Literally a garage start-up turned full-fledged company boasting a multi-million euro turnover. Thanks to investment in research and development: to offer a different product, more innovative than the competition’s.
The automotive industry is facing a serious crisis following the Covid-19 emergency but things are definitely looking different for electric vehicles and industrial machines. According to the 2020 E-Mobility report, electric and hybrid vehicles account for 15% of today’s vehicle market. What’s more: “The electrification sector continued to operate even during the lockdown and is growing”, stated Marco Righi, CEO and founder of Flash Battery, a company based in Calerno Sant’Ilario d’Enza (Reggio Emilia province), Italy that since 2012 has been manufacturing lithium batteries for electric vehicles and industrial machines requiring a higher level of customisation. Therefore, the sector still has plenty of room for growth in the future. This also thanks to made in Italy technology, which is offering something very different than what we are used to and have come to expect from a battery.
Flash Battery batteries weigh about one-third less than lead batteries and take less time to charge. Thanks to fast charge technology, they charge to 50% capacity in just 25 minutes. They can be customised with solutions designed based on the customer’s use and application through a process that goes from design to production through to installation. “Our patent-pending battery management system (BMS) makes it possible to remotely monitor the state of the batteries and, because they are highly reliable, the customer no longer needs to worry about maintenance”, explained Righi.
The innovative technology has led Flash Battery to become one of the 17 companies and research bodies selected by the European Commission within the context of the IPCEI project supporting battery research and innovation, in line with the commitments undertaken in the Paris agreement. These companies, 5 of which are Italian, have been given the task to develop innovative lithium-ion battery technologies to extremely high standards in terms of cost, performance and safety not currently available in the market. “Flash Battery uses a fully proprietary management system that sends operating data to the Flash Data Center and to the end user, who can respond immediately to any issues that arise”, continued the CEO, “in this way, assistance can be provided by anyone remotely”. The remote monitoring system analyses the data received daily and reports any warnings, faults or user misuse to the Flash Battery Service unit. This makes timely action possible, which is extremely beneficial in preventing malfunctions.
From start-up to full-fledged company
Flash Battery began working with solutions for the automotive industry and over time brought its focus to the sector of industrial machines and vehicles. The company, which now boasts sales of 13 million euros and a team of 52 persons, came about in an unusual and somewhat unexpected way: “My father had a small business that manufactured high-frequency battery chargers. In the 80s, the technology was completely new and the market was small. It wasn’t until the 2000s that the company witnessed an expansion, reaching a yearly output of 60,000 units. I’ve always had a love for electronics so with my friend and current partner, Alan Pastorelli, we would build control units to sync strobe lights to music during parties. From the age of fifteen, I was hired by the company every summer to help out in the repair department. It was the perfect job to learn the rudiments and I dreamed about growing the company with my father”.
Then, in 2006, the unexpected happened. “I was with a Californian customer to talk about some battery chargers we were developing and received a telephone call from my father, who announced he had sold the company”, Marco said. That was a cold shower for the young man, who had his dreams shattered. “I decided to quit my job and take up a degree as soon as possible. When I completed my studies, I went to work for a couple of years as a business specialist at a training school. My passion, however, never waned and during my free time, I would give a hand installing alarm systems”, continued the CEO. “In 2009, when visiting a friend who manufactured industrial vehicles, I got to see some China-made lithium batteries for the first time. They were low quality”.
At that moment, the light bulb lit up: “My thought was that if I solved the technical problems, I could bring innovation to all industrial applications. I started in my garage, analysing and experimenting”, continued Righi. “The challenge was finding a new technology for lithium batteries and providing them with a built-in control and management system. This study and research work lasted two and a half years before giving life to Flash Battery in 2012”. The system was innovative, different than the competition’s, because it was able to keep the cells balanced even in bigger, high-performance battery packs.
“The first orders started to arrive. I still remember the first real application for a Korean multinational which had asked us to electrify a combustion engine Alfa Mito in which the petrol part had been removed. Gradually, other customers came, always from the automotive sector, and in 2013, we began to work with Elettric80, which is now a shareholder. In January 2012, soon after opening the company, we received a big order from China that also earned us a record: we electrified a Fiat Multipla that ran 800 km at a speed of 80 km/h on one charge”, remembers the CEO. “Our sales jumped from 2 million to 13 million euros in just 3 years. Today we boast a team of 52 persons and despite the economic crisis we are facing, and will face, we will close next year with a turnover of 18/19 million euros. Besides our passion, which has always driven us to look ahead, and the profound trust in what we do, I believe that the key to our success was thinking about our business not as a start-up but as an industry”.
The battery market
“Today we supply to various industrial sectors: from airport to waste collection and agriculture through to the application of our batteries on aerial platforms, ships, cranes and robots”, continues the CEO. “We mainly work in the European market – in Italy, Germany and France – and in the Benelux area. We have signed partnerships with system integrators based in these areas. Over the next two years, we plan to continue expanding our presence in Europe and after that tackle the global market. Indirectly, our batteries are present in 54 countries worldwide and our interconnection with the university world is growing”.
We’re always careful not to lose sight of innovation and research as fundamental elements of our present and future business. With sales growing and important contracts being closed, we recently inaugurated our new headquarters in Reggio Emilia and we are continuing to scout for top talents to hire, even at this particular time for the Italian and world economy: “Flash Battery will continue to invest in Research & Development”, concludes the CEO, “in order to develop increasingly cost-effective, smaller and lighter batteries over time”. And, with the ambition to remain a top player in the sector, as it is today at a continental level, thanks to made in Italy innovation.