Jan 27

GM Invests in Advanced Lithium Battery Startup Company

 


Recently GM announced it had obtained a licensing agreement with Argonne National Labs to use its new advanced technology cathode material for lithium ion batteries.  That compound would allow for up to double the energy density of the current Chevy Volt battery pack.  Supplier LG Chem was also given access to the technology.

Earlier this week, GM’s investment arm called GM Ventures announced it would invest 7 million dollars in a small California company that  also develops and does research on advanced lithium ion cathodes.

The company called Envia Systems in Newark, California is focused on researching new cathode material that would reduce cost and increase energy density of future lithium cells.  In addition to this investment, in a separate agreement GM secured the right to use Envia cathode technology in future electrically-driven vehicles.

“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,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. “In fact, our announcement today demonstrates that major improvements are already on the horizon.

The new cathode material is composed of low cost material and has the potential to improve the energy density of future electric cars by at least one third allowing greater range, reduced cost, or both compared to present models.

“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,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director for Electrical and Battery Systems. “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.”

Asked whether these technological advances would be use to either increase range or reduce cost in future generations of the Chevy Volt Bly told GM-Volt “too early to announce how and when we will use this.”  He ensures us however there will be “more to come.”

Source (GM)

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 6:46 am and is filed under Battery, Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 28


  1. 1
    Ben Morrow

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (6:56 am)

    Great news for affordability. So does the 2x energy density and the roughly 1.5x density multiply together or would they be an either/or situation?


  2. 2
    Dave K.

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (7:07 am)

    Best to go with similar size batteries providing longer range. This will enable production of heavier vehicles such as SUV and maybe even big rigs. When this is complete. Reduce battery size to enable EV4WD.

    NPNS


  3. 3
    flyingfish

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (7:18 am)

    Wow! good news, now means a car similar to Leaf could go 200 miles on the same size battery.

    Go GM, let’s build one. A volt with half size battery(reduced price) and an EV with 200 miles. A great combo for a 2 car family.


  4. 4
    Majormajor42

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (7:34 am)

    This is exactly the kind of investment that GM should be making right now, unlike the perception of those green investments that they said they made in December.This is essential technology and it is plenty green enough.let others invest in solar and wind, better batteries can help everyone including making other alternative energies more practical. Can’t wait to get a Volt that can do 40 electric miles in the Winter and maybe even 100 in mild weather.


  5. 5
    JohnK

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:04 am)

    This is good progress. It really does take many steps to make overall progress to a goal like Gen2 Volt or an SUV version of the Volt.


  6. 6
    Shock Me

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:18 am)

    Nice to see GM invest strategically in what one hopes will become a core competency. Increased energy density would really come in handy for when I’ve finally piled up enough cash.


  7. 7
    ziv

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:31 am)

    The article’s verbiage is a bit sloppy and the fact that only the cathode is mentioned in the _high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third_ means that only half of the battery pack will get the touted 33% density increase. So they are talking about increasing the battery pack density by 16.5%. The earlier, unlikely, _would allow for up to double_ the density sounds like a hoped for scenario in the short term, not one they are really expecting.
    But it is all good, as the years go by the Volt pack will probably get to the point that they have 12 useable kWh sooner rather than later, then the pack will start to shrink in volume and price as the Voltec technology goes mainstream. Plus BEV’s will start to have more AER sooner, so the Leaf and the Focus BEV will have 125 mile claimed range (which is 100 miles in the real world) instead of 100 mile claimed range (75-80 mile real world).


  8. 8
    Neromancer

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:50 am)

    Ziv.

    Every cell has a cathode and anode. The cathode is one of the major factors limiting the cell density. This will increase the overall cell efficiency by 33%.


  9. 9
    Mark Z

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:51 am)

    More range or a fifth seat in the future Volt? I’d like both and some extra leg room for the rear seat passengers. Higher battery density at a cheaper price will make it possible.


  10. 10
    Loboc

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:02 am)

    Nissan announced a while back that their next EV will have 200mi range. They might even be holding off on production right now to get this battery out there. Notice how LEAF’s aren’t in the news much since December?

    Development efforts in batteries is going stronger than most realize. I think we will see GM slip-stream new batteries into production before major model changes are made.

    I could really use a pure EV for the wifey. She only drives 5 miles a day and only a couple days a week. This is the situation with a lot of retired and older folks. But, it’s got to be a good size (not a compact) and comfortable. Speed and performance are not the primary concern for this application.


  11. 11
    N Riley

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:12 am)

    Good news, I am sure. But, this is still years from being available for actual use. Step by step the job will get done. GM needs to continue the research and investment where it is feasible.


  12. 12
    Kevin R

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:17 am)

    A huge battery plant is being built by me in Midland Michigan. The Dow-Kokam plant is absolutely huge and the advances in battery chemistry and the like keep accelerating.


  13. 13
    Tom W

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:31 am)

    Amazing the proliferation of articles saying EV, EREVs won’t achieve any significant adoption in the next 10 years, then you read articles that act like 30% improvement in cost/range is just around the corner.

    My calculations are the currenty technlogy would reach mass adoption with $4 gas and a 30% improvement in cost / range would bring mass adoption with $3 gas.

    Also the question of whether that 30% should go to cost or to range the answer is both.

    There are people that average 30 miles a day (current Volt and Leaf are perfect they just need lower cost) and people that average 60 miles a day (they need more EV range).


  14. 14
    Tom W

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:38 am)

    N Riley: Good news, I am sure. But, this is still years from being available for actual use. Step by step the job will get done. GM needs to continue the research and investment where it is feasible.

    I would think the lessons learned in building and testing these first generations of batteries will shorten the generation life cycle. Maybe not to the “Moores Law” example of every 2 years, but once a new chemistry improvement is proven in the lab it could take less than 3 years to reach your driveway.

    Thats one advantage GM has with being involved in the development process and having their production facilities in Michigan is to shorten the development cycle.


  15. 15
    kdawg

     

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:41 am)

    I would like to know what battery technology Ford used to allow the Focus EV to charge in 1/2 the time of the Leaf? Why isn’t GM using this technology (or are they?)


  16. 16
    kdawg

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:45 am)

    Tom W: Also the question of whether that 30% should go to cost or to range the answer is both.

    So you want your cake and eat it too :)

    If I had to choose, i’d split it up into 3 miles longer range and $2000 cost reduction. But I know people out there are screaming for a huge cost reduction. I think they will have to go the cost reduction route (vs. increased range) just because the tax credit will eventually expire. Also, the less battery, the more interior/trunk room.


  17. 17
    CorvetteGuy

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (9:54 am)

    One step closer to an All-Electric Corvette Stingray! Maximum thrust at Zero RPM. What a ride!


  18. 18
    George S. Bower

     

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:13 am)

    kdawg: I would like to know what battery technology Ford used to allow the Focus EV to charge in 1/2 the time of the Leaf?Why isn’t GM using this technology (or are they?)    

    I think it’s just a charger that’s about 2X the Volt and Leaf=3300X2=6600 KW. could be wrong though.


  19. 19
    George S. Bower

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:14 am)

    Anyone care to specualate on the Cathode tech??

    My guess is Nanowires.


  20. 20
    theflew

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:22 am)

    Tom W,

    I think based on the quote below they have been testing the batteries for while in their battery testing facility. This announce probably means they want to move to the next step and build large format cells and test them in packs. Who know what that means as far as packs in cars we can buy, but I would imagine sooner versus later.

    This announcement would help them if they plan on building 120k cars next year. If they could leave the price the same ($7500 tax rebate still available), but able to increase/make a profit on the car and range stays the same.

    “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,”


  21. 21
    Shawn Marshall

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:25 am)

    The Argonne research uses oxygen from the atmosphere to supply the other side of the battery. The battery that rides around in the car is more like a half cell, thus giving a tremendous potential increase in capacity. It’s really a clever approach. I hope it works.


  22. 22
    T 1

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:28 am)

    kdawg: I think they will have to go the cost reduction route (vs. increased range) just because the tax credit will eventually expire.

    Concur. Would be neat if they offered choices, though, just like engine choices now–60 mile range, 40, 20 or all-electric.


  23. 23
    Anthony

     

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (10:38 am)

    Tom W: Maybe not to the “Moores Law” example of every 2 years, but once a new chemistry improvement is proven in the lab it could take less than 3 years to reach your driveway.

    There already is a law like that, we call it “Musk’s Law” (after Elon Musk). Li-Ion batteries improve at a rate of about 8% per year. With all the funding flowing into the market that number might go up a little but don’t expect doubling every two years.

    That said, some of the other articles I’ve read about this note that if you paired it with an advanced anode (Si-C), you could theoretically get 400Wh/kg (the Volt’s is about 130Wh/kg). I wouldn’t expect that level of capacity until 2015 or later, but it would represent a large step up – reducing pack weight by 2/3rds and volume by 1/2. You could get the Volt’s big T battery to only have the top of the T, and the tunnel would go away, or be composed of mostly wires and coolant lines. Assuming prices are around $300/kWh by then, plug-in vehicles look very competitive.


  24. 24
    usbseawolf2000

     

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (11:48 am)

    This battery may well be the one that can last 10 years / 150,000 miles. One has to question if the battery warranty and price of the current Volt proved those skeptics were right all along.

    2012 appears to the year when a true automotive-grade plugin batteries will reach the mass market at an affordable price.


  25. 25
    James

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (1:51 pm)

    Is A123 Systems getting left out in the cold or what?

    I still wish A123 got the Volt contract, and I hope they prosper in our new EV economy.

    It’s interesting LG Chem will benefit greatly from it’s association with GM and perhaps even compete against this latest venture if and when GM moves on from LG Chem to a different supplier…

    It seems LG Chem and GM are in it for the long haul though – The battery news couldn’t be any better for EVs ( unless a super capacitor tech or perpetual motion appears out of nowhere… ). Imagine a Volt with 100 mile AER. Any lightening such as an aluminum hood , door skins, hatch or quarter panels on the Voltecs will allow GM to save money with a smaller battery pack and still see current performance. A lighter car with a lighter generator ( three cylinder or small turbine ) plus a smaller yet more powerful pack mixed with lighter parts and BAM! GOODBYE INFERNAL COMBUSTION FOR GOOD!

    THEY’RE PUMPIN’ OUT THE VOLTS! ,

    James


  26. 26
    George S. Bower

     

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (1:55 pm)

    James: ( or small turbine )
    ,James    

    Good one James. Dream on!!


  27. 27
    James

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (2:07 pm)

    George S. Bower: Good one James. Dream on!!  (Quote)  (Reply)

    You know the engineers have always included a small turbine as a possibility to replace Volt’s ICE, right? Economies of scale may see that happen by…..gen 3?

    Surely it’s too soon to speculate – but so far anyway, the Volt Story seems to be following a very similar path to that of the Prius – but faster! The second gen Volt may make much bigger strides than the 2004 2nd gen Prius did. This battery news is exciting! These innovations are coming fast and furious. A more power-dense battery yet at the existing weight could mean a PERFORMANCE/LUXURY car is on the way! Converj and Caddy Voltec luxo car anyone? Or the vaunted Volt SS!

    Once BEVs and PHEVs start equalling and surpassing the performance parameters of today’s cars at a competitive price – it’s all over for the ICE as we know it. Hybrid 18 wheelers and heavy equipment will follow and then those 5% EVs on our roads by 2030 prognostications will seem a bit ridiculous.

    THEY”RE PUMPING OUT THE VOLTS! ,

    James


  28. 28
    shortale

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    Jan 27th, 2011 (8:08 pm)

    The cathode energy density is important but it is not the whole story. A big part of the Volt’s weight is the armor plating and cooling system that they needed to build in when they set up the factory three years ago. Exploding laptop batteries were still on people’s minds.

    The new materials for cathode, anode, and electrolytes are all more dense but they also solve problems of safety and cycle life. I’ve seen articles for microstructured anodes that posit energy densities of over 2 kWh/kg but also suffer much lower structural breakdown, hence offer multiple times current cycle life. I think Sakti’s big promise is a solid state electrolyte that solves all kinds of safety and manufacturing cost issues.

    The fact sheet on the Boston Power “Swing 4400″ used in the Saab E-93 already points to something twice as dense, or at least holding 10 usable kWh in half the weight and volume of the Volt. If you read between the lines in that they quote their cycle life numbers in terms of 100% and 90% depth-of-discharge, it certainly indicates confidence in the resilience of their cathode/anode/electrolyte materials.

    The Volt is a far better car than the P-59 was a jet-fighter, but I think that’s pretty much the stage we’re at, especially with the batteries. I’m looking for the Sabrejet (Electra) in 2014.