The design attracted many of the world’s largest consumer electronics and automotive companies’ attention, and Qichao and his team decided to spin off a company to turn this design into a real product and launch it into the mass market. Qichao was suddenly in the spotlight, winning several prestigious national competitions with a future that seemed guaranteed. And then things started to go wrong.
The original team broke up, and then in 2012 the battery industry went into freefall after a series of high-profile Li-ion battery companies filed for bankruptcy in the US. “I was severely depressed,” he recalls. “It really hurt to be meeting potential investors and being turned down. We were told ‘don’t you see what’s happened to this other bankrupt Massachusetts-based battery company? Why would we invest in another Massachusetts based battery company?’.”
A final roll of the dice saw Qichao head to the factories of the A123 battery manufacturer in Massachusetts, which had just filed for bankruptcy. “The offices and factories were deserted. Yet, it was full of all the equipment needed to scale-up my prototype battery for commercial launch. So we scrambled the little resource that we had and built our batteries - and our company - on the ashes of A123.”