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Traditional gas-guzzling cars are currently outselling electric vehicles at a rate of almost 50 to one. A major reason for that gap is the high cost of the lithium-ion batteries New Samsung Breakthrough Could Nearly Double Battery Capacity New Samsung Breakthrough Could Nearly Double Battery Capacity A new breakthrough from Samsung offers huge increases in the density of lithium-ion batteries. Read More under the hood. But a new manufacturing approach developed by researchers at MIT and startup 24M could significantly reduce the cost of the batteries Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery Technologies That Are Going to Change the World Battery tech has been growing more slowly than other technologies, and is now the long tent pole in a staggering number of industries. What will the future of battery technology be? Read More while also improving their performance and making them more easily recyclable.

Lithium-ion batteries are the most widely used type of rechargeable batteries. They’re found in consumer electronics Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More like smartphones and tablets as well as many electric cars 6 Electric Cars You Can Actually Afford 6 Electric Cars You Can Actually Afford Think you can't afford an electric car? Wrong. These six cars show how affordable electric cars have become. Read More  (among other applications), so any reduction in cost — especially one as dramatic at this —  could make serious waves in a bunch of industries.

A Better Manufacturing Process

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The current process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries has remained relatively unchanged since their inception two decades ago. “We’ve reinvented the process,” said Yet-Ming Chiang, Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at MIT and co-founder of 24M.

Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries, which are made with solid electrodes, 24M’s batteries utilize a “semisolid” electrode. It’s a hybrid between so-called “flow batteries” (where electrodes are suspensions of tiny particles carried by liquid and pumped throughout the battery) and conventional solid ones.

Chiang says they’ve managed to ditch more than 80 percent of the non-energy storing materials in the battery How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It How a Battery Works and 3 Ways You Can Ruin It The modern battery is featured in so many of our favourite technologies that you could almost be forgiven for not spending time learning about their workings. Read More while increasing the size of the electrode by over five times compared to a conventional lithium-ion battery.

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The company claims this new design simplifies the manufacturing process, enabling them to produce batteries for half the cost and in one-fifth of the time of traditional batteries.

Bendable Batteries

According to Chiang, the new system not only streamlines the manufacturing process — it also produces a more flexible and resilient battery. While traditional lithium-ion batteries contain brittle electrodes that tend to crack under pressure, 24M’s new system produces battery cells that can be bent or folded without failing. The company even claims that its battery cells can survive penetration by a bullet.

Chiang says this will improve the safety and durability of lithium-ion batteries. This could be a big deal for electric cars, where fire is a concern. Tesla stores its batteries inside an armored shell for precisely this reason. Eliminating the need for that shell could reduce weight and allow for easier maintenance.

The Future Of Battery Manufacturing?

24M has produced an initial run of 10,000 sample batteries to ship to potential partners and customers for testing. Right now, the company’s focus is on grid-scale installations, which are used to provide backup for renewable energy Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Read More sources that produce intermittent output, like wind and solar power. Some of its early partners include an oil company in Thailand and Japanese heavy-equipment manufacturer IHI Corp.

Electric vehicles are also on Chiang’s radar. He actually has a longstanding interest in transportation applications: he spun 24M out of his previous company, A123 Systems, which produced lithium-ion batteries specifically for electric cars.

Chiang estimates that 24M will be able to produce lithium-ion batteries for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour of capacity by 2020. Venkat Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University says that 24M’s new battery design “could do the same sort of disruption to [lithium ion] batteries manufacturing as what mini-mills did to the integrated steel mills.”

The implications of a cheaper and more efficient battery manufacturing process are clear. Savings at the manufacturing level can be passed down to the consumer, making for more affordable products and a greater incentive to choose electric cars over their gas-burning counterparts.

“For me, the ultimate win would be if this would become the de facto standard for battery production around the world,” said Chiang.

What do you think about 24M’s new approach to battery manufacturing? Would cheaper lithium-ion batteries have any major effects on your day-to-day life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Abdullah Almosalami
    August 25, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Ok. This is freaken awesome. I mean wow. I think from almost every aspect you look at this, this'll explode. Smartphone manufacturers, car companies, energy-generating companies, all will want their hands on this cuz in so many ways this cuts costs (production cost, recycling, easier maintenance) AND performs better and the flexibility/durability thing - I see that coming in potential future flexible smartphones and devices, if that'll ever be a thing.

    • Brad Merrill
      August 31, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      For sure! There are a ton of applications for this.

  2. Saumendra Swain
    August 25, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Even though the Electric Cars were started rolling out since 1980 ...there was a total denial of its energy savings as against the Gasoline Vehicles just for the Two Reason - One is the Big Lobby Out there from the Petrol Companies AND as correctly point out the Second is the Battery Price.

    From this 24m initiative and revolutionary design we hope to see the two bottlenecks pushed away and we can have the real Energy efficient - eco Friendly Roads.

    There will be a Global Change of Perspective with regards to energy in the Form of Durable and Yet low priced Batteries for Smartphone, Solar charger, Electric Bikes and Car, Locomotive, Health Scanner systems and many more.

    • Brad Merrill
      August 31, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      Yep - a change of perspective is something we definitely need. Thanks for the comment, Saumendra!

  3. Manoj garg
    August 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Sorry for some inappropriate words as my english is not much good.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 31, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Don't worry, Manoj, we judge people by their thoughts here, not their language capabilities :) And you're definitely doing fine in the thought department! (I also think your English is good enough that you don't need to apologize for it)

  4. Manoj garg
    August 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Yes. The low cost in battery will badly affect the routine life cycle. Especially in large manufacturing units, vehicles and environment. If the cost,weight and maintanence of the battery is low/nill then it can effect the life cycle of the people and environment also. The vehicle manufacturer will move on to electric vehicle and so if done, will reduce the gas emmission in the atmosphere and help in reducing pollution. Thanks for the work done and best wishes. Carry on.

  5. michael_dowling
    August 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    This is very promising if for no other reason than the fact they are actually shipping product for testing.Usually these "breakthroughs" are announced long before real world samples are available.

    • Brad Merrill
      August 31, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      For sure. Good to see it's actually being tested under real-world circumstances right away.

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