Envia's technology could potentially change all that, boosting EV range to as much as 300 miles, while cutting battery costs to between $125/kWh and $150/kWh. The company's engineers accomplished that by creating their own anode, cathode, and electrolyte. The anode is made from a silicon-carbon composite, while the cathode uses a high ratio of manganese, with lower percentages of cobalt and nickel. The use of manganese is said to be particularly interesting to automakers because it is inexpensive.
Envia's energy and cost numbers represent such a major jump that they are creating some skepticism in the battery community. At the same time, however, even the skeptics agree that Envia's credentials are impressive. Tests on the new technology were performed by the Electrochemical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, under ARPA-E's sponsorship. And the fledgling company has the backing of General Motors, which invested $7 million in its technology in 2010, as well as a $4 million grant from ARPA.
Battery experts contacted by Design News said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude on the technology.
"This is so much better than what is known to be working out there that it deserves a detailed explanation based on technical data," said one anonymous designer and expert. "If they have the data to back it up -- including the cycle life data -- then they've got something really good here."
Other experts said cycle life will be a key issue for the technology. Tests, they said, should involve high numbers of cycles at high depths of discharge, if the battery is to be fairly evaluated for automotive applications.