Cheaper, Farther, Stronger — A New Car Battery Design Is Ready for Testing

Thursday, March 8, 2012

by Martin LaMonica, CNET NEWS, February 26, 2012

image With the auto industry pining for a battery breakthrough to lower electric vehicle costs, Envia Systems has some interesting performance data to share.

The five-year-old company today is expected to disclose technical details of its batteries which executives say could lead to cutting EV battery pack prices in half in three or four years. Envia Systems’ batteries are being evaluated by a number of automakers, including its largest investor General Motors, according to CEO Atul Kapadia.

The lithium ion batteries in cars, such as the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, provide ample power to accelerate a car, but the cost and bulk of these batteries has kept initial sales restricted to early technology adopters. Automakers and battery manufacturers are hoping that battery improvements, specifically in cost and energy density, can broaden the appeal of plug-in cars and extend their driving range.

Envia said its batteries were tested at 400 watt-hours per kilogram at a projected cost of $125 per kilowatt-hour, which is more energy dense than most batteries and less than half of what automakers are paying today, according to the company. Its tests have also shown that its batteries perform well after 400 cycles, Kapadia said.

Envia licensed technology from Argonne National Laboratory and was funded with $4 million from the ARPA-E agency in 2009 to develop the high-energy density battery. It also received a grant from the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium.

To improve battery performance and cost, engineers at Envia Systems designed a new manganese-based cathode, a costly component in a battery cell. Battery cells are wired together and assembled to make a battery pack. The cathode uses a mix of metals produced in a way to create surface properties for better capacity and long life, explained Sujeet Kumar, the chief technology office and president.

"It’s a very complex material yet it can be made using simple reactors you’d find in the biotech industry or furnaces from the ceramic industry, so it can be scaled up easily," Kumar said. [Read rest of story]

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