A123 Spinoff, 24M Technologies, Raises $10M to Develop Energy Storage Systems for Utilities, Electric Vehicles

There’s a new cleantech player in town. As we and other media outlets reported last week, Watertown, MA-based A123Systems (NASDAQ: AONE) has spun out a new company called 24M Technologies, which is developing a new kind of energy storage system that combines aspects of lithium-ion and flow battery technologies. The company announced today it has raised $10 million in Series A venture capital from Charles River Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners. It also said it is collaborating with MIT and Rutgers University on a project supported by a $6 million grant from ARPA-E, the relatively new research agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.

The announcement is a strong PR push for Cambridge, MA-based 24M as a separate entity, but the company isn’t giving many details about its technology or business strategy just yet. A123 and North Bridge Venture Partners did not respond to requests for comment last week. (It’s not totally clear to me why A123 would spin this company out instead of keeping it in-house, where it would seem to have enough resources.)

Here’s what we know so far. 24M’s technology originated at A123, the lithium ion battery maker, and was further developed at MIT. It combines aspects of rechargeable batteries, fuel cells, and flow batteries. A flow battery pumps liquid electrolyte (often stored in external tanks) through an electrochemical cell to produce electricity. 24M says it is targeting energy-storage applications such as transportation—presumably hybrid and electric vehicles—and the power grid.

The latter is certainly a long-term problem in renewable energy; solar power and wind farms won’t go very far without more efficient ways to store the electricity generated. It sounds like 24M, like many other companies, is looking to develop technology that will store more energy in a given amount of space, for less cost than existing batteries.

A123 has an unspecified equity stake in 24M, which is led by president and co-founder Throop Wilder, who is a veteran of the IT world. Wilder was previously involved with Crossbeam Systems and American Internet Corp, among other tech companies. His fellow 24M co-founders are MIT scientists Yet-Ming Chiang (co-founder of A123) and W. Craig Carter.

“We believe that 24M’s technology has the potential to reduce energy storage costs for transportation and grid applications, and we look forward to helping the company as it leverages our research innovations for the development of commercially viable systems,” said A123’s CEO, David Vieau, in a statement.

Some other interesting details about 24M have been reported elsewhere. For those interested in the technical aspects, Martin LaMonica of CNET pointed to a patent for a “redox flow device” filed by Chiang, Carter, and others on behalf of A123 and MIT. This may or may not be related to the technology that 24M is working on. And 24M’s Wilder told Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe that he originally met Chiang through North Bridge (which invested in A123), while Wilder was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Charles River. Wilder also said that 24M will be expanding to 10 to 20 employees within the next six months.

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