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Alsym hopes to ‘light up the homes of a billion people’ with new battery

Lithium-ion batteries have transformed the global economy, making everything from smartphones and laptops to electric cars, e-bikes and more possible. But while costs have dropped dramatically over the past decade or so, they’re still too expensive to power all the ways humans need to store energy.

With the advent of cheap solar energy, generating electricity has never been cheaper and easier. But solar panels are useless when the sun goes down. In order for solar energy to reach its potential, there must be an affordable way to store electricity.

The lack of affordable energy storage has been hindering development in many countries. Although more people than ever have access to electricity, some 3.5 billion people still have no reliable access to electricity, and about 760 million people have no electricity at all.

“There’s an entire generation that doesn’t have access to learning, an entire generation that doesn’t have the industry support to even have small or even micro businesses,” Mukesh Chatter, co-founder and CEO of Alsym Energy, told TechCrunch.

That’s what prompted serial entrepreneur Chatter and his co-founders to start Massachusetts-based Alsym. “The original goal was to light up the homes of the one billion people around the world who have no access to electricity and are forced to live a 19th-century century and doomed to poverty. We want to break this cycle. “

Chatter has spent the past nine years working with his technical co-founders Nikhil Koratkar, Rahul Mukherjee and Kripa Varanasi to develop a low-cost, non-flammable battery chemistry. .Now, they think they’ve done it.

He declined to reveal details but said one of the electrodes is manganese oxide, an abundant mineral that is already produced in large quantities. The electrolyte is water-based, unlike the flammable organic solvents used in lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, both electrode materials “inherently do not allow the formation of dendrites,” he said, referring to the spiky crystals that can form on lithium-ion electrodes and short-circuit the battery.

The result is a battery with lower energy density at the cell level than leading lithium-ion chemistries but competitive at the pack level. That’s because batteries can be packed closer together and require less safety equipment because they operate safer at higher temperatures, Charter said.

Alsym also said its batteries will be cheaper than lithium-ion batteries due to less material and simpler packaging. The startup’s battery target price is about $50 per kilowatt-hour, significantly reducing the cost of lithium-ion batteries, which currently cost $89 per kilowatt-hour.

To be clear: Aslym has only produced samples so far, and its insistence on keeping the technology secret is understandable from a business perspective, but its effectiveness cannot be scrutinized. Chatter said Aslym’s first finished products will be available in 2025, at which point it will become clear whether they work.

Alsym is targeting stationary storage as its initial market and plans to follow up with designs tailored for two-wheeled electric vehicles, which are popular in India, China and Southeast Asia. After that, it will release another plug-in hybrid. The company said it had signed a deal with a major Indian automaker to supply batteries, but Charter did not confirm which one.

On Wednesday, the company announced it had raised $78 million in Series C funding, led by General Catalyst and Indian conglomerate Tata, with participation from Drads Capital, Thomvest and Thrive Capital.

Alsym plans to use the new funding to expand its team from 50 to 100 people and build two production lines, each with a capacity of 1 megawatt hour, to provide samples to customers. Ultimately, it will work with existing battery manufacturers, as Alsym’s cells can be produced using existing equipment. Charter said the global wave of gigafactory construction has led to overcapacity, which his company hopes to capitalize on.

Charter has set his sights on other markets, including the steel industry. “Industrial applications are large-scale applications of stationary storage,” he said. “About 2 billion tons of steel are produced globally and 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide are produced2. That’s more than all the passenger cars in the world combined. “

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