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Lithium Ion Tech Leaps Forward

By Matt Simpson - Thursday, March 15, 2012

With the tight grip corporations keep on the output of their R&D departments, we don’t see the kind of revolutionary changes we used to.  We sit back takes on the role of anxious spectator, forced to deal with the carefully constructed evolution of technology that corporations use to maximize their profits.  One can often tell simply by viewing a corporate earnings projection roadmap what new products and technologies will be released, sometimes even years in the future.  It’s a sad state for the march of technology, but one that will remain the norm until things change drastically. 

That’s not to say that we can’t get excited about what advancement in technology does see the light of day.  I won’t speculate here whether this new battery tech actually counts as a revolution in battery technology, or if the slow trickle of advancement that has been forced upon us is simply lowering our standards for what qualifies as exciting.  It is however a more significant improvement in the state of batteries than we have seen in some time.  How significant?  How about $20000 electric vehicles with a range of over 300 miles.  That’s more than enough to qualify as a major breakthrough in my book.


The company responsible for this advance in battery technology is called Envia.  That may not be a household name at present, but given the reported abilities of their battery, it may one day be.  The company is no stranger to lithium ion storage solutions and has managed to leverage grant money to design a truly remarkable battery system. 

Perhaps the biggest detriment to this batteries future is the large investment made by one of America’s most technologically backward corporations, General Motors.  They have invested heavily in the company and will likely be one of the first to reap the rewards.  I’m sure GM has no plans for giving the people that low cost high capacity electric car anytime soon, but Envia believes that their tech may make it to market by as early as 2015. 


EV Batteries

While the new chemistry used in these batteries may have much further reaching applications, they are currently looking at the EV, or electric vehicle market.  Perhaps the biggest problem with EV batteries is their cost, though this if followed closely by their weight.  The three main areas where these batteries find improvement are in the chemistry of their anode and cathodes as well as the electrolyte itself.  In the case of Envia, they state that they are using patented materials in all aspects. 

The real breakthrough in the case of Envia seems to be using a HCMR or high capacity magnesium rich formula for the cathode and a silicon-carbon nanocomposite anode.  This is coupled with an electrolyte that allows for a higher voltage that is found in typical applications. 

The New Battery

We’ll keep this simple.  Most of the lithium batteries available today allow for between 100 and 150 watt hours per kilogram.  The Envia battery is packing right around 400 watt hours per kilogram.    That alone will make a huge difference in the capacity of the batteries installed on future EV’s, but that’s not the end of it.  Using their new technology, Envia says that they will be able to reduce the price of the battery packs to something around 125 dollars per amp/hour.  Current battery designs are priced between 200 and 300 dollars per amp hour.  With the combination of these two metrics, we can begin to see that this is indeed a large step forward in lithium ion battery technology.  In fact, they are claiming that this will lead us to a 20000 dollar electric vehicle that will be able to travel 300 or more miles on a single charge.  I wouldn’t look for Chevy to release that one, but perhaps someone else will license the process and give the public what we so dearly want, an affordable electric vehicle with a range that doesn’t make a city only cruiser.

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