VARTA Microbattery: A German Business in Westchester Dedicated to Reinventing the Battery
The brands with the big ads might still be going and going, but VARTA is shaping the future of long-lasting tech
Varta Microbattery, Inc., a battery design and manufacturing company based in Germany, has maintained a sales-engineering office in Westchester for the past 42 years—first in Elmsford, then White Plains, and, as of March, Rye—but it’s more than likely you’ve never heard of them. “Batteries are everywhere in our life, but we only think about them when things don’t work,” says William Flanagan, president and CEO of VARTA Microbattery USA.
Despite flying under the radar (“We’re an ‘R and D’ company; the marketing component is not really what we do”), VARTA’s success is on par with some of the County’s most prominent businesses. In 2012, its US arm had its best sales year in the last 40, and Flanagan predicts, “We will double in size over the next three years, through the introduction of solar and [battery-powered transportation].”
Now that you know them as a major Westchester player, Flanagan gives us the scoop on how VARTA is juicing up the day-to-day things you care about, like…
The Life of Your Smartphone “Four or five years ago, or before there was an iPhone, you had a flip-phone. That battery stayed charged for three or four days. Now you have to charge everyday. The cameras, the video, the apps—they’re all sucking the life out of the battery. We have people sitting around thinking, ‘How do I make something last longer than it does today?’”
Big-Data Storage “Another challenge is how to design servers that are going to be able to reliably sustain data from the next generation.” Adds Julia Palu, VP-OEM PM, Marketing, Technical, "Part of our mission is to support other technology companies out there, helping them innovate their product by giving them the best power solutions.”
An Easier Commute “We have an alliance with Volkswagen in Germany, working on the next generation of electric-battery vehicles. It seems like America is moving in the direction of e-mobility and electric bikes. With Citi Bike launching its big program in New York City, bicycles are definitely gaining momentum,”
VARTA will formally introduce its lithium-ion power pack for pedelec ("pedal electric") bikes, in collaboration with a bicycle frame manufacturer, at the Interbike Show in Las Vegas this September.
“It’s a pedal assist,” Flanagan explains. “So as you’re riding and you come up against one of those lovely little hills all around here, you turn the motor on and it helps you pedal. It doesn’t propel you on its own, but assists”—at a speed of up to around 30 miles per hour for a duration of approximately 20 miles.
“There’s great science behind the technology. It’s got longevity and is cost-effective for the size of the battery.” Flanagan says there are plans to eventually devise a kit that will adapt the battery pack to ordinary mechanical bikes.