Building a Better Battery: New Tech Could Make Electric Cars Cheaper

building a better battery new tech could make electric cars cheaper chiang x220The brain behind the batteries used in everything from New York City transit busses to an electric motorcycle that does 0 to 60 miles per hour in under one second is up to something new. Ken Chiang, a cofounder of lithium-ion battery mogul A123 Systems, is striking out on his own under a new marquee to build batteries that could be up to 85 percent cheaper than anything available today.

Chiang will remain at A123, and as a professor of materials science at MIT, but pursue the a different technology at his new company, 24M. On Monday, the company announced it had secured $10 million in venture-capital funding and another $6 million from ARPA-E, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy. A123 Systems will also retain a stake in the startup.

While Chiang has remained intentionally vague about how the new batteries will work, he claims they will combine attributes of rechargeable batteries, fuel cells, and flow batteries. The breakthrough: A traditional lithium-ion battery wastes significant space within it on construction materials – like the separators between the anode and cathode. Chiang’s new design will eliminate the need for them, potentially increasing energy density and decreasing manufacturing costs.

The cost of traditional lithium-ion batteries accounts for much of the expensive involved with producing hybrid and fully electric vehicles. A replacement battery pack for the Prius costs over $2,000, and early GM estimates put the price of the Chevy Volt’s battery pack as high as $10,000.

But don’t expect a half-price version of the Volt powered by new batteries any time soon. According to MIT’s TechnologyReview, Chiang hopes to have the first demonstrations of his batteries ready within five years.