Skeleton was founded in 2009 as a spin out of an Estonian research institute looking at 3D carbon materials and energy storage for clients such as Samsung SDI and Toyota for storing hydrogen.
“We made the choice early on to focus on the application that was closest to commercialisation which was ultracapacitors,” he said. “We put the focus on ultracapacitor materials with the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of our first customers in 2011, and then we moved up the value chain from materials to cells to management systems and now we for example in the UK with Sainsburys supermarket we have a full system.”
“Now we are over 90 strong with two main locations, in Estonia for cell assembly and R&D and manufacturing in Germany which increases our capacity to 4m cells a year,” he said.
“Our customer base is mostly focussed on transportation and industrial equipment and we see very strong market pull and we have the manufacturing capability to fulfil these orders – we are the only ultracapacitor company to have the whole chain,” he added. “We have our own curved graphene material. Most manufacturers use activated carbon made from coconut and the ash content and variability is quite high so we decided to go a different route. We synthesise curved hexagonal structures from inorganic materials to form the ultracapacitor.”
Rather than licensing the technology, Skeleton decided to produce it themselves, building cells and modules, which meant thinking carefully about how the material could be used in production. “This is the key to our advantage - that we use a different type of material and we found a way to scale it.”
“Together with partners we have developed production equipment by ourselves which was a key part of the development. It’s a composite which makes it scalable without separate aluminium layers and that has allowed us to scale the material parts with competitive costs. That’s where the company started,” he said.
The vertical model from material to system only works for some markets such as hybrid electric buses and full electric buses, he said.