The Harvard Office of Technology Development has granted an exclusive technology license to Adden Energy, Inc.., a startup developing innovative solid-state battery systems for use in future electric vehicles (EVs) that would fully charge in minutes. Adden Energy has closed a seed round with 5.15 million dollars of financing led by Primavera Capital Group, with the participation of Rhapsody Venture Partners and MassVentures.
The company’s license and funding will allow the startup to scale up the Harvard lab prototype toward commercial deployment of a solid-state lithium metal battery that can provide reliable and fast charging for future electric vehicles to help take them to the mass market.
Developed by researchers in the lab of Xin Li, PhD, Associate Professor of Materials Science at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the lab-scale coin cell prototype has achieved battery charge rates of up to three minutes with more than 10,000 cycles over its lifetime, with results published in Nature and other magazines. It also features a high energy density and a level of material stability that overcomes the safety challenges posed by other lithium batteries.
Adden Energy was co-founded in 2021 by Li, along with William Fitzhugh, PhD ’20, and Luhan Ye, PhD ’22, who helped develop the technology as graduate students in Li’s lab at Harvard. Fred Hu, PhD ’93, founder and chairman of Primavera Capital, is also a founder of Adden Energy.
The startup aims to scale the battery down to a palm-sized bag cell, and then up to a full-scale vehicle battery within the next three to five years. “If you want to electrify vehicles, a solid-state battery is the way to go,” said Li, who is a scientific adviser to Adden Energy. “We set out to commercialize this technology because we believe our technology is unique compared to other solid-state batteries. We’ve achieved 5,000 to 10,000 charge cycles in the life of a battery in the lab, compared to 2,000 to 3,000 charge cycles for even the best in class now, and we see no fundamental limit to scaling our technology of batteries. That could be a game changer.”
Fitzhugh, CEO of Adden Energy, noted that in 2019, transportation produced 29% of US carbon dioxide emissions. “Complete electrification of the vehicle fleet is one of the most significant steps we can take to fight climate change,” he said. “However, the widespread adoption of electric vehicles requires batteries that can meet a diverse set of consumer needs. For example, 37% of Americans don’t have garages at home, so overnight charging at home isn’t possible. To electrify this segment, electric vehicles need to be recharged in times comparable to internal combustion vehicles, essentially in the time it would currently spend at the gas pump.”
Technology developed at Harvard, including fundamental innovations in solid-state battery design and electrolyte production methods, may offer other crucial advantages.
“Typically, lithium metal anodes in other solid-state designs develop dendrites, twig-like growths that can gradually penetrate through the electrolyte to the cathode. We defeat the growth of dendrites before they can cause damage, by new structural and material designssaid Ye, who is now CTO of Adden Energy. “As a result, the device can maintain its high performance over a long service life. Our recent study shows that this pleasing feature can also be maintained in magnification.”
“Climate change is the defining challenge facing the world. It is more important than ever to accelerate the transition to clean energy and zero-emission transportation,” said Hu, who is also a member of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Board. “Adden Energy’s mission is to develop cutting-edge battery technologies, enabling mass adoption of electric vehicles and contributing to a greener and more sustainable global economy.”
“Electric vehicles cannot remain a luxury fad, literally the ‘one percent’ of vehicles on the road, if we are to move toward a clean energy future, and the US will not have a used car market. if electric vehicle batteries last only 3 to 5 years,” Li added. “Technology must be accessible to everyone. Extending battery life, like we’re doing here, is a big part of that.”