KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A company that aims to “transform the car industry” is expanding into Knoxville.
Safire Technology Group announced it’s opening a new lab at the University of Tennessee Spark Innovation Center off of Alcoa Highway. The company hopes to make electric vehicle batteries safer using technology invented at Oak Ridge National Lab. The new location was chosen to help the company to build on its partnership with ORNL and the University of Tennessee.
The technology is called SAFe Impact Resistant Electrolyte (SAFIRE). It’s a drop-in safety additive for lithium-ion batteries that apparently prevents fire and explosion if an electric vehicle crashes. According to Safire, it does that by turning from liquid to solid when a kinetic impact happens.
“Just as when airbags came out, everybody said why aren’t airbags in every single car? And right now electric vehicles, they are at risk of catching on fire and exploding on any kinetic impact and I think everyone will say why isn’t Safire in every single car electric vehicle car,” said John Lee, CEO & co-founder of Safire Technology Group.
The company commercialized in November and cut the ribbon on its new lab in Knoxville on Tuesday, Jan. 24. It will house Safire Group’s Research and Development Division which will work to further innovate its patented Safire additive.
“I am excited to welcome Safire Group to Knox County,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “Not only will the group be an asset in retaining and attracting talent for our workforce, this announcement is a tangible example of the importance of our innovation engines—in this case, ORNL and the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm—working with the private sector to bring quality jobs and economic opportunity to the Knox County area.”
“Safire Group’s move to the Spark Innovation Center in Knoxville is another big win for our city and this entire region,” said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “This cleantech company perfectly complements our efforts to make it easy, safe, and affordable for individuals and businesses to switch to electric vehicles, making our air cleaner and our city more resilient.”
The Spark Innovation Center focuses on developing entrepreneurship and helping technology-based startups grow. According to Safire, leasing space in the facility is highly competitive and their selection “confirms the company’s progress and capabilities in the battery innovation industry.”
“The Spark Innovation Center focuses on helping our region’s most promising technology companies gain traction and grow in Tennessee,” said University of Tennessee Research Park President and CEO Tom Rogers. “We are delighted that another cleantech company has decided to call the Research Park and Knoxville home as Safire Group works to commercialize ORNL technology.”
The long-term goal is for the company to partner with lithium-ion battery companies, many of which have facilities in East Tennessee.