Magnetic attraction for investors Sumner-based Flux Drive Inc.’s electric motor coupling saves energy

Emily Parkhurst, Puget Sound Business Journal | 5/11/12

Chip Corbin took the childhood game of flipping magnets so they repel each other and turned it into a way for companies and the government to realize dramatic energy savings.

Corbin created a coupling that goes between a motor and whatever that motor is spinning, like a fan or pump, and uses magnets made from rare earth metals that never lose their charge. Using magnets means there are no moving parts, and no friction to cause energy loss.

The Flux Drive also eliminates the peak power demands of many large engines by using a soft-start feature, which works by slowly starting a fan, for instance, and ramping up to its highest speed, rather than trying to start the fan on high speed.

The company is marketing the device for marine motors because, unlike traditional mechanical equipment, the Flux Drive is not affected by harsh environments such as salt water.

Corbin started Flux Drive in 2003; since then, the Sumner-based company has raised $3 million from angel investor groups, including the Northwest Energy Angels and Alliance of Angels.

The company has installed couplings in aquariums and convention centers, and even recently installed a 75-horsepower unit at Boeing.

But, the big installation is yet to come.

“We had a Phase One project with the Navy, and we’re now in a Phase Two project,” said Flux Drive CEO John Keenan.

Flux Drive is building the Navy a 300-horsepower ship saltwater cooling system.

“This will save them a tremendous amount of fuel on the ships where we install this product,” Keenan said.

Keenan said some installations pay for themselves with energy savings in up to seven months, and nearly all installations are paid off in a year.

The company estimates the return on investment for a 100-horsepower, $26,500 Flux Drive is $560,000.

Emily Parkhurst covers the technology industry for the Puget Sound Business Journal/TechFlash.

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