Fujifilm announced an additional investment of $20 million in 24M Technologies, a US startup specializing in research and development of semi-solid state batteries, in hopes of advancing its production capacity to fulfill escalating demand.
As significant breakthroughs of solid-state batteries have yet to be achieved in the electric vehicle industry, the “semi-solid battery” technology, an alternative between the solid-state and existing lithium-ion batteries, has emerged. In 2015, US startup 24M unveiled this new hybrid battery, which has since then received funding from various Japanese companies.
Semi-solid batteries comprise less electrolyte (liquid) compared to general lithium-ion batteries, thereby reducing the risk of fire. Moreover, semi-solid battery manufacturing has lower standards of raw materials and manufacturing equipment, hence a lower production cost; the hybrid battery has thus won favor with numerous manufacturers.
As early as 2015, 24M Technologies began providing semi-solid state batteries for NEC and became a co-developer with Kyocera, while Itochu Corporation is currently its biggest shareholder. In 2020, Fujifilm spent $5 million to fund the startup for the first time. After adding another $20-million investment, Fujifilm will together with Volkswagen become major investors of 24M Technologies.
As the investment deal reveals, Fujifilm has acquired the OEM and marketing licenses of semi-solid batteries from 24M, aiming to extend its accurate coating expertise developed through decades of film production to battery manufacturing and ultimately enter this thriving market.
Notably, 24M Technologies has demonstrated that it is not a startup raising funds through fancy presentation slides by providing semi-solid batteries as early as 2019, which is also why it can continually receive investments from Japanese enterprises—mostly known for their conservative attitudes towards startup funding. Specifically, the semi-solid state energy storage system co-developed by Kyocera and 24M Technologies has gone on sale in Japan, offering various capacity options from 5 kWh to 15 kWh for household users.
24M Technologies’ semi-solid state batteries boast energy density of 350–400 Wh/kg, and even those available for mass production achieve a density of 280 Wh/kg. To a large-capacity electric car, maintaining battery weight at 350 kg or lower can desirably improve the driving range.
With such excellent density specs, the semi-solid product is already comparable to the 4680 pack which Tesla is still unable to produce on a large scale. Seizing this opportunity, Fujifilm decides to make a bet on semi-solid batteries available for large-scale production with reduced risk of fire, through which the nearly-a-century-old company can find its “second life” of electrification.
(Photo credit: 24M)