Charlotte "Charlie" Hamilton: Innovating Cobalt-Free Car Batteries
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hello! My name is Spiffy, I’m an Interplanetary Journalist and I’ve been speaking with innovators from around the world who are working on UN SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. One of the people responsible for creating innovation in car batteries is Charlotte "Charlie" Hamilton, the CEO of Conamix Inc. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Hi Charlie! It’s wonderful to meet you! So can you tell me about Conamix and the challenges you’re addressing?
Charlie: It’s great to meet you too, Spiffy. At Conamix, we are working to reduce the cost of electric vehicles with low cost battery material that eliminates the need for harmful cobalt to be used in car batteries.
Spiffy: Wow. That’s ambitious! Can you tell me what motivated you to develop this innovation?
Charlie: Well, Spiffy, my career has been about finding innovations in chemistry or biology that make the world a better place, and using the powers of business and start-ups to get them out into the world sooner. I'm motivated to make a difference.
Spiffy: I can feel it, Charlie. Can you say more about how you are working to make the world a more equitable place?
Charlie: By taking innovations in science that allow us to make cheaper car batteries which don't require any cobalt, we can eliminate the need for this chemical in car batteries. Cobalt is a scarce material that is mined in terrible conditions primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Spiffy: Oh wow, I didn’t realize that. This is great news for sure. Can you tell me about a recent initiative that Conamix has embarked on?
Charlie: We've made very high performing lithium sulfur batteries and are on the way to developing performance for our batteries that will allow them to be in every car in the world someday. Using science and business, we're going to be able to eliminate the need for cobalt for car batteries, dramatically lower the overall price for electric cars, and speed the elimination of hydrocarbons as a transportation fuel source.
Spiffy: Now, I have to ask, have you ever faced failure? What did you learn from it?
Charlie: I founded my second company to improve drug delivery to the brain to help cure brain cancer and eliminate HIV infection in the body. The technology worked and was getting better and better, but the business did not work and I was fired by the board of the company that I founded. It was a huge setback as an entrepreneur, but I realized that I love my job and there's nothing better I could be doing with my skills to help make the world a better place. I started my current company, Conamix, to make cheap batteries for cars and now we're celebrating our seven year anniversary as a company and moving towards improved battery performance every day.
Spiffy: What is something unexpected you’ve learned from someone recently?
Charlie: I learned the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset from the worksheet that my daughter, Coco, did in 3rd grade. It hangs on the wall in my CEO office and reminds me and others who work with me how to think big and positive each day.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Charlie: Don't ever give up on finding something that you love and making it your career. Jobs exist out there that can combine your passions and your energy to make the world a better place. Sometimes you have to create them, but jobs you make yourself are sometimes the best ones.
Spiffy: You summed it up perfectly, Charlie! Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring more kids to create their own amazing work. It’s been an honor.
Charlotte “Charlie” Hamilton is the CEO of Conamix Inc, and has led three deep-tech companies, working on a variety of innovations including CO2 polymers (Novomer), drug delivery to the brain (Adenios), and lowering the cost of lithium ion batteries (Conamix). Charlie is a transgender woman and lives in Ithaca, New York. (Nominated by StartOut. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 11, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.