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One Step Closer to Game-Changing Electric Vehicle Batteries


Envia Systems’ breakthrough battery is one step closer to commercialization after a public vote of confidence last week from the CEO of General Motors (GM), Dan Akerson. ITIF has previously blogged about the battery, which performed at an energy density of 378-418 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) in independent tests. In contrast, conventional electric vehicle batteries possess substantially lower densities – the battery of the high-end Tesla roadster, for example, has an energy density of 121 Wh/kg, while the Nissan Leaf’s is 79 Wh/kg. GM is conducting further tests on the battery, but its CEO expressed hope that it could be installed in an electric vehicle in just two to four years. “These little companies come out of nowhere, and they surprise you,” Akerson remarked in regard to Envia. “I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge. That would be a game changer.”

Envia and its battery did not come out of nowhere, of course – they were in large part the product of a supportive energy innovation ecosystem. As related in a previous blog post, the battery was based on technology licensed from Argonne National Laboratory and in addition to funding from GM’s investment arm, Envia received $4 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for technology research and development. Furthermore, ARPA-E sponsored testing of the battery at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.

The fact that Envia’s energy-dense battery could lead to an electric vehicle with a range of 200 miles per charge is not remarkable on its own. It may be impressive in comparison to new car models like the 2012 Nissan Leaf, which has a range of 73 miles, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, with a range of 62 miles. But certain models of the 2012 Tesla S electric sedan have a range of 265 miles. Where the Envia battery truly stands out is on the cost issue. The Tesla S models in question have very large – three times the size of what’s in the Nissan Leaf, according to NBC News – and expensive batteries that have contributed to the cars’ starting price tag of $69,900. The Envia battery, however, is expected to cost at least 50% less than conventional batteries, such that company CEO Atul Kapadia has set a conservative target of building “a 200-mile car cost[ing] no more than $25,000 and a 300-mile car cost[ing] no more than $35,000.”

Hopefully, automakers like GM will be able to commercialize breakthrough batteries like that of Envia and make electric vehicles that are genuinely cost and performance competitive with conventional gas cars a reality. If GM’s CEO is to be believed, that reality is potentially a mere two years away.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Clifton Yin's picture

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Raphael Hemmerle's picture
Raphael Hemmerle on August 17, 2012

The question wether or not Electric Vehicle can replace conventional fuel vehicles is not so sure to me?

The reason I say so, is that, Batteries are made of rare raw materials, usually the process of extraction those materials like lithium for example are costly, not environmentally good, and more importantly those are probably as scarce as gaz/petrol.

Has anyone any knowledge to share about how, from where to get to those precious minerals that constitute the batteries ?


Clifton Yin's picture
Clifton Yin on August 17, 2012

Hi rhemmerl,

I haven't looked extensively at the question of lithium supply, but a report released late last year had a promising message: "Even with a rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, lithium resources are sufficient to support demand until at least the end of this century," they wrote."

Thanks for reading!

Joe Killeen's picture
Joe Killeen on August 17, 2012

In March 2009 I brought a demonstartion model, the only one in the US at the time, of the all ectric, zero tail pipe emission urban trucks being used in London and 1/2 dozen other european cities, to a conference of academics and business folk who were intersted in sustainable technologies, primarily software. The truck was a surprise it had not been asked for or registered to appear. The conference was in a hotel one block in from Times Square in New York City. I thought the venue and the conference provided a good backdrop to show off some existing, ready to roll on the ground technology.

The appearance succeeded in bringing attention to the vehicle. So much so that I was invited into the afternoon session which was focused on discussions of available technologies. I went in, sat down and prepared myself to answer any and all questions I could on the workings and cost figures of the vehicle.

Never got that far, I spent about 45 minutes trying to answer a continuos barrage of questions on the LCA of the vehicle. Not one question was asked as to what it would mean and how the vehicle was projected to perform in an urban setting like New York City.

I left and took the truck back to the terminal and loaded it up and delivered it to its next scheduled stop an electric vehicle show in Washington DC.

I didn't stop pursuing my interest in the technology or belief that the US needed to understand the commercial value as well as the environmental value of this technology. 

I had already ordered 2 of the vehicles from the British manufacturer, and at the time of this conference was in the 4th year of waiting since I had made the order in 2005.

I finally took possesion of my two vehicles in March 2010. The trucks have been working 2 shifts per 24 hour day, on regular schedules serving the apparel industry both into the stores in Manhattan and out of the city bringing as much as we can get work for of the garment work left in NYC.

To date I have not heard back from neither one academic nor one business person who attended that original conference.

Worrying about the details, the LCA of any product is essential and should be part of every product or service existing or possibly coming to market in the modern world. 

Placing the concerns about those particulars helps produce the attitude of the deniers or non participants who have contributed to the absolute lack of initiative that has prevented sustainable technology, thinking and business process' from reaching any but the Fortune 100 and 500 where it remains an insiders tool leveraged for individual gain and not societal benefit.

Raphael Hemmerle's picture
Raphael Hemmerle on August 17, 2012



This is a very controversial topic, really hot actually.

Those who manage to secure access to resources for Lithuim are rare.

In anyway, I like the positive report you send.




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