From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published February 29, 2012 10:14 AM

American Scientists Make Great Leap in Battery Technology

One of the primary concerns with owning an electric vehicle is cost of the battery, the range it offers, and the time it takes to recharge. Those concerns will be significantly lessoned with the development of a new lithium-ion battery. Designed by scientists at Envia Systems, a US-based company, the new battery has roughly twice the energy density of existing rechargeable batteries. Such an innovation could greatly increase the range of electric cars as well as cut the price of the battery packs in half.


The research conducted by Envia Systems was funded by a $4 million federal grant through ARPA-Energy (Advanced Research Projects Agency). The work was done at the Argonne National Laboratory.

The new battery can achieve an energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram, double that of existing rechargeable batteries. The key was introducing manganese into the mix of materials used in the cathode, the electrode where the lithium ions congregate. Then, they added silicon to the anode, the electrode toward which the ions flow, producing the electric current.

The costs of the batteries are cheaper per kilowatt-hour than standard lithium ion batteries. At $125 per kwh, they are less than half the cost. The is not trivial because the batteries constitute roughly 65 percent of the total cost of an electric vehicle.

The major automakers have taken notice of this battery breakthrough and are knocking on Envia's door. General Motors is already an investor in the technology. However, according to Envia chairman and CEO, Atul Kapadia, Envia is "working with all the brand name [carmakers] in the world."

The new batteries could greatly boost the nascent electric car industry. For example, a Nissan LEAF combined with the new Envia battery could potentially travel 300 miles on a single $10 charge, as opposed to its 80 mile range today. This is roughly the same range as many conventional internal combustion engines. It is the equivalent of driving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh on a single charge.

The new battery breakthrough may well revolutionize the auto industry. It is foreseeable that electric vehicles may actually surpass sales of conventional vehicles, potentially phasing them out forever.

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Image shows Envia laboratories. Image credit: John F. Martin for General Motors

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