To guarantee access to technology related to electric vehicles, General Motors Co. has invested $7 million in Envia Systems, a start-up that is developing more powerful and cheaper batteries for EVs. Based in Newark, Calif., Envia has developed cathode technology for lithium-ion batteries that boosts their power and cuts their costs.
Last Wednesday, GM said that it has also entered a separate licensing deal to use the Envia cathode technology in its future electric vehicles.
It’s actually the second time this month that GM is taking a stake in a start-up. Earlier this month, GM announced a $5 million investment in Powermat, which provides wireless charging for electronic devices such as cell phones. GM wants to make use of the Powermat technology into upcoming vehicles, such as the 2012 Chevrolet Volt.
According to GM CEO Dan Akerson, he is pushing the company to hasten plans to build plug-in hybrids derived from the Volt while boosting the production of the Volt this year and in 2012.
In June 2010, GM founded a venture capital arm with $100 million in funding. Jon Lauckner, a veteran GM engineer, is the head of GM Ventures. It is overseen by GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, the former investment banker responsible for GM’s strategy.
According to Envia Systems CEO, chairman and founding investor Atul Kapadia, Envia is the solution to two major issues concerning next-generation battery cells: greater capacity and lower cost. He believes that these problems can be addressed by its high-capacity manganese rich cathode material.
He also revealed that GM and two other companies have invested in the company Kapadia maintains that their battery materials are now the new leaders in technology and will help reduce the price as well as open the market potential for their clients.
Due to their technology and products, they believe that Envia is in the best position to capture a considerable part of the huge market of battery materials. The highly sophisticated cathode technology of Envia makes use of more affordable materials that save more energy for every unit mass than existing cathode materials.
The cathode is a major contributor to the overall battery cost so when the cathode delivers more energy, the battery cost will tend to be lower due to the fewer required cells.
Electrical and Battery Systems GM executive director Micky Bly adds that the outcome of the test on small-format cells demonstrates that Envia’s highly capable composite cathode material can boost the lithium-ion cells’ energy density to a maximum of one-third with the same level of durability, safety and reliability.
They concluded that this development in cell energy density plus reasonably-priced materials will significantly reduce cell cost, resulting to lower price of battery packs such as the one in Chevy Volt. The cathode technology, likewise, offers benefits to other applications and devices that require reduced-cost, high-energy density storage solutions.