GM Invests in Lithium-Ion Battery Technology

General Motors Ventures LLC invested $7 million in Newark, Calif.ornia-based Envia Systems to provide GM’s battery engineering team with access to advanced lithium-ion cathode technology. 

GM says the technology will deliver higher cell energy density and lower cost.

In a separate agreement, GM has secured the right to use Envia’s advanced cathode material for future GM electrically driven vehicles. 

Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures said the announcement contradicts claims by skeptics who say it will be years high-perfomance lithium-ion batteries are available at lower costs.

The funding round for the company totaled $17 million and included new investors Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass; as well as existing investors Bay Partners, Redpoint and Panagea Ventures.

Envia’s cathode technology uses relatively inexpensive materials that store more energy per unit of mass than current cathode materials. Since the cathode is a key driver for the overall battery cost, the more energy the cathode delivers, the lower the battery cost because fewer cells are needed.

“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.”

The battery technology was originally developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who cited the announcement as justification for investing in U.S. innovation and clean energy jobs.

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