But earlier this month came news of a potential game changer, from no less a tech luminary than Bill Joy. A long-time investor in clean tech—for years he was involved in venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins’ ill-fated foray into “green” funding—Joy is now serving on the board of Ionic Materials, a battery-tech company in which he has invested. (His personal investment comes on top of the KP funding he oversaw; he is no longer with the venture firm.) Because of Joy’s earlier history as a legendary computer scientist—a co-founder of Sun, a co-inventor of Java, and a visionary who was working on the Internet of Things two decades ago—his views have weight, separate and apart from his financial interest in the company.
As Joy explains it, Ionic’s innovations combine the advantages of the familiar alkaline batteries we buy at the drugstore (cheap, safe, and reliable) with those of the more expensive, fire-prone lithium batteries in our computers and phones (powerful, rechargeable, and more earth-friendly). He claims Ionic’s new approach is a big step to cheaper, safer, and more efficient batteries will not only power our devices and vehicles, but also enable an “energy internet” based on renewable sources.