The future of vehicles is electric, but one roadblock to the widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles is battery cost. An expensive battery drives up the cost of the vehicle, making it unaffordable for the average consumer, and as much as 50% of electric vehicle cost is due to the battery. But one innovative Southfield startup is looking to change all that.
At Intecells, Inc., CEO and cofounder Xiaohong Gayden and her team are working to reduce the cost of batteries through advanced manufacturing techniques and cold plasma technology to make a more energy-dense, safer and more adaptable battery product for vehicles and other large-format applications.
“We are developing a new way of making lithium-ion batteries,” says Gayden, who has more than 20 years of industry leadership and battery manufacturing research experience. “We don’t make batteries, but we provide the manufacturing technology, the equipment, and the process know-how to companies that make batteries.”
Gayden founded and registered Intecells as an LLC in August 2017. Although she had extensive corporate experience in China working for General Motors and in the UK working for BP, she was unsure about the most effective and efficient ways to build a startup. In September 2018, Gayden attended a battery industry conference in Novi, where she met Shelly Freeman, business and economic development director for the City of Southfield. That one connection linked Gayden with the Centrepolis Accelerator and opened a network of support.
“Shelly introduced me to Ross Sanders, [manager of corporate partnerships] at Lawrence Tech, and Ross led me to [Centrepolis Accelerator leadership] Dan [Radomski] and Mark [Brucki], and it just started snowballing after that,” Gayden says. At the time a single entity with no venture capital backing, Gayden consulted with Centrepolis Accelerator expert-in-residence Lee Gorman, to benefit from her decades of automotive industry experience.
This vital connection to the Centrepolis Accelerator helped Intecells capture a grant from the Small Business Administration’s Business Accelerator Fund. “This helps pay for design resources and our website through third-party providers,” says Gayden. “It pays for the work we must do as a company.”
During this time, Dan Radomski and his team were working to open the Centrepolis Accelerator’s physical location on campus at LTU, and celebrated its grand opening in October 2019. To take advantage of the facility’s coworking spaces, conference rooms and on-site networking, Intecells moved in. “This gave us a physical presence, an office to work in,” Gayden says.
For a permanent home, Intecells has specific facility requirements, including necessary space for a testing lab as well as 480-volt three-phase electric power. Following an exhaustive search of several communities in southeast Michigan, including Novi, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Canton and Plymouth, Gayden identified an ideal location for Intecells right in Southfield, at Melrose and Lahser between 8 Mile Road and 9 Mile Road. Intecells plans to move in later this year.
One of the best parts about the new location is its proximity to LTU, says Gayden. “Because of our deep connection and partnership with LTU, we wanted to stay close to the campus,” she says. “I can see next summer having LTU students as summer interns working on-site. I think LTU is doing a fantastic job in terms of creating graduates and the faculty experiences are more applied and more relevant to the industry, versus the theoretical side. The culture of LTU is what I really like.”
As a company at the intersection of research, technology and manufacturing, Intecells is a strong addition to the Southfield business community, says Freeman. “We welcome Dr. Gayden and her team and are thrilled she has such a strong working relationship with the Centrepolis Accelerator and with LTU faculty. Intecells is just the right type of business to contribute to Southfield’s growing base of technology industries at the very top of forward-thinking Michigan businesses,” Freeman says.
Right now, Gayden is working hard to spread the word about Intecells and develop strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations. She says the future of transportation relies on batteries, and Michigan is the right place for this technology to grow and develop. “The more quickly the industry can find the expertise and the resources, the faster we can get to that future. We want people to know we are here and want to work with them. Startups and mature companies — wherever there is mutual interest — we can grow together as part of the manufacturing base,” she says.
From a partnership perspective, Gayden says the Centrepolis Accelerator has been instrumental in making meaningful connections to help establish Intecells here in Michigan.
“The Centrepolis Accelerator has introduced me to so many people,” says Gaden. “Some turn out to be great business partners, help to get funding, or just spread the word about our business.
Entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes are encouraged to learn more about the Centrepolis Accelerator. Visit www.centrepolisaccelerator.com or call 248-204-2452.