Startup announces big breakthrough for electric vehicle batteries

Mar 06, 2012 By Dana Hull

For years, the electric vehicle industry has been eager to build a better electric car battery: one that extends range while having a longer overall life, is affordable, quick-charging and safe.

Now Envia Systems, a start-up based in Newark, Calif., has announced it has achieved a critical milestone: a rechargeable with an "" of 400 watt-hours per kilogram, the highest energy density known to be recorded.

When commercialized, Envia says the 400 wh/kg battery, with a range of 300 miles and a cost of about $25,000, will slash the price of electric vehicles and make them more affordable for mainstream consumers.

"My dream is to build an automotive supply-chain for the electric car in the United States and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Envia CEO Atul Kapadia in an e-mail.

Envia made its announcement at the ARPA-E Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 27. The start-up received a $4 million grant from ARPA-E in December 2009 to develop advanced lithium-ion batteries for . It went on to raise $17 million in venture capital from General Motors Ventures, Bay Partners, Redpoint and Pangaea Ventures.

"Envia's new represents exactly the kind of innovation and breakthroughs that ARPA-E is looking for from the American research and development community," said ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar in a prepared statement "We hope that this low cost and high density battery technology enables widespread adoption of electric vehicles across the country and around the world."

Batteries are complex systems that convert stored into electricity. Researchers say advances often involve trade-offs: improving range may result in skyrocketing costs, or a shorter battery life.

Measured as per kilogram or liter, "energy density" determines range: The more watt hours, the more miles a car can travel on a single charge. Low-cost, high-energy density batteries are the Holy Grail. Battery costs are expected to come down due to volume manufacturing, but energy density has been a much harder goal to achieve.

Kapadia said that Envia's hard-working team of engineers developed the technology from scratch. After testing the battery in-house, additional testing was performed by the Electrochemical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana. The company is now in discussion with auto manufacturers.

"Rather than just a proof-of-concept of energy density, I am pleased that our team was successful in actually delivering 400 Whkg automotive grade 45 Amp-hour lithium-ion rechargeable cells," said Sujeet Kumar, Envia's co-founder and CTO, in a prepared statement.

The Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt all use some form of lithium-ion chemistry in their batteries. First commercialized by Sony in 1991, lithium-ion batteries are widely used in consumer electronics such as laptops and cell phones but are relatively new in cars. The Bay Area - home to Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors (TSLA), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and at least two dozen battery startups - has emerged as one of the nation's leading hubs of battery innovation.

The basic guts of a battery include a negatively charged anode, a positively charged cathode and the electrolyte. When a battery is fully charged, the lithium ions are concentrated in the anode. As the battery discharges, the ions flow to the cathode and current flows through the electric circuit, releasing energy. Many battery startups are experimenting with chemistry; Envia started with the cathode, moved on to the electrolyte and then the anode.

While there's been talk in the industry of moving "beyond lithium" and using new materials, many expect lithium-ion batteries to remain dominant in the coming decades.

"The rumors of the demise of lithium-ion batteries were greatly exaggerated," Kapadia said.

Explore further: Ambitious EU targets for renewable energies make economic sense

More information: For more information, go to: enviasystems.com/announcement

4.7 /5 (12 votes)
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User comments : 53

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Eventide
2.6 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
so does this mean my iphone will last longer than 1 day too?
BikeToAustralia
3.6 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
awesome work, thank you! Huge potential usage.
Skultch
2.5 / 5 (13) Mar 06, 2012
When commercialized, Envia says the 400 wh/kg battery, with a range of 300 miles and a cost of about $25,000, will slash the price of electric vehicles and make them more affordable for mainstream consumers.


Did I miss an implication that economies of scale will bring this down from $25k? That doesn't sound like a price point that will make these cars /more/ affordable.

"My dream is to build an automotive supply-chain for the electric car in the United States and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Envia CEO Atul Kapadia in an e-mail.


Wouldn't this merely shift the dependence towards Chinese lithium?
Johannes_H_Larsen
2.9 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
Isn't lithium ion batteries only 2-3% of the weight?

25,000 is very affordable considering the savings you get from not using gas
PaulRC
3 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
the battery alone is $25000? and this will make electric cars more affordable? NOT! lol cheaper than existing batteries maybe, but still not affordable.
Lord_jag
4 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
40 MPG cars will use 5,000 gallons of fuel to go 200,000 miles (reasonable lifetime of a small car)

That fuel, even at $4/gallon, costs $20,000.... to go 200,000 miles.

Even if electricity was free, that's no savings....
neotesla
4.8 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2012
That's assuming that gas will stay at $4 a gallon...
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
Without a bit more technical detail this sounds just like hype to get more investors. What's the recharge time? How many cycles does it last? How dependent is it on temperatures?

If they can do it - great. But 25k is still more than I'd splurge on an e-vehicle (let alone just the battery)
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (42) Mar 06, 2012
The best lithium ion batteries to date have had a specific power of 250 Wh/Kg.

Lead Acid 35 Wh/Kg.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (38) Mar 06, 2012
Once automotive batteries enter volume production, prices will fall considerably.

Probably to less than half their current cost.
jlantrip
4.4 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012

Did I miss an implication that economies of scale will bring this down from $25k? That doesn't sound like a price point that will make these cars /more/ affordable.

You have to remember that you wont be paying for gas with this vehicle, and compared to gasoline powered cars, all-electric cars use far less energy to drive the same distance, and consequently cost far less to fuel. Especially if you get you energy from your own renewables.

"Wouldn't this merely shift the dependence towards Chinese lithium?"

Lithium production is actually highest in Chili and Bolivia, and once a battery is made you don't have to buy a new one once it runs out, you just recharge it...for a while anyway. But then again the lithium is salvageable and I would imagine some recycling or trade in programs for old batteries will be put in place.
tpb
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Lord jaq didn't include the cost of electricity which is also going up.
Don't forget the road tax that will be levied on electricity used for electric vehicles. The government will replace the gas tax with an electricity tax.
Matt_J_
5 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2012
According to this page http://enviasyste...ovation/ Current batteries have a 80-150 Wh/kg capacity to weight ratio and a $250-$350 per kWh while there new cell has a 400 Wh/kg ratio and a $125 per kWh cost. Allegedly the battery will increase the capacity a minimum of 167% and reduce coast at least 50%.
Eikka
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
That's assuming that gas will stay at $4 a gallon...


And assuming that the battery will last 200,000 miles. There's no info on the cycle life of these batteries, and the higher energy density ones have typically been sooner to break.

It's just as well you have to pay another $25,000 in 3-4 years, and end up paying $50-75,000 to go the same distance.
Eikka
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2012
Once automotive batteries enter volume production, prices will fall considerably.

Probably to less than half their current cost.


Unless demand outstrips production of the raw materials like Lithium and other rare earths needed.
Eikka
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
However, if by chance they have managed to build a battery that has a decent cycle life (~1500) and won't break down chemically in 3-4 years like other high-density lithium-ion batteries, you could drive it for about 300,000 miles if you start with a battery that goes 300 miles and end with one that goes 200 miles.

You could drive it even further, but since the damage done to the battery develops exponentially with use, it will lose range a lot faster after that point.

The next problem then becomes, how to recharge it. You'll have about 75 kWh of energy on board, and if you want to fill up in a reasonable time, like 8 hours, you need 39 amps from a 240 volt outlet, or 78 amps out of 120 volts.

Of if you want to quick charge... a 30 minute pit-stop will draw as much power as 45 average homes.
Eikka
3 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
However, peeking at the announcement itself, the graphics lead to believe that the battery lost 30% of its capacity in just 450 cycles, which means it will probably be dead in 600-700 cycles.

Which isn't good at all.

It means, that the battery will die somewhere between 100-150,000 miles, and as expensive as it is, it will be $8 for a gallon of gas before it makes sense to buy one ...and the car, which will be worthless by then since nobody would want to buy a used car that won't go unless you plonk $25,000 more on it.
Urgelt
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
Lead acid battery chemistry dominated the battery industry for over a hundred years.

The reign of Lithium-ion battery chemistry will be brief by comparison, I suspect.

What's needed isn't incremental improvements. We need an order of magnitude of improvement in energy density, charging time, longevity, and cost. Lithium-ion won't get us there.

For the short term, refinements in lithium batteries will be welcome; but we're really just marking time and making do until disruptive breakthroughs in battery technology can appear.
Eikka
1.9 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
For the short term, refinements in lithium batteries will be welcome; but we're really just marking time and making do until disruptive breakthroughs in battery technology can appear.


I don't think there is such a disruptive breakthrough that can make electric cars really honestly viable though. If for simply how much power they use for recharging. It's never going to be as simple as pop in and pour in a few gallons of fuel, and then drive off.

There's also the problem that a powerful battery is practically a bomb. The more energy you stuff in per kilogram, the more volatile it gets because it has both components in it that are needed to release said energy - all you have to do is give it a push. GM already had Volts catching fire at the battery, and that's on todays energy densities.

It's like the difference between having gasoline in your fuel tank, and having nitroglyserine; both of which are okay - as long as you don't disturb the nitro too much...
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Mar 06, 2012
Lithium is not a rare earth element.

"Lithium Abundance - World Lithium Reserve

...

Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded."

http://www.blogge...26194994

"Estimates for crustal content range from 20 to 70 ppm by weight. In keeping with its name, lithium forms a minor part of igneous rocks, with the largest concentrations in granites. Granitic pegmatites also provide the greatest abundance of lithium-containing minerals, with spodumene and petalite being the most commercially viable sources.[11] A newer source for lithium is hectorite clay, the only active development of which is through the Western Lithium Corporation in the United States.[34] At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth's crust,[35] lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance. " -wikipedia

Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (36) Mar 06, 2012
The goal is to reduce home energy consumption so that it will be more like 450 homes.

"Of if you want to quick charge... a 30 minute pit-stop will draw as much power as 45 average homes." - Eikka
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Why not use electric rails to power cars, like the old electric race cars we all played with on the tracks?

That would remove the need for extremely large batteries, and then you could use only batteries that are large enough to get the car onto the tracks.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Mar 06, 2012
"Why not use electric rails to power cars" - Lurker

Rail maintenance.
StarGazer2011
1.3 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2012
quick change batteries are the only way to go. You buy the car but lease the battery like you do a propane tank. Drive to the gas station, swap the battery out and drive off.
Potentially solves problems of cycle degradation and charging times. The idea that we are going to plug our cars in at night is ridiculous.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (39) Mar 07, 2012
Driving less is the only rational way to go.

Foolish1
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
$125/kwh is an incredible improvement. From looks of their chart cycle life is not that great so I expect shelf life and operating temperature range to be medicore as well. Hopefully things will improve as their technology matures.
Koen
1 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2012
Envia's website now states 20000 dollar per 300 miles battery. A better business case would be 10000 dollar for a 150 miles battery, together wih a cheap low maintenance electric motor and chassis, I expect the car minus battery to cost an extra 10000 dollar. A 150 miles electric car for 20000 dollar should be affordable to most people. Electric motors have a high lifetime, and I expect great progress in battery and solar PV technology during the next 8 years, so your second electric car will be much better and affordable (probably you only need to replace the battery).
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
The great triumph of the modern automotive industry is the manufacture of a customer that accepts their automotive purchase will not be serviceable and will need replacement after 10 years or 100,000 miles.

ShotmanMaslo
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 07, 2012
Lithium-air battery has a theoretical energy density of 12 kWh/kg, 30 times that of this battery and similar to gasoline. There are many issues to be overcomed to implement it in practice, tough.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
Lithium-air battery has a theoretical energy density...

'Theoretical' being the operative word, here. They're not really close to being a market ready technology.

But if we're looking at what's in the pipe then I'd go for ionic liquid batteries. 900-1600Wh/kg AND you can refuel them at a 'gas' station within minutes by just swapping out the liquid.
Eikka
1 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2012
Lithium is not a rare earth element.

"Lithium Abundance - World Lithium Reserve

...

Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded."


Abundant, yes, but that doesn't take into account how much it costs to sift the lithium out of various sands and clays. And what about the other elements? Neodymium for example, for the magnetics.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2012
"Why not use electric rails to power cars" - Lurker

Rail maintenance.


And kids sticking pennies between the tracks.

Driving less is the only rational way to go.


Doesn't solve the problem. If anything, driving less with an electric car just means you pay more, because the batteries have a limited shelf life. You pay the price anyways whether or not you use it, unless you socialize transportation and ban private ownership of vehicles.

Driving less on fossil fuels just postpones the inevitable, and driving on biofuels isn't a viable solution for how much land it uses just to provide fuel for a tiny fraction of cars.
Eikka
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2012
Lithium-air battery has a theoretical energy density of 12 kWh/kg, 30 times that of this battery and similar to gasoline. There are many issues to be overcomed to implement it in practice, tough.


Do you count that when the battery is full, or when it's empty?

Point being, that oxygen is quite heavy, and the battery absorbs it when it's being used. Would be interesting to have a car that gets heavier and heavier the further you drive. Imagine a gasoline engine that had to carry all its exhaust gas in a tank on the roof.

I believe the solution will be a synthetic gaseous or liquid fuel made from available organic waste and CO2 using renewable energy and fission power, burned in a fuel cell for efficiency.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2012
I believe the solution will be a synthetic gaseous or liquid fuel made from available organic waste and CO2 using renewable energy and fission power, burned in a fuel cell for efficiency.


Or synthetic ammonia could be made from air and water, as to not be limited by biomass availability.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2012
The batter announced maintains this capacity only during very first cycles. In addition, it's not so difficult to find way more powerful lithium batteries on the web, so I'm rather confused from this PR... After all, which batter could measure with cold fusion generator? Such research is merely a salary and job generator, which just delays the implementation of really effective solutions.
phyzzi
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
The energy density of gasoline is 12,200 wh/kg. The new battery is 1/30th of that. Batteries have a long way to go.
Eikka
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2012
The energy density of gasoline is 12,200 wh/kg. The new battery is 1/30th of that. Batteries have a long way to go.


The difference isn't that great when you consider that roughly 80% of the gasoline's energy is wasted before it reaches the wheels with conventional engines. That narrows the difference to "merely" 1:6

But the biggest problem still is, that if we give the battery a 700 cycle life at an initial cost of $125/kWh, and assume that the average capacity over time is 320 Wh/kg, then we get a cost of 56 cents per kWh. Add the average electricity price of 11 c/kWh and factor in the energy consumption of 250 Wh/mi and you get 17 cents per mile.

If your car gets 40 MPG, that means gasoline has to be $6.80 per gallon before buying the electric car starts to make economical sense. For a car that gets 50 MPG, gasoline prices have to reach $8.50 a gallon.

But can you afford to drive at $6.80 a gallon? Maybe, but many people won't. We'll see bicycles on the roads before EVs
kochevnik
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 07, 2012
Doesn't solve the problem. If anything, driving less with an electric car just means you pay more, because the batteries have a limited shelf life.
Actually Li batteries can last 10-100x longer if they are neither fully drawn down, or charged past their capacity. Usage is the key. A smarter charger could nurse the batteries with TLC and they would likely last as long as the car.

My wheels were fully charged AND the batteries was allowed to drain to full discharge for three months at the shop. Batteries were superb before, but after sitting in the shop they quickly expired. Regardless storing an electric is far super to petrol, as I can store it anywhere.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2012
...their automotive purchase will not be serviceable and will need replacement after 10 years or 100,000 miles.
In California a fair number of vehicles are older then their drivers.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (6) Mar 07, 2012
Batteries were superb before, but after sitting in the shop they quickly expired.

Thats why you should keep your gadgets as much on the charger as possible as the driver should manage voltages to improve battery life(most modern devices have this). Or keep your battery around 30% and put it in the fridge.

I see how keeping your car over night in a plug or at a parking spot in a plug can improve battery life greatly.
PPihkala
1 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2012
I see the automotive engine future with modern steam engine, powered by cold fusion reactor generated steam. Then one has to refuel the reactor as often people now days take their cars to maintenance, say twice a year. Refueling will probably cost under 1000 dollars and this tech will have close to zero emissions or better. Such cars would probably need battery for starting up, but so do current ones too. When these are available, nobody will want to have gasoline or electric cars anymore.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Mar 09, 2012
Claptrap.

"Doesn't solve the problem. If anything, driving less with an electric car just means you pay more," - Eikka

You may pay more per mile, but you pay less overall.
rah
1 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2012
Yeah! This whole thing don't make no sense. Besides having zero details about the "breakthrough" in this report, it sounds as if the reporter is just getting excited because the company's press release sounds exciting. I would be excited to see how much money they have raised and what kind of house the founder and CEO are living in.
Eikka
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2012

You may pay more per mile, but you pay less overall.


$125 per kWh with this battery costs you roughly 22.3 cents per kWh used and with the averge price of electricity around 11 cents, 2/3 of your "fuel" costs are static, assuming you drive every mile until the battery is dead.

Out of the price of the entire car, roughly 4/5ths is static cost, and only 1/5 is what you can save by not driving at all. It means that by driving half as much as you could, you pay just 10% less overall.

And assuming you're not just driving around for the fun of it, driving less actually costs you something else. Why else would you waste your time driving there?
tkjtkj
1 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2012
But guys/gals .. we've already sEEN the answer: super-capacitors.. Now, we only have to wait for them to appear .. Likely? no. .. as NONE of these 'remarkeable' battery advances have ever appeared in a real product..
stripeless_zebra
1 / 5 (3) Mar 11, 2012
"When commercialized, Envia says the 400 wh/kg battery, with a range of 300 miles and a cost of about $25,000, will slash the price of electric vehicles and make them more affordable for mainstream consumers."

And they think I'd give up my diesel?
After 350,000kms I put less than $2000 in parts into my Jetta Wagon and my all time average fuel consumption is 6.4L/100kms. I can easily get it beyond 600,000kms with minimum operating costs.
Good luck anyway!
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2012
the only great and worthwhile thing about using overpriced batteries is that by doing so you promote a virtuous cycle of research, production, consumption, and usage which leads to way better quality of anything (batteries) over time if you keep at it.

batteries are essentially electrochemical. capacitors electro static. one day, both will be a lot better.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
But guys/gals .. we've already sEEN the answer: super-capacitors.

Supercapacitors don't hold a charge for long (park your supercapacitor car and it will not start the next morning).
They also don't give you a constant output voltage upon being used (unlike batteries). And they have a lower energy density than batteries. Also they are pretty hazardous when you have an accident.

Super (and ultra) capcitors are great for capturing brake energy or getting a quick bost of energy during aceleration. but it's really a toss of the coin whether the additional weight merits their inclusion in any given system.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2012
Eikka and VD are both making good points, but your still arguing over a fraction of a difference.

The main problem though is that minimal savings either way isn't going to change the industry. No car manufacturer is going to undercut their gasoline powered cars, unless you can show substantial increase in profits. And even if you could, the oil companies aren't going to like their loss in sales.

You need a jump in technology on the scale of horse n buggy to car.

Usage is the key.


And you expect most people, who can't change their own oil to be able to properly charge their car every night?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
And you expect most people, who can't change their own oil to be able to properly charge their car every night?

It's easier to plug in a car than to change the oil. Most people manage to operate a gas pump. Connecting your car to an outlet is even simpler than that.

No car manufacturer is going to undercut their gasoline powered cars

Well, then here's the chance for new manufacturers to make a killing on the market. Toyota (though not a new manufacturer) already did with the Prius. Many large auto companies have completely missed the ride when it comes to developing EVs.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2012
the oil companies aren't going to like their loss in sales.


Nonsense, we still need oil for many things. Heck we could even make oil power plants. The problem they will face is that are less likely to get permits to drill or contracts in war because oil is not a requirement for a good economy any more. So I guess they still lose profits but I think it is more about loss of influence and power.
Though if they were smart they would move from USA/Europe to India or something like an African country to play their oil games there.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2012
It's easier to plug in a car than to change the oil. Most people manage to operate a gas pump. Connecting your car to an outlet is even simpler than that.


Yes, anyone can plug it in, but management of charge time is a whole other game though to get maximum efficiency. Most people will just plug it in and leave it.

Toyota (though not a new manufacturer) already did with the Prius.


And it still uses gas. Making a killing is different than shifting the entire industry.

Many large auto companies have completely missed the ride when it comes to developing EVs.


Not at all. Typically the EV is going to cost you more in the long run, and people are keeping their cars longer, rather than buying new. Until you can significantly beat performance, cost, maintenance, and fuel savings with an EV that isn't going to change, and especially not in America.

2 million sold over 10 years vs. over 100 million cars in total sales. Hardly a killing.

Yellowdart
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2012
Nonsense, we still need oil for many things.


Of course. But you defeat this yourself when you start talking loss of influence and power and not just the loss of revenue.

They'll go the way of the paper companies, but they won't go quietly.