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GM Ventures makes $7M strategic investment in Envia Systems for advanced Li-ion cathode materials

General Motors Ventures LLC has invested $7 million in Newark, Calif.-based Envia Systems to provide GM’s battery engineering team with access to advanced lithium-ion cathode technology that delivers higher cell energy density and lower cost. In a separate agreement, GM has secured the right to use Envia’s advanced cathode material for future GM electrically driven vehicles.

Other participating investors in Envia are Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass; as well as current investors Bay Partners, Redpoint and Panagea Ventures. The funding of the investor group totaled $17 million.

Skeptics have suggested it would probably be many years before lithium-ion batteries with significantly lower cost and higher capability are available, potentially limiting sales of electric vehicles for the foreseeable future. In fact, our announcement today demonstrates that major improvements are already on the horizon.

—Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures

Our test results on small-format cells show that Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third, at an equivalent level of reliability, safety and durability. We estimate this improvement in cell energy density and less expensive material will drive a substantial reduction in cell cost, leading to lower cost battery packs like the one in the Chevy Volt. Envia’s cathode technology also will offer benefits for other devices and applications where low-cost, high-energy density storage solutions are needed.

—Micky Bly, GM executive director for Electrical and Battery Systems

Envia uses a combination of processing techniques to tailor the electrode materials at the nanometer and micron level. Examples of some of these techniques include dopants, coatings, and process conditions.

In March 2010, Envia Systems was awarded a $4 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and another $1 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to support development of high energy density Li-ion storage technology, targeted at plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. (Earlier post.)

Under the grants, Envia, in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, proposes to develop Li-ion batteries using nano silicon-carbon composite anodes and high capacity layered-layered manganese composite cathodes. Paired with the Si-C composite anode, a battery with more than 400 Wh/kg—about triple that of existing EV batteries—and long cycle life can be produced, according to the company.

In December 2010, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), an advanced research collaboration among Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company, awarded Envia a $3.65-million contract for a three-year project to develop a high-energy cathode material for vehicle applications and pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that meet or exceed the minimum USABC EV goals.

Earlier this month (January 2011), GM and Argonne reached a non-exclusive worldwide licensing agreement to use Argonne’s patented composite cathode material for advanced lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.)



"Paired with the Si-C composite anode, a battery with more than 400 Wh/kg—about triple that of existing EV batteries—and long cycle life can be produced, according to the company."

A 105 mile Volt and 219 mile Leaf electric range would make a BIG difference.


"Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third"


"Paired with the Si-C composite anode, a battery with more than 400 Wh/kg—about triple that of existing EV batteries—and long cycle life can be produced"

How does a 33% increase triple the battery capacity?


Good question Zhukova. How does 33% becomes 300%?

If 400 Wh/Kg becomes a reality and cost is down, it would give about 66% of the required energy capacity for practical highway BEVs. The world may be on the right track for all purpose BEVs.


If we assume the 400Wh/kg is correct the first number "one third" or 33% is incorrect. Or what he means is the cathode technology produces a 33% increase in energy density and when combined with the Si-C anode can yield a cumulative density three times current (approx 120Wh/kg)for 400Wh/kg.

In any case it is clear higher density, lower cost batteries are slated for the next generation of EVs and this will hasten Obama's goal for 1M alt energy vehicles by 2015. An ambitious goal? Maybe not.


The LEAF's batteries are closer to 100wh/kg, assuming the total capacity is about 30kwh with 24kwh "usable", weighing 300kg (some of that is the packaging).. its a rugged design, heavy but does not require liquid cooling. 400wh/kg would be a substantial improvement.


I think the 33% improvement is what GM are expecting to achieve by using the new cathode material in the cells they currently use in the Volt. They've done this once before (ie switch to a modified chemistry very late in the development cycle) and this could therefore happen quite soon.

The 300% improvement is for when they switch the anode to Si-C, but I can imagine that taking a lot longer as it's a less proven chemistry and will require a long time in testing.


It reminds me of Dr. Qui's statement a few years ago that his Silicon nanowire anode could increase a cell capacity "several fold"

The problem is the same, that the anode is only 20 % of the weight of the cell. So if the anode is reduced by 99% because it has 100 times the capacity, you have 81% of the weight of the cell left and cell capacity increases only 25%.

If the new cathode increases current cells, with current anodes, by 33%, you get something like 200 wh/kg. If the Si composite is used, then you get 10-20% there, but combined is maybe 60%, which is big, but not double.

All this is a little irrelevant because we are talking about the new cathode material that Argonne developed in the last few years. They have already licensed it to BASF in 2009, and Toda Kogyo Corp. of Japan in 2008. I guess their cells still aren't on the market. The Argonne cathode has at least 250 mAh/g compared to others with about 150-200 mAh/g. So it is a big improvement and 400 wh/kg seems achievable considering all the licensing going on.


More players the better.


Argonne licensed it to GM this month, so Envia, GM, and Argonne are playing together on this technology. With GM producing the final product, the Volt, that sounds like a good deal. German and Japanese competition with the same battery technology should induce significant momentum to the market.

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