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New Li-ion Spin-Off from U Texas Closes $5.8M Series A Financing; Google.org an Investor

23 July 2008

ActaCell, Inc., a spin-off from the University of Texas at Austin, has secured $5.8 million in Series A financing. DFJ Mercury led the round with syndicate investment from Google.org’s RechargeIT program, Applied Ventures, LLC, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials, Inc. and Good Energies, a global investor in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry.

ActaCell, Inc. is commercializing lithium-ion battery technology developed in Professor Arumugam Manthiram’s Material Science and Engineering lab at The University of Texas at Austin.  This new technology is focused on delivering substantially longer cycle life at low cost while maintaining safety as the number one priority.

We were highly impressed with ActaCell’s pedigree. We believe their technology will significantly impact industries that rely on rechargeable batteries, particularly those that require high power and long cycle life such as Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Low cost, long life and safety are key attributes of ActaCell’s battery roadmap, the holy grail of battery technologies on the market today.

—Ned Hill, managing director at DFJ Mercury

Still in the development phase, ActaCell’s technology has not been publicly disclosed. Full product and technology announcements will follow in early 2009.

Professor Manthiram’s lab at UT is developing low-cost, high-power cathode materials for HEVs and PHEVs, and nanostructured anode materials for portable and transportation applications. The group is pursuing stabilized spinel, nano olivines, and complex layered oxide cathodes as well as nanocomposite alloy anodes to enable next-generation lithium-ion battery technology.

Among the recent work reported is the synthesis of olivine LiFePO4 nanorods by a rapid microwave-solvothermal approach. The resulting LiFePO4 nanorods were subsequently encapsulated within a mixed electronically and ionically conducting p-toluene sulfonic acid (p-TSA) doped poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) at ambient-temperatures to obtain an organic–inorganic nanohybrid. The LiFePO4–PEDOT nanohybrid offers discharge capacity (166 mAh/g)—close to the theoretical value (170 mAh/g)—with excellent capacity retention and rate capability, reducing significantly the manufacturing cost, according to the researchers.

The company says the proceeds from the Series A financing will be used to hire key technical talent and to further develop its lithium-ion battery technology for commercial purposes.

Resources

  • A. Vadivel Murugana, T. Muraligantha and A. Manthiram (2008) Rapid microwave-solvothermal synthesis of phospho-olivine nanorods and their coating with a mixed conducting polymer for lithium ion batteries. Electrochemistry Communications Volume 10, Issue 6, June 2008, Pages 903-906 doi: 10.1016/j.elecom.2008.04.004

  • T. A. Arunkumar, E. Alvarez and A. Manthiram (2008) Chemical and structural instability of the chemically delithiated (1 – z) Li[Li1/3Mn2/3]O2·(z) Li[Co1–yNiy]O2 (0≤y≤1 and 0≤z≤1) solid solution cathodes. J. Mater. Chem., 2008, 18, 190 - 198, doi: 10.1039/b713326j

July 23, 2008 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

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I was wondering when someone would finally combine stabilized manganese-based (spinel) nanocomposite alloy anodes, synthetic olivine LiFePO4 nano olivine nanorods, rapid microwave-solvothermal processing and electronically/ionically conducting p-TSA/doped PEDOT encapsulation into an organic–inorganic nanohybrid.
It is simple common sense that this will improve cycle life, capacity retention and rate capability all at reduced manufacturing cost.
I am disappointed that Professor Arumugam Manthiram is holding this in the development phase. It is common knowledge that this delay is the work of GM and Exxon (and that the Volt will actually use lead-acid batteries).

This stuff is getting over my head from a chemicals perspective, but it sounds similar to EnerDel and Altairnano. You've got to wonder if google.org met with them and opted to skip them over in favor of these guys, and why.

How does 166 mAh/g compare to enderdel/altair/a123?

It kills them. At a nominal 3.7 volts per cell, we're talking 614 Wh/kg.

it was obvious all along ToppaTom, but finally the evil wrongdoers cant hold it back anymore.. unless Google is secretly owned by Texaco!

It is a rational assumption to assume Exxon, GM and others invested in the gasoline infrastructure would want to put off a real alternative to gasoline as long as possible. If that were their interest, pursuing a lithium or corn-based biofuel solution would make a lot of sense, since neither of them provide a real solution now and may never be a solution in the future. World lithium supplies may not be up to the task. http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/05/world-lithium-supplies.html
Can any body explain what is wrong with the Cobasys NIMH battery that was used to give EV1 a 100 mile range, and why we can't have electric cars that use that battery today? Is it because Texaco owns the company?

More the better. This is one more good news for 2010+.

The world will not stand still and we will have much better rechargeable batteries in the years to come.

At 500+ Wh/Kg and at less than $300/KWh, BEVs with 50 to 100 KWh batteries (good for 300 Km to 600 Km between charges) will become a reality.

Similar high performance batteries will be used for PHEV-100 Km to PHEV-200+ Km for people who prefer having an ICE or Fuel Cell power generator on-board and for heavier long haul vehicles.

Interesting times ahead for PHEVs and BEVs.

Electrified vehicles and solar panels evolution cannot be stopped.

NiMh batteries have approx 10-20% life cycle compared to Li-Io. But Chevron/Cobasys is selling large format packs for conversions like the Verizon delivery vans using
Enova’s 120kW Post-Transmission Parallel Hybrid Drive System supported with the Cobasys liquid-cooled NiMHax 336-70 (336V, 8.5 Ah, 70kW) 2.8 kWh battery system.

In a PHEV surge like Andy Grove is recommending, these conversions would play a big role.

creativforce: World lithium supplies may not be up to the task. http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/05/world-lithium-supplies.html

Maybe you should read the entire page. Especially the part at the end of the response section where the author more or less repudiates his own argument.

The Volt to come out with lead acid batteries. Very funny. GM for one has finally figured out that it will be E-REVs or EVs in the future. If they don't start down this path smartly then they'll be out of business in the future.

ON LITHIUM:
http://www.worldlithium.com/Home_files/An%20Abundance%20of%20Lithium.pdf “AN ABUNDANCE OF LITHIUM” by R. Keith Evans – March 2008
http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1457 “Peak Lithium or Lithium in Abundance?” - May 2008
More on peak lithium issue. Some good comments. My take is: no problem. mds

Please stop whining about the EV1 and go purchase an Aptera:
www.aptera.com
...faster, better, cheaper. EV version will start shipping this fall. E-REV version will start shipping in early 2009. Not a big difference, just some electric controller changes and a small ICE generator added for the E-REV to provide 130 mpg Series-HEV performance after your 100+ mile all-electric range.
...or wait and contribute to GMs conversion by purchasing a Volt when it comes out. Talk is cheap.

I wonder if this is the type of generation 3 and 4 Lithium battery technology that Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault, has mentioned as being in the pipe line? Current Li Ion battery technology is generation 2.

Don't be an ass. I'm not a huge fan of GM, but you know damn well they're not using lead acid. Don't stoop to their level.

Yeah Toppa - the inside word is "vacuum flux alkaline."

The key to the capacity retention is the encapsulation layer which acts as an artificial SEI layer. This is primarily what makes it different from other LiFePO4 cathodes. That encapsulation layer also has most of the conductivity, both the electronic and ionic. The rapid microwave-solvothermal approach just makes it sound cool.

"It kills them. At a nominal 3.7 volts per cell, we're talking 614 Wh/kg."

This is way too good to be true! It would mean 5 times higher than A123's for the same LiFePO4 chemistry, and 6 times higher than Altairnano's. Probably an error or a confusion between mAh/g vs. mWh/g. Even 166 mWh/g is very good and would make GM Volt developers smile big-time!

I spoke to ActaCell late last year, they literally had VCs lining up. Good luck to them.

Rob, I think 166 mah/g is for cathode only; battery density would be a fraction of 614 Wh/kg.

CreativForce, NIMH only has three problems -- energy density, power density and cost. The Tesla Roadster lithium battery is about the same size as the EV1's NIMH but costs less and gives twice the power and range. That's why mainstream automakers are not considering NIMH for EVs and PHEVs.

Sorry that wasn't Carlos Ghosn, it was Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan's executive vice president for research and development.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121320799221764997.html?mod=googlenews_wsj “Newer Lithium Batteries Improve Electric Car Range” - June 2008
“Advances in lithium-ion battery technology will boost the range of electric vehicles to 400 kilometers (248 miles) by 2015”
“The breakthrough will come with so-called fourth-generation lithium-ion batteries that will be ready by 2015”
“Second-generation lithium-ion batteries, available in 2010, will extend the range of electric cars to about 170 kilometers on one charge, and
third-generation vehicles, ready in 2012, should give electric vehicles a range of between 290 and 300 kilometers,”

mds:

The average current first generation lithium ESSU has an energy density of a bout 100 Wh/Kg. Enough for about 85 Km. May be sufficiant for PHEVs but not enough for BEVs.

The average second generation expected by 2010 may have about 200 Wh/Kg. Enough for about 170 Km. This would be enough for PHEVs and city BEVs.

The average third generation expected around 2015 may have up to 400 Wh/Kg. Enough for 340 Km. This would be enough for the first practical small BEV and large PHEVs.

The average fourth generation, expected around 2020 may have up to 600+ Wh/Kg. Enough for 500 to 600 Km. This would be enough for the all electric ICE replacement vehicles. The time has cometh to progressively scrap most ICE vehicles.

HarveyD,
Do you have a source for your timelines? What about cost and lifespan?

One thing that could compete against Li-On batteries is supercapacitor batteries built with high-density carbon nanotubes. Not only does it potentially offer the same storage capacity as Li-On batteries, but charges in a tiny fraction of the time of Li-On batteries, which means instead of taking 5-6 hours to charge you can do it in under 20 minutes at a commercial charging station or a few hours from a residential charging system.

We'll start seeing them in production after 2010.

realist:

1) First gen 100 KWh lithium are here already.

2) Second gen 200+ KWh are equivalent to current Electrovaya MN series available in 2009/10 for PHEVs and BEVs.

3) Third gen 400 KWh are equivalent to improved Electrovaya MN series and/or others expected in 2015. This may be as good as lithiums get with current technologies. Anodes and cathodes design will have to change to go further. It may come by 2020 to compete with metal-air units.

4) Fourth gen (600 KWh) may very well be modular Metal-Air batteries being developed by Toyota and others by 2020 and even before.

peak lithium like peak uranium is a myth both elements are present in substantial amounts in seawater and research is already underway to use selective ion adsorbtion on nano-polymers immersed in seawater to extract limitless supplys of both at economically sustainable prices. Currently in Japan uranium can be extracted at 25000 yen per kg. that's $264 a kilogram, lately Uranium has been over $100 a kg at times so 2x the market rate for an unlimited supply is perfectly fine. Given that the cost of uranium is less than 2% of the total cost per kwhr of nuclear power. Same can be said for lithium. check this out. http://www.scientific.net/0-87849-939-3/277/

HarveyD,
Thanks! Clarifies generation 1-4 for me.
for generation 1: 0.6 * 85 km = about 50 miles
This is target for Volt of course.
Aptera is lighter and more aerodynamic 2.5 person vehicle and gets 120 mile range on generation 1 Li Ion.
78% of USA drivers, 90% of Israeli drivers travel less than 40 miles per day (as I'm sure you know), so significant portion of these drivers might choose to own BEV for commuting. Way more likely to happen if they're freeway capable, like Aptera. I agree with you, E-REV is better bet than BEV in USA with generation 1. Don't understand why some BEV developers don't offer E-REV option.
Thanks again,
mike

Why don't car manufacturers produce cars that utilize a lithium ion cassette that can easily be exchanged at a service station to facilitate long journeys

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