Batteries 24M lithium ion battery

Published on June 23rd, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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New Lithium-Ion Sneak Attack On Tesla Battery From 24M Startup… With Roots In Fuel Cells & Flow Batteries

June 23rd, 2015 by  

They say bad things come in threes, so this might not be the last word, but for the second time in just a few days, we’ve gotten wind of an overlooked startup company that aims to give the much-publicized Tesla battery a run for the money. This time it’s the “stealth” company 24M Technologies, which just yesterday announced a new lithium-ion battery that it’s calling a semisolid lithium-ion cell.

24M lithium ion battery

Solving The Grand Challenge Of Energy Storage

When we see “revolutionary” in a press release we have to put stoppers under our eyeballs to keep them from rolling, but 24M developed its “revolutionary technology” with the support of the Energy Department’s cutting-edge funding agency, ARPA-E, so there’s that.

The new 24M semisolid lithium-ion cell tackles a major challenge to the mass adoption of electric vehicles, which is the high cost of lithium-ion batteries. 24M claims that its new battery can be produced for half the cost of a conventional battery.

To get there, 24M ran a soup-to-nuts overhaul of the battery cell design, in combination with a new approach to manufacturing.

The result, the company claims, is better performance as well as significantly lower cost.

To be specific, the company is aiming for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour once the process is fully ramped up, by 2020.

Not for nothing, but 24M couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the Tesla Motors much-publicized Gigafactory in its press materials, along with flow battery technology, too:

Until now, the energy storage field has had two options to try to drive down costs – build massive and complex factories to produce lithium-ion batteries in high volumes or pursue entirely new chemistries that may never move from the lab to the commercial floor.

Just yesterday we noticed that the flow battery startup UET had also taken a poke at Tesla, and it seems that 24M is ready to take on both of them.



 

Secret Sauce For A New Lithium-Ion Battery

The key to the whole thing is something 24M calls a semisolid thick electrode. It increases the thickness of the “active” layer in a lithium-ion by about five times.

That thicker layer improves storage capacity, while eliminating about 80% of the supporting structure that stabilizes multiple layers within a conventional lithium-ion cell.

To put the whole thing together, 24M came up with a new approach to manufacturing that takes a matter of hours, compared to days for conventional lithium-ion batteries. The new process eliminates a number of conventional steps including binding, drying, and solvent recovery.

24M, Meet Local Motors

One electric vehicle trend we’ve been following over the past year or so is the emergence of small-scale, localized manufacturing facilities.

That trend is being encouraged by the Obama Administration through the Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing office. It dovetails with the 3-D printing trend, as epitomized by another company supported by ARPA-E, the 3-D printed EV specialists Local Motors.

That brings us back around to 24M, which claims that a factory to produce the new battery would cost about one-tenth the cost of a conventional factory.

According to 24M, the modular, flexible process enables cost-effectiveness even at low volumes, and the absence of solvents makes it “the most easily recycled lithium-ion cell ever made.”

Group Hug For US Taxpayers

Yes, we built this. 24M is not shy about touting its support from the Energy Department, through ARPA-E (that stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, btw).

This is where the fuel cell and flow battery come in. The nut of the new technology goes back to 2010, when ARPA-E provided a grant of almost $6 million to 24M for a project titled “Semi-Solid Flowable Battery Electrodes,” aimed at both electric vehicle batteries and grid energy storage.

At the time, according to ARPA-E, the typical lithium-ion battery for EVs was pretty much the same technology as that used in small mobile devices like phones and laptops, with a financially practical driving range limited to about 100 miles.

As for expense, a typical lithium-ion battery for EVs generally accounted for more than half the overall cost of the vehicle.

ARPA-E was looking for companies that could double the energy storage at 30% of the cost, and they tapped 24M to do the job.

As described by ARPA-E, the 24M project consists of a lithium-ion battery crossed with a fuel cell, incorporating the basic structure of a flow battery:

This system relies on some of the same basic chemistry as a standard Li-Ion battery, but in a flow battery the energy storage material is held in external tanks, so storage capacity is not limited by the size of the battery itself. The design makes it easier to add storage capacity by simply increasing the size of the tanks and adding more paste. In addition, 24M’s design also is able to extract more energy from the semi-solid paste than conventional Li-Ion batteries.

This would be a good time to mention that 24M is a spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here’s how MIT described the new lithium-ion battery in a 2011 article:

The new battery relies on an innovative architecture called a semi-solid flow cell, in which solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system. In this design, the battery’s active components — the positive and negative electrodes, or cathodes and anodes — are composed of particles suspended in a liquid electrolyte. These two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a filter, such as a thin porous membrane…

Now might also be a good time to point out that in addition to funding from ARPA-E, 24M has also been supported by the agency that inspired ARPA-E. That would be DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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Image (screenshot) courtesy of 24-M.


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Richard Head

    Assuming Tesla becomes a battery chemistry slut, where does Panasonic fit into all of this?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Only the lawyers know for sure….

  • eveee

    Tesla is not trying to corner the battery technical market. They don’t need to. They have the most volume. Battery developers come to them to pitch their wares. No need to worry about that. They are the game. They will just adapt their battery production to whatever comes along.

  • Shaun McNulty

    There is only one thing that matters what Tesla will be able to make the batteries for. The price currently has to be near the $200 kwh right now for them to sell the powerwall. This is before enlarging the battery and 30% savings for the gigafactory

    • Bob_Wallace

      Last October the price was $180/kWh. 30% should get the price below $130/kWh and make for some sweet Tesla prices.

  • Arthur H

    I don’t even know where to begin…? Who is writing these articles…?

  • eveee

    Several problems with this article. It joins a long list of competitors with me too aspirations and the idea that Tesla is tied to one battery chemistry and source. They are not. Neither are the other battery companies.
    Needless to say, a company can fail for many reasons with or without the best technology. This company claims $100/kwhr by 2020. Let’s compare.
    Raw cell prices for the PowerWall must already be considerably below $200/kwhr today, to be sold to utilities at $250/kwhr retail in enclosure with BMS and Dc-DC.
    Likely, Tesla will be at $100/ kwhr in volumes from the GigaFactory by then or earlier.
    This company is unlikely to be able to capitalize and build mass production on its own. That means most likely, it needs a partner.
    Wonder who that might be?
    The entire premise of a small company prevailing over the large ones is unlikely. Then there is their predecessor, A123, failure as an example. You need more than tech to succeed.

  • nullbull

    The only advantage Tesla has left is that they have a proven business model of actually delivering transformational technology to the market, in the real world, today. Oh, wait… that’s actually kinda huge.

  • Johnny Le

    How is this a bad thing? Unless 24M refuses to work with Tesla, I don’t see how this is bad news. From the article I gather that it can be produced cheaper and can store more energy, but can it be charged and discharged faster as well? If it takes too long to charge, it may not be very useful.

  • nakedChimp

    There is no mentioning of the SEI and the associated problems for those thick electrode cells from M24.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    Very interesting. Sounds promising off the top, but we’ll see. This says “improved performance”, but there’s no information on DoD or Cycle Life.

  • Bob_Wallace

    What do I think?

    Clickbait headline. That’s what I think.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      yes, she did!

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’m not sure authors write their headlines. They may suggest, but headlines are controlled by the powers that be….

        • Matt

          So who are the PTB at Cleantechnia? Because head line have gone down hill in the last 2 years. With the number of “repeated”post I was assuming there was a group of approve authors self posting and doing the headlines.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Better ask Zack that question. ;o)

            Let’s say, most of the time it’s no longer Zach writing headlines, I think. I’m not involved with the editorial process except for forwarding complaints about typos and the ever popular electricity/energy kerfuffle.

        • Matt

          On a different note Bob, what tool are you using to formant your post with graphs. I haven’t had much luck with mine.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I do all my graphing in Google Spreadsheets. I set up the data page and then use that to create a chart (as they call it). Then I save the chart as an image in my image files and just add them on via the Upload Images icon in the bottom left.

            I’ve started saving my images on Google Drive so that I can access them from any computer and don’t have various versions floating around.

            There are certainly better graphing packages, but GD does the basic stuff that I produce.

  • Brett

    The title is is quite misleading. This is a company without any established commercial infrastructure. The leap from product development to commercialization is very significant, this company is talking 5 years down the road. By that time Tesla could be a very entrenched player in energy storage, and if they aren’t there are tons of other companies who could be.

    • Bob_Wallace

      When one considers all the money being spent on battery research and all the high powered labs working to find new approaches I expect we’ll see many ideas coming out of labs over the coming years. I’d be surprised if Tesla (or any other EV manufacturer) is using today’s batteries five years from now.

      That assumes a better battery appears soon. Assuming a new battery exits the lab for real world testing today. It could take a couple of years to adequately prove it out. Then another couple years to design, test and produce a new EV model to use that battery if it isn’t a ‘drop in’ replacement for current batteries.

  • Matt

    If we are going to need 100s of gig factories worth of batteries for EV and grid storage. Then one more start up has no impact on any of the players. They “project” based on “modeling” a cost of $100/kwh by 2020. Hope they and several others launch real products with massive price drops; that serve each of the many market segments. But until you get at least a pilot production line running, it is all just estimate.

    • Marion Meads

      There is an impact on profits as the other companies will try to undercut each other in terms of prices. Tesla has released the first salvo about their price for the Powerall and the much overhyped and now officially delayed Model 3.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Marion’s got her bile on full boil this morning….

        • Arthur H

          No she’s spot on. Read through her comments she has a good grasp of logic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s logical to hate on Tesla because they aren’t producing a new model as fast as they first thought they would be able to?

          • eveee

            So prove her right. Show an official Model 3 delay.

      • Keith

        Not official

        Contrary to speculative blogger reports, we still plan to show Model 3 in 2016 and begin production in 2017.— ricardo reyes (@ricardor) June 22, 2015

        • Marion Meads

          Showing and production dates are different than selling dates. There’s a gap of time that needs to be filled out people. It is called production of fleet of mules and testing then refining then readjustment of manufacturing. From show and tell to selling an actual usable NHTSA approved car, 2018 is very optimistic. So officially Tesla admits that they are delayed and it’s an impressive track record of delays and excuses. Tesla Model S-O-X, where O is overhyped or overrated stock value. Wanna bet that many “excuses” and “alibis” will be acceptable to their fans and then Tesla will use some creative fancy speak for delays of the Model 3? The 3 does not exist, meanwhile, Tesla SOX.

          P.S. I TOLD YOU SO!

          • Bob_Wallace

            What is the history of Tesla’s predictions about the ModS release?

            Here’s what I find…

            May 10, 2010-

            “*Autopia* has brought a healthy dose of skepticism to the claims that Tesla will
            be delivering the Model S sedan to customers by 2012. ”

            The first ten customers received their cars at the Fremont factory on June 22, 2012 at the official launch.

            The first definition of the word “by” in the Merriam Webster dictionary is ” in proximity to”. Third definition down is “not later than” and “during the course of”. I don’t see a definition where by means before.

            Did Tesla promise the ModS in 2011 or earlier?

            (I know the Roadster was knocked off schedule because the company that contracted to build the drivetrain delivered an inadequate product.)

            Here’s what I found for the Mod3…

            July 2014

            “Late Tuesday night, Tesla Motors confirmed that
            a third-generation car called the Model III will be coming in 2017. ” http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2014/07/16/a-35000-tesla-model-iii-is-coming-in-2017/
            July, 2014

            “Tesla’s Elon Musk has revealed his company’s plans to take on compact executive cars, such as the BMW 3-series and i3, with the Tesla Model 3. The all-electric Model 3 (which was originally going to be called the Model E) will be around 20% smaller than the Model S, and will have a shorter range of around 200 miles — but it will have “strong performance” like the Model S and start at just $35,000 (the Model S starts at around $70,000).

            If everything goes to plan, the design of the Model 3 will be unveiled in 2016, and will go on sale in 2017. ”
            http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/186382-tesla-announces-the-model-3-at-half-the-price-of-the-model-s-tesla-wants-to-take-evs-mainstream
            Where can one find a statement from Tesla that the Mod3 would be introduced before 2016?

          • RobS

            There’s a difference between your made up BS FUD and “Officially Delayed” to be officially delayed the company must announced a delay, Tesla has not done this, therefore you have just lied.

          • eveee

            She jumped the shark from rumors to reality and filled in the gaps with rationalization about production ramps.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Where can one find a statement from Tesla that the Mod3 would be introduced before 2016?

    • Agreed. JB has already stated in numerous interviews he would be disappointed if Tesla battery costs weren’t at $100/kWh by 2020. 24M is already behind Teslas projections.

  • This should be great news for Tesla. It shouldn’t marry itself to a technology or technology type, but become a conglomeration of technologies for low to zero ghg emitting modes of transportation. Basically Sloan did this with GM by gobbling up independent automobile companies. Obviously things got out of hand when later GM bought Electronic Data Systems (EDS – Ross Perot’s company) and Hughes Satellite and a bunch of other non physical transportation ventures.

    For instance, instead of putting all their eggs into one or a few baskets, Tesla may just developed standards on a focussed line of vehicles. Then put out a request for proposals to suppliers with a simple performance standard: “technology must cost this amount to achieve that.”

    • Mike Dill

      Tesla has already stated that part of the gigafactory will be used for pilot-line development. New materials and chemistries exist, and will be tested. They have as much as said that the chemistry for stationary will be different than the chemistry needed for vehicles.

    • Marion Meads

      Or they could be the head of a conglomerate which will then control and dictate the prices. Make sure we will have anti-trust issues resolved in such arrangements.

  • beernotwar

    Since this new process comes from public research, what’s to stop Tesla from using the same research to modify their process and start producing similar batteries at the Gigafactory? Isn’t the research in the public domain?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Findings will almost certainly be patented.

      The issue could be whether one company (or a small number of companies) might gain control over the patent and freeze other manufacturers out or whether the patent owners would license it to anyone interested.

      I’m pretty sure one cannot patent materials. Other companies could then use the same materials and change the mix a bit or change the manufacturing process some and possibly skirt the patent.

    • Marion Meads

      Then there is that exclusivity licensing clause for some parts of the publicly funded IP development from ARPA-E, and also other major parts of the IP that was developed by the company on top of the base publicly funded but now licensed research work. And then there is that MIT which could demand another set of royalties. The best option is to buy out, to clear the tangled mess of IP rights. Licensing arrangements are common with Universities and other public institutions as they also seek to be self-funded as Republicans wanted to cut funding to all publicly funded research and scientific development.

  • oic

    Hubris? Mocking Tesla before they even taken the first step towards production

  • Rick Thurman

    Wonder how the cost or complexity would be affected if you used this in a capacitor/battery hybrid. Could you get not only quick charging from a capacitor embedded within the battery, but use the capacitor to gain greater surface area exposure to more of the battery, more quickly? Perhaps the cheaper battery manufacturing process would pay for any increased costs due to adding the cap, while the capacitor’s integration would speed up charging.

  • Marion Meads

    Seems like vaporware to me. Is there a product that you can buy now or just another promise of less than $100/kWh to ruin Tesla’s stock value?

    • curly4

      It may turn out to be vaporware but only the test will tell. Hopefully the $$$$$ spent here will be better than those spent on Solyndra which I think from hindsite was never designed to make a product.

      • Bob_Wallace

        February 1, 2010

        As announced last Wednesday, Umwelt-Sonne-Energie GmbH (USE), a German integrator, completed the installation of a 1.9 MW system in Belgium that features Solyndra’s cylindrical CIGS panels.

        http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solyndra-1.9-mw-project-installed-but-story-remains-fraught-with-uncertaint

        Solyndra produced a product. Apparently there were at least 14 installations.

        “On August 31, 2011, Solyndra announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, laying off 1,100 employees, and shutting down all operations and manufacturing.[26] In Solyndra’s quarterly employee meetings, employees were told that the company was losing money, and that production costs, while declining, were still higher than the also-declining market prices for solar panels.”

        Wiki –

    • ADW

      There is a long article of the firm on-line at MIT Tech Review. The firm is by the same Prof at MIT that launched A123. So there is a history of getting to market.

      It reads like the firm might be looking at becoming a machine builder and not a battery firm. So maybe Tesla buys new equipment for the factory.

      So, early stage development, the market is shifting to new/better battery technology in a big way. We will see who is standing in 5 years time.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      It is a tough industry to be in right now. Hopefully Tesla won’t put these companies out of business. We need all the research we can get in this field. However saying they are better than Tesla may not be the best PR for themselves. Sounds too much like desperate marketing.

      • John Moore

        If Tesla puts them out of business, it will be because their products are not competitive with Tesla’s products. Either way, we win.

        • Twobob

          Clown – Do you remember VHS and Betta video formats? If Tesla puts them out of business either way we lose.

    • roseland67

      What Marion said, x2

      I’ll believe it when I see it

  • Babam

    Excellent development! Let the customers become winners. There could be others better than 24M. If their products are proven, Tesla should buy them out, but Musk is unlike Mark Zuckerberg or the Google group. Mind you, Apple may already be in the talks for a buy out. Interesting times ahead.

    • Bob_Wallace

      My hope is that batteries are offered to all who want to purchase them. Let car companies compete on the quality and price of their EVs, not on who owns the best patent.

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