A123's Energy Storage Spin-out 24M Raises Funds

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Last week lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems (s AONE) quietly unveiled in its earnings call that it had spun out a venture called 24M Technologies, which would work on advanced non-traditional lithium-ion based storage technology and would raise outside money. This morning, 24M has more details about those backers: $10 million in Series A funding from Charles River Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners, and a $6 million grant from ARPA-E.

24M — which stands for the material concentration 24 molar, according to the MIT Tech Review — plans to work on a system for vehicles and grid storage that combine aspects of lithium-ion batteries and flow battery technology. Flow batteries are similar to large fuel cells, but generally use large storage tanks full of electrolytes and pumps that circulate the solution through the system. Flow batteries on their own aren’t practical for electric vehicles because of their size and efficiency, but a novel design and combination with batteries could change that.

24M’s work is being led by Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor at MIT and founder of A123 Systems, and Chiang tells MIT Tech Review that he’s using a “semisolid” energy storage material, compared to the traditional use of solid materials. A123 said last week that it expects to see 24M’s low-cost energy storage technology deployed toward the “latter part of decade,” and this morning 24M emphasis “emerging markets,” for transportation and the electric grid.

According to A123’s earnings call last week, 24M’s early development work was completed within A123, and “subsequently improved upon at MIT” (where A123 got its start). When the project started “to show some real merit, with the MIT developments and multiple patents on top of the early patents,” A123 began wondering how it could get enough focused management time on the project, and how it could it get enough funding associated with the tech to make it move forward quickly and aggressively in the marketplace.

24M has raised $10 million from Charles River Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners, two VC firms that have few cleantech investments. North Bridge, however, also backed A123 Systems.

In addition to VC funding, 24M was awarded $6 million from the Department of Energy’s brand new ARPA-E program, which invests small grants into high-risk, early-stage energy startups. 24M won the grant for a collaborative effort between 24M, MIT and Rutgers.

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