Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

A new startup company will attempt to solve the biggest roadblock facing electric vehicles today–the cost of their batteries.

The new company, called 24M, has been spun out of the advanced battery company A123 Systems. It will develop a novel type of battery based on research conducted by Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science at MIT and founder of A123 Systems. He says the battery design has the potential to cut those costs by 85 percent.

The battery pack alone in many electric cars can cost well over $10,000. Cutting this figure could make electric vehicles competitive with gasoline-fueled cars.

The new company has raised $10 million in venture-capital funding, and about $6 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which will fund collaboration between the company and MIT and Rutgers University. A123 Systems will work closely with the new company, and owns stock in it. The name stands for “24 molar,” referring to material concentration levels that Chiang cryptically calls “technically significant” to the company.

Chiang isn’t saying much about the details of the new battery–such as exactly what materials it’s made of. But he does say that it uses a “semisolid” energy storage material (rather than the solid electrode material used in most batteries today), and that it combines the best attributes of conventional batteries, fuel cells, and something called flow batteries, while avoiding some of the disadvantages of these technologies.

One advantage of lithium-ion batteries–the kind used in laptops, and which will be used in a new wave of electric vehicles coming out starting at the end of the year–is that the electrode materials can store large amounts of energy. But the packaging required to handle that energy takes up a lot of space and adds cost and weight. “In a typical rechargeable battery, only half of it is actual energy-storing materials. The rest is supporting materials,” Chiang says. “That’s a problem I’ve been thinking about for years–how do you improve the efficiency of the design?”

Reducing the amount of materials isn’t easy. To extract useful amounts of electric current from electrode materials, these materials have to be spread in very thin layers over sheets of foil, which take up a lot of volume inside the cell.

13 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Yet-Ming Chiang

Tagged: Business, Energy, electric vehicles, battery, A123 Systems, hybrid, fuel cell, A123, lithium-ion batteries, flow battery, 24M

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me