Joint investment between the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors has enabled a breakthrough in lithium-ion cell technologies that could cut the price of electric vehicle batteries in half.
Armed with $7 million from from General Motors’ venture investment arm, G.M. Ventures, and $4 million from the Energy Department’s advanced energy research program, ARPA-E, California-based Envia Systems announced that it had created a battery pack with cells with energy density far greater than other technologies on the market.
Envia says its new manganese-based cathode design allows lithium cells to store almost three times the amount of energy per charge than today’s commercial lithium-ion battery packs. Envia’s chairman and CEO Atul Kapadia spoke to the New York Times:
“We will be able to make smaller automotive packs that are also less heavy and much cheaper,” Atul Kapadia, chairman and chief executive of Envia, said in a telephone interview. “The cost of cells will be less than half — perhaps 45 percent — of cells today, and the energy density will be almost three times greater than conventional automotive cells.”
Mr. Kapadia continued: “What we have are not demonstrations, not experiments, but actual products. We could be in automotive production in a year and a half.”
If these claims are true, they could provide a much-needed boost to the electric vehicle sector. Because batteries are one of the most costly parts of electric vehicles, dramatic improvements like this could substantially reduce the overall cost of vehicles. Dozens of companies are working on bringing battery costs down, but none have been able to get into a cost range that would break the market open.
Looks like a strategic government investment in good ol’ fashioned energy R&D could just get us there.