C-Motive Powers Up With $2M to Launch Reimagined Electric Motor

C-Motive Powers Up With $2M to Launch Reimagined Electric Motor

C-Motive Technologies, a small startup in Madison, WI, wants to overhaul the electric motors that power electric vehicles, assembly-line robots, aircraft propellers, and other machines. Now, investors are betting on the company’s vision.

This week, C-Motive announced it closed a $2 million investment led by Prime Impact Fund, a Boston-area fund that invests philanthropic dollars in early-stage technologies that address climate change. Other investors in the deal included Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago-based nonprofit that backs cleantech startups in the Midwest.

The new cash will enable C-Motive to deliver its first product to early customers, the company said in a press release.

For more than a century, electric motors and power generators have been built with the same design and materials—steel, copper coils, and rare earth magnets. C-Motive’s electric motor design replaces those components with lightweight metals, plastics, and dielectric materials. And instead of magnetism, it uses an electrostatic motor design that advances a concept Benjamin Franklin came up with in the mid-18th century.

C-Motive claims its approach can deliver an electric motor that is more powerful and efficient, lighter weight, and less expensive to maintain than standard electric motors. (Read more about the company’s technology in this Xconomy profile from last year. A prototype is pictured above.)

The timing could be right for C-Motive, considering the growing number of electric cars hitting the road and rising investments in industrial robots. And, as the sector focus of C-Motive’s backers indicates, there could be opportunities in clean energy.

“The company could unlock growth in offshore wind generation and wave energy, in addition to a multitude of other applications,” said Johanna Wolfson, principal of Prime Impact Fund and a new C-Motive board member, in a prepared statement. “C-Motive has the most creative answer we’ve seen to solve this problem.”

But it’s certainly not the only company trying to improve electric motor design and performance. Others include Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), the California-based electric carmaker and renewable energy systems developer, and Linear Labs, a Texas-based startup that in March raised $4.5 million in a seed funding round.

C-Motive launched in 2012. Its founders include Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Justin Reed, who serves as president and CEO.

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