteries.
Ann Sastry, founder of Sakti3, was a University of Michigan professor from 1995 to 2012. She was invited to meet with President Barack Obama at a White House event called Demo Day, which celebrated entrepreneurs. Fortune magazine said that Sakti3 might achieve the “Holy Grail of power storage.”
Though the firm received abundant hype over prospect of doubling the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, there was controversies and doubts from the start. After Dyson bought the company for $90 million, industry professionals eventually began to question claims made by Sakti3.
The business news site Quartz wrote, “The energy-density breakthrough she described that day at the White House may have been achieved at lab scale, but she has offered little substantiation of this.”
The publication also reported that Sastry’s promises were met with skepticism from experts after a battery cell tested for the U.S. Department of Energy failed to replicate the success she claimed to have achieved.
Quartz went so far as to say, “In an industry riven with exaggeration and outright lying, Sastry’s resistance to sharing even seemingly innocuous performance data – including with her own employees – has prompted suspicion that she is evasive for reasons no more complicated than that she has little impressive to disclose.”
The suspicions appeared to be validated when in 2018 an electric industry publication reported that Dyson wrote off over 51 million euros ($60 million as of this writing) on its investment in Sakti3.
Like many of Granholm’s Michigan green energy ventures, the company, after an initial flurry of publicity, fell off the media’s radar.
“Attracting and growing alternative energy companies is a key part of our comprehensive plan to create jobs and diversify Michigan’s economy,” Granholm said in a 2008 press release. “These companies are a great example of how our focus on alternative energy is creating new jobs and propelling our state to the forefront of this industry.”
The press release stated Sakti3 would create 230 new jobs.
The only recent news of Sakti3 was a June 23 article published by IDtechex.com, which states, “Although in 2017, Bosch gave up SEEO and was selling the company, and Dyson abandoned the technologies of Sakti3, the interest in solid-state batteries never vanished.”
Dyson did not respond to a request for comment.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.