The biggest obstacles to mass production of electric vehicles and their popularity amongst the public are the cost, the range and their safety in collisions. All these obstacles are heavily influenced by just one part of the vehicle … the battery. The lithium ion batteries are very expensive to produce and can account for as much as 65 percent of the overall production cost. They can also only hold a limited amount of power which gives the car a very short range of travel, about 80 miles, before it needs to be recharged. The final obstacle is the safety of the vehicle due to the problem that some batteries can overheat and burst into flames, with the potential of a thermal runaway from one battery to the next.
Envia Systems have now announced a possible solution to all these problems with the most energy dense battery ever. Their new lithium ion battery holds nearly twice as much energy per gram as current batteries. Sujeet Kumar, Envia co-founder and chief technology officer, stated that “we achieved 400 watt-hours per kilogram. We have made a 40 ampere cell in a large format that automakers can recognize and use.”
Envia was granted $4 million by ARPA-e to create their battery. They began by using research performed at the Argonne National Laboratory which discovered that including manganese in the cathode of the battery increases the energy density of the cell. They then furthered this technology by focussing on the anode, where they discovered that integrating silicon with graphite and interlaced carbon fibres boosted performance even more.
Envia’s battery is almost half as expensive as current equivalents at only $125 per kilowatt-hour, which means that car manufacturers who decide to use it will be granted twice the power at less than half the cost. All that remains is for the battery to undergo years of testing by the individual car makers who are interested in using it. Atul Kapadia, the CEO and chairman of Envia, said “we are working with all the brand names [carmakers] around the world,” he gave no exact reference as to which car makers will look at it, although GM is an investor.
The high energy density enables the electric vehicles to travel much further. A Nissan LEAF with Envia’s batteries could travel 300 miles on a single $10 charge. Kumar said that, “we expect Envia's next generation lithium-ion battery will revolutionize the [electric vehicle] industry by eliminating the three remaining barriers to mass adoption: cost, range and safety. The ability to drive up to 300 miles on a single charge will eliminate 'range anxiety.’”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com