A Cambridge University start-up pioneering new technology it says could help deliver self-charging trains, e-ferries and enhance grid-scale energy storage has received funding from the US.

Battery materials supplier Echion Technologies, born in the labs of the University of Cambridge Engineering Department in 2017, has secured the "significant" funding from US investor Volta Energy Technologies.

Echion is pioneering a new type of battery anode made from niobium, a metal most commonly found in Brazil – where the company is partnering with a miner on sourcing the material – and used in alloys, tools and superconductive magnets.

The start-up says that its anode delivers a combination of high safety, extreme fast-charge and discharge capability, and very long cycle-life.

The company says its new anode could therefore be used to significantly upgrade lithium-ion batteries, which dominate the global energy storage industry.

The batteries are also commonly used in electric vehicles, but Echion says they lack the charge-speed and cycle-life requirements needed to achieve widespread acceptance in markets like micro-transport, rail and e-ferries.

Echion is therefore targeting its technology at those sectors, also claiming the anodes could have grid-scale energy storage applications.

The company won UK government funding last year with its proposal to use the tech to create train batteries that can charge from overhead wires and then run in battery-only mode to “leapfrog” unelectrified sections of a route. The government had been running a competition focused on new concepts that will transform rail travel.

Jean de La Verpilliere, co-founder and CEO of Echion Technologies, said his company is “now on the cusp of reaching mainstream market at scale, and Volta’s investment is a great validation of the work accomplished to date.”

Together with Echion’s partnership with Brazilian niobium miner CBMM, he said the investment will enable the company to widen and accelerate the adoption of its technology, “enabling our customers to produce safer, faster-charging, and longer-life batteries.”

Jeff Chamberlain, CEO and Founder of Volta Energy Technologies, said: “The industrial and off-highway transportation sector is a significant portion of the global energy transition, and Echion's product uniquely unlocks performance in lithium-ion batteries that can meet the precise demands of these applications.”

Volta has provided funding to a range of energy storage start-ups, including Switzerland-based Energy Vault, which recently debuted its gravity energy storage system in China.