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.)