Monday, Feb. 15, 2016 | 2 a.m.
While Tesla was making international news by choosing Nevada for its $5 billion battery manufacturing plant, a homegrown battery company has quietly been crafting a remarkable success story.
K2 Energy Solutions started in 2006 in a tiny office in the Henderson Business Resource Center, which provides work space and business guidance for startups. Today, K2 Energy Solutions is an international company that boasts a workforce of 80 in its U.S. operation and is building manufacturing plants in Henderson and China.
“At the outset, it was four other guys and me working on card tables in a room about twice the size of this one,” said Mark Stoker, one of K2’s founding partners, from a conference room at the company’s headquarters at 7461 Eastgate Road in Henderson. “When we moved to our second building (on American Pacific Drive), our square footage quadrupled. This building doubled that, and our new facility here in Henderson will double it again.”
Barbra Coffee, director of economic development and tourism for the city of Henderson, called K2 “a true Henderson success story.”
“They are a valuable asset to our business community, and their exponential growth locally and internationally in such a brief period of time is remarkable,” Coffee said. “Our goal is to see more technology jobs in Henderson, and K2 Energy Solutions helps pave the way for this with its innovative and highly skilled workforce.”
K2 still isn’t Tesla in size and scope, but the companies have more in common than making batteries in the same state. In the same legislation that provided $1.3 billion in incentives for construction of the Tesla Gigafactory in Northern Nevada, K2 received a scaled-down set of incentives to build its manufacturing facility in Henderson.
“In other words, at the same time Tesla got the (Tesla) Gigafactory, K2 got its megafactory,” Stoker said.
The heart of K2’s growth is a lithium battery that’s chemical formula and design make it light and long-lasting. K2 says its products are more environmentally friendly than traditional lead-acid batteries — such as those found in most cars — and are safer than the lithium-ion batteries that power a great deal of electronic equipment. Those batteries can overheat and ignite, as occurred recently when a number of lithium battery-powered hoverboards caught fire.
K2’s design has attracted an array of customers, including the Department of Defense and manufacturers of outdoor equipment. The military uses the company’s batteries in high-tech Navy railguns, which launch guided projectiles at speeds up to 5,600 mph — up to three times faster than rocket-propelled missiles.
In November, K2 played a role in the successful test of a rocket designed by private aerospace firm Blue Origin, a competitor of Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation. The rocket, with avionics and hydraulics systems powered by K2 batteries, traveled to space and made a vertical landing, allowing the booster to be reused.
“(Blue Origin) beat SpaceX by about a month” on a similar test, Stoker said.
But not all of K2’s batteries are used in space-age technology. One of its newest products is used in trolling motors for fishing boats. The batteries allow boaters stay on the water longer.
Stoker said the idea for the boat battery came from a supplier who fishes.
“We’re always having customers contacting us and suggesting ideas,” he said. “They can think of ways to use our batteries that we haven’t come up with. One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we listen to our customers.”