GM Chief Says Envia Systems EV Battery Is Potential ‘Game Changer’

Last week General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said Envia Systems, a startup battery maker it has invested in, may within a few years produce a battery that could give electric vehicles up to 200 miles range.

Like many of these statements issued periodically, what will come of it is up in the air, but if it’s any cause for hope, the word from the top at GM was pretty clear regarding GM Ventures’ backing of Newark, Calif.-based Envia.

Akerson said what began with a $7 million investment in January 2011 is reason to report the possibility that within 2-4 years an electric GM could have 100-200 miles range.

With 200 miles range, would a Volt need a range extender? Or would all this hope for improved li-ion batteries just lead to better EVs, like the Spark and others?

Akerson said on the conservative side GM is sure a 100-mile range EV is do-able in a couple years, and with luck, this could become up to 200 miles with batteries made by Envia Systems.

“I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge,” he said. “That would be a game changer.”

GM Ventures placed a bet on this pony because it has reason to believe statements by Envia earlier this year saying its next-generation lithium-ion cell has already achieved record energy density. Envia said the new battery could slash EV prices by cutting the battery cost in half.


From Envia’s Web site.

“These little companies come out of nowhere, and they surprise you,” Akerson said in response to a question about GM’s strategy on gas-electric hybrid vehicles.

But just to add more kinks in the future road, Akerson said GM is not only considering hybrids and EVs, but hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas, and simply more efficient petroleum-powered engines are all on the table – and which will rise in ascendancy in coming years, GM cannot say.

“We can’t put all of our chips on one bet,” said GM’s CEO. “We’ve got to look at them all.”

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  • Van

    Having followed the development of improved energy storage systems for years, this seems all too familiar. If true, of course it would be a game changer, imagine a $125/kwh battery!! A plug in hybrid could put 12 KWh in a small space for an EV range of 25 miles for about a $1500 premium over their regular hybrid.

    The good part of this oft told story is the claim of production in 2012.
    So a short time will tell. 🙂

  • FamilyGuy

    Equally important to range, at least for me, is recharge time and recharge locations.

    How long to recharge? Where can I do it?

  • Van

    Typically a 240 Volt 6.6 Kw charger would recharge 6Kw in an hour, so to recharge a 12 Kwh plug in Hybrid would take about 2 hours. Now if you need to recharge an EV more than once a day, i.e. overnight, we are looking at 7 or more hours. For an EV to have a 120 mile range using the heater or AC unit, you need about 42 Kwh of capacity ( 2.8 miles per kwh).

    Now there are “level three” chargers fed from commercial 480 Volt three phase power and convert to high voltage DC, i.e. the battery voltage, and charge at a rate of about 45 kw, so one of those could recharge a 42 KWh EV in about one hour, say over lunch or dinner. Whether the future will see roadside restaurants with lever three chargers is simply a guess.

    But first things first, we need something like the Envia to make batteries for plug-in hybrids affordable. My hope is we will see such cars by 2015. Time will tell.

  • john iv

    How much would the total cost of the car be for a 300 mile range battery costing $20,000? Tesla has said they are bring a ~200 mile range car for $30,000 total in the next few years.

  • Roy_H

    I don’t want to be a spoil-sport, but I just don’t think a half price reduction is a “game changer”, merely expected in the next 3 or 4 years. Several companies are claiming 1/3 price coming and I think it has to drop to at least 1/4 to become a main-stream option.

  • Roy_H

    “Tesla has said they are bring a ~200 mile range car for $30,000 total in the next few years.”

    They didn’t state when, only “when battery prices get low enough”. I am sure they are working on the car design, but introduction will be delayed until they can meet their targets.

  • TrasKY

    What’s exciting about this to me is the effect on E-assist or Eco cars. Those cars are being sold for no or little more than their straight-up ICE siblings. If we can get more electric boost during acceleration and and run all electric at low speeds in those cars then the mileage would improve dramatically and they can very quickly find their way into the garages of the average car buyer.

  • Harryhammer

    As Van pointed out, we’ve been down this road before.

    Ovshinsky isn’t a household name in America, but, it sho be.

    He’s an American scientist and inventor with about 400 patents to his credit.

    Here are a few:

    • rewritable CD’s and DVD’s.

    • the environmentally friendly nickel-metal hydride battery.

    • flexible thin-film solar energy laminates and panels.

    • hydrogen fuel cells.

    • flat screen LCD’s.

    If you’ve heard of Ovshinsky at all, it’s probably because of his brief appearance in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, a film that explores the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction (crushing) of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1.

    Ovshinsky happens to be the one who invented a battery that GM used in those cars.

    In the film, he and his late wife Iris talk about the unfortunate circumstances that led to the destruction of the battery-powered vehicle.

    Here’s the link:

    Ovshinsky later made the comment that when GM crushed all those electric cars they probably wished that he was in one.

    By the way, the very first battery Ovshinsky invented had a range of 201 miles or 323 kilometers on a single charge.

    GM sold the technology to a company called Cobasys.

    It’s sitting on a shelf as we speak.

    Cobasys is owned by Texaco and Chevron?

    It’s rather sickening really.

  • Bob Wallace

    “With 200 miles range, would a Volt need a range extender? “


    Assuming that 200 mile range battery can recharge as well as the Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion now being used in the Honda FiT EV and the Mitsubishi MiEV. 95% recharge in less than 20 minutes.

    An all day, 500 mile drive in a gas powered car requires a stop for refueling and most people are going to break at least once to eat.

    A 200 mile range EV with 95%, <20min recharging will go 580 miles with only two modest stops for a Level 3 charge.

    No functional difference. Huge ‘per mile’ operating savings.

  • Marty Dargan

    I am waiting for the Envia battery technology to take off in electric cars. This is getting to be old news and I haven’t seen the batteries yet. If a Nissan Leaf had an Envia battery system Nissan couldn’t make enough of those cars. Chevy volt with 80 mile range before the gas engine charger kicked in, you’ve got to be kidding me. I have been waiting patiently and continue to wait. Either Envia will be the new technology for electric cars or it’s not true or something more is going on.
    Conspiracy theorist may be thinking someone with deep pockets purchased the technology.
    I hope not!