Envia Systems, a battery startup backed by GM's venture unit and other investors, says it's made a breakthrough in lithium-ion technology that could dramatically cut the price of a 300-mile range electric vehicle.
Envia's next-generation rechargeable battery has achieved the highest record energy density of 400 watt-hour/kilogram for a rechargeable lithium-ion cell. The industry standard for EV batteries is around 125 watt-hours/kilogram and costs upwards of $250 to $350 per kilowatt-hour to operate, Envia CEO Atul Kapadia told me in an interview. Envia has developed a battery that can deliver 2.5 times more energy than what's currently in electric vehicles at a projected cost of $150 per kWh, Kapadia said.
The Electrochemical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warefare Center tested the next-gen battery under the sponsorship of the Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy -- the same government agency that has provided $4 million in seed money to Envia.
California-based Envia was able to increase the energy density and slash the battery cost by tackling the components of a lithium-ion battery. A battery contains an anode on one side and a cathode on the other. An electrolyte, essentially the courier that moves ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging, sits in the middle.
Envia developed a low-cost cathode material using inexpensive materials including manganese. It also designed a silicon-carbon anode and a high-voltage electrolyte, Kapadia said. All of these innovations resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the cost of battery packs used in 300-mile range electric vehicles. The upshot? An electric vehicle for around $30,000 -- a price that's more closely in line with gasoline-powered cars and within reach of the average consumer.
Envia isn't relying on economies of scale to reduce its manufacturing costs, Kapadia said. The $150 per kWh is achievable today, not once it becomes a large-scale manufacturer, he said. Instead, the company delivers its technology via partnerships with automakers. Kapadia wouldn't give names, but he did say the company's customers include automakers in Japan, Korea and the United States.
The components of the battery cell are being evaluated by various automakers -- a process that can take several years. Kapadia says he expects the components of the battery to be commercialized in a couple of years.
Photo: Envia Systems