A startup backed by General Motors said last week that it has developed a breakthrough lithium ion battery that could slash the cost of electric vehicles.
Envia Systems said the lighter and more powerful battery cells could reduce by more than half the cost of a battery pack in an EV with a 300-mile electric range.
"There is this enormous race going on" to develop higher-density batteries, which are considered the key to making less costly EVs that can go longer distances between charges, Envia CEO Atul Kapadia said in an interview. "What we've done is leapfrog all existing technologies."
Envia, of Newark, Calif., said its advanced cathode technology enables its battery to produce 400 watt hours per kilogram, at an estimated cost of $125 per kilowatt hour. Batteries used in EVs today produce 80 to 150 watt hours per kilogram, at a cost of $250 to $350 per kilowatt hour, Envia says.
Envia uses manganese and other inexpensive metals to make its battery cells' cathode, which is the electrode from which the current flows. The use of cheaper materials drives down costs.
And because the cells store more energy, fewer cells are needed to assemble the battery pack, which further drives down the overall cost.
Envia could have the technology in commercial production by 2014, Kapadia said. He said several automakers are evaluating its technology, including "major" players in Japan, Korea and the United States.
The company said that the performance of its battery was independently tested by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana.
In January 2011, GM's venture capital arm, GM Ventures, invested $7 million in Envia, which raised an additional $10 million from several other investors. Envia licensed some of its technology from Argonne National Laboratory and has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Kapadia said GM remains Envia's largest investor and is the "most aggressive and most enthusiastic" automaker interested in its battery, although GM does not have contractual rights to the technology.
Jon Lauckner, who was named GM's chief technology officer last month, sits on Envia's board of directors.
Lauckner also is president of GM Ventures.