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Knoxville-Based Sparkz Is Re-Engineering The Battery Supply Chain For The Future Of Clean Energy

A LaunchTN Portfolio Company: Sparkz is a Knoxville-based startup commercializing the only high energy-density cobalt-free, lithium-ion battery made in America. Sparkz was founded in late 2019 and has completed the transfer of 6 patents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, while continuing its groundbreaking research and development focused on re-engineering the rest of the battery supply chain.

We caught up with the team to learn more about how the company got its start and its current scale-up of innovation in electrochemical energy storage, impacting the landscape of Tennessee and beyond.


What is the mission of Sparkz?

The company’s mission is to re-establish the U.S. Lithium battery supply chain by executing a mine-to-market strategy to develop Gigawatt scale domestic manufacturing of Cobalt-free battery technologies for the global EV market.

Who are the key team members at the organization?

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra, Founder & CEO
Dr. Ali Abouimrane, VP of Research & Development
Antonio Reis, VP of Engineering
Ricahrd Dapadh, VP of Business & Corporate Development
Rick Burkhardt, VP of Finance
Bella Hayes, Head of Accounting
Nicole Slaughter, Business Operations Manager

What inspired you to start the company?

Through his work at DOE, Sanjiv studied the battery supply chain and manufacturing landscape. This is when he learned that the battery supply chain is very fractured and unstable. Sanjiv visited battery material mines all over the world and witnessed firsthand the human rights atrocities taking place in order to mine critical materials like Cobalt. Sanjiv also discovered that the US no longer has domestic battery manufacturing. Our country was completely dependent on foreign source for batteries. This is what inspired Sanjiv to start Sparkz.

What need is EmpowerLocal currently solving or seeking to address?

Sparkz has just announced its 1st Giga factory in West Virginia to create a critically needed first of its kind U.S. cathode and cell production facility to address a $100B market opportunity. Linked here is the event attended by Senator Joe Manchin, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Interior Secretary Deb Halaand and Sparkz CEO Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra.

Could you describe your company in three words?

Agile. Innovative. Growing.

How did you hear about the LaunchTN funding program?

We learned of the LaunchTN Impact Fund through the Knoxville innovation ecosystem and our partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

What do you plan to achieve with this funding? 

Sparkz is expanding its product innovation and validation operations in Knoxville with our LaunchTN funding. This will help Sparkz order critical equipment, move into the space needed, and grow the team to meet customers growing demands.

Key people who helped make the opportunity happen? 

The LaunchTN investment committee and Capital Formation team and East TN ecosystem builders.

Favorite local businesses in your region? 

Honeybee Coffee Co.

Company Snapshot

Date founded: 2019

Company based in: Knoxville, TN

Learn more about the story and mission of Sparkz: sparkz.energy.

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