General Motors-Envia Deal Allegedly Cancelled After Battery Maker Fails to Recreate Breakthrough Battery Results Despite Use of Stolen Technology

10 months ago by Eric Loveday 56

Envia Graphic From What Seems Like Ages Ago Now - Turns Out Envia Can't Produce Batteries That Match These Claims

Envia Graphic From What Seems Like Ages Ago Now – Turns Out Envia Can’t Produce Batteries That Match These Claims

The dream of soon owning a General Motors electric vehicle with 300 miles of range at a price of only $20,000 has been dashed as battery startup Envia is now coming under fire and its deal with GM has been dissolved.

Envia Info - How Much of It Relies on "Stolen" Technology?

Envia Info – How Much of It Relies on “Stolen” Technology? – Click to Enlarge

Envia had long promised the moon, but in fact it’s been able to deliver zero on its promises.

We always figured that Envia’s target were far too optimistic and, as it turns out, we were right.  Envia has been unable to reproduce any of its “breakthrough” claims and, as such, General Motors cancelled its deal with the battery startup.

Even worse for Envia is that the battery maker is facing multiple lawsuits for stealing (borrowing is the term some like to use) technology from other battery manufacturers.

As Giga OM broke this story, we feel it best that you turn to them for the full insight.  Here’s a snippet from the exclusive Giga OM article:

“Once promising battery startup Envia is facing two lawsuits that allege not only does its tech belong to other companies, but its lost its GM deal and hasn’t been able to turn its battery into a product.”

“Silicon Valley battery startup Envia Systems once claimed that its next-generation lithium ion battery tech was such a breakthrough that it could bring electric vehicles to the masses. Those claims brought in millions of dollars of funds from the Department of Energy’s APRA-E program, Valley venture capitalists, and a deal with car giant GM, which makes the Volt electric car. But according to information revealed in two lawsuits against Envia, the company is alleged to have used other companies’ technology in its battery tech (one part allegedly stolen, one part quietly licensed), and hasn’t been able to recreate the breakthrough battery results for its GM deal, leading to that deal allegedly being cancelled.”

Once again, a startup has crumbled.

For the entire story, follow this link to Giga OM.

Is the Dream of a 300-Mile Spark EV Now Dashed With Envia Out?

Is the Dream of a 300-Mile $20,000 Spark EV Now Dashed With Envia Out?

Source: Giga OM

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56 responses to "General Motors-Envia Deal Allegedly Cancelled After Battery Maker Fails to Recreate Breakthrough Battery Results Despite Use of Stolen Technology"

  1. Aaron says:

    Color me surprised.

    /sarcasm

  2. David Murray says:

    Chalk this up to the list of reasons why I consider almost all “battery breakthrough” stories to be vaporware.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      +10.

    2. Mint says:

      To me, the biggest red flag was the automotive sector being Envia’s primary market.

      If you have a 400 Wh/kg battery, the most lucrative market (at least for the first few years) is smartphone batteries. You can easily get $2000/kWh (e.g. $40 for a massive 20Wh battery that only weighs 50g) there, because they cost $500+.

      That’s also why we won’t see a new battery tech in cars until several years after we see it in consumer electronics.

  3. pjwood says:

    A good day for the gigafactory idea.

    1. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Yep, technological progress happens only by the economy of scale.

      By simplifying the supply chain and considering recycling the old batteries and gradual technological progress, gigafactory should be able to push the price of lithium batteries to $150 per kWh, which is critical value for the viability of mass market electric vehicles.

    2. kdawg says:

      Hmmm. Gigafactory.. story by Giga Om.

      (i’m joking)

  4. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    Bummer.

  5. Schmeltz says:

    I figured something was wrong when there was virtually no news for so long of a time. No news usually does not equal good news. Another disappointment.

  6. Rick Danger says:

    Well, golly gee, I guess GM won’t be beating Tesla to the more affordable 200 mile EV punch after all.
    You see, GM, Elon Musk is planning to do it without relying on a battery breakthrough. That’s why he’s Elon Musk, and you’re not.:)

    1. Schmeltz says:

      I don’t know as fact, but I doubt GM was betting the farm on Envia. And I doubt Envia was the only ‘bettet battery’ game in town too. Who’s to say another manufacturer isn’t working on better batteries? LG and Panasonic need this business. The 200 mile EV from GM may still happen, just not with an Envia battery pack.

    2. taser54 says:

      This type of post gives Tesla fans a bad image.

      1. Aaron says:

        Why is that? It’s explaining that GM could have been expecting to build the 200 mile EV using Envia technology, but Tesla had the foresight to use existing technology scaled for cost reduction.

        1. taser54 says:

          No he’s stating it as a fact and in an acerbic manner.

        2. sven says:

          I wish Tesla had the foresight to design a more puncture resistant battery case for their higher-volatility lower-cost existing battery technology. They could have avoided both the battery fires and all the resulting bad publicity. Hopefully, the NHTSA investigation won’t require Tesla to recall all the vehicles and implement an expensive fix.

    3. kdawg says:

      How can GM be a person?

      1. EVMD says:

        Corporations are people :-)

  7. scottf200 says:

    I heard few GM presentations a couple years back when they were evaluating batteries for the Volt. They said how do you know when a battery maker/supplier is lying … when they open their mouth. Glad they were so scrutinizing on my Volt’s battery.

    1. KenZ says:

      Liars, damn liars, and battery suppliers….

      1. Mint says:

        Genius. That’s gotta be comment of the month here.

  8. Brian says:

    The $20,000 / 300 mile car always needed a battery breakthrough to exist any time soon. But we can still get there with 8% annual improvement, it will just take longer.

    Musk claims that his GenIII car doesn’t need a battery breakthrough to happen, so I’m more hopeful than I was for this “magical” GM car. Then again, the GenIII will be twice the price with 2/3 the range, so not as much magic is necessary.

    Overall, this is just another bump in the road, not a wall.

    1. Spec9 says:

      The $20K/300mile car will never happen, IMHO. Batteries will continue to improve but only slowly. It is rising oil prices that will eventually make the big difference.

      1. Aaron says:

        Never is a long time.

        1. Especially towards the end.

        2. Spec9 says:

          The problem is that inflation kicks in such that it becomes impossible.

          1. Mint says:

            Core inflation is ~2% per year, and going down:
            http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CUUR0000SA0L1E?output_view=pct_12mths

            It’s not going to come close to derailing cost reduction through technology.

      2. Brian says:

        I’m using $20k in “2008 dollars”, just like Musk ;)

    2. Bill Howland says:

      Yeah, this along with solindra and Terry McAuliff’s venture into GEM style 25mph vehicles makes me think all of this is just Noise and a Shell Game to transfer governmental funds to connected insiders and putting a Green Mask over the whole thing.

      To make this kind of game fly, everyone has to get with the program for the scam to be semi successful. But its obviously been partially successful (since people have been enriched supposedly since all the $Millions are truly GONE) and they don’t care that they’ve been exposed, since they only have to be embarrassed until the next News Cycle.

  9. Anthony says:

    Disappointing for sure. But not entierly unsuspected – having a big coming out party for a battery technology like Envia did and not having much to back it up should raise a lot of eyebrows.

    The next big leap in batteries will be Li-S. It wont get here until 2017, but it will be around 400Wh/kg, and it will be cheap enough to use in mass-market EVs.

    1. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Technological progress does not happen by disruptive leaps, but it is gradual evolution. Right now batteries are getting about 8% cheaper annually. See my comment below.

      1. Anthony says:

        Li-S batteries aren’t disruptive, rather they’re a step change (Elon’s words from the last Tesla Motors quarterly earnings call). They represent a 30% increase in energy and 30% decrease in weight.

        1. sven says:

          I consider that a disruptive change if they keep the price per kWh the same or lower it.

  10. Jouni Valkonen says:

    People often do not realize how valuable disruptive battery technology actually is. It would annihilate big oil industry almost immediately as oil price would plunge into $25 per barrel. Also nuclear industry would die immediately as it no longer cannot compete with wind and solar with Envia battery storage. Coal and natural gas would be rendered only into supplemental role to fill the remaining gaps of renewables.

    The most hard hit would be however ICE cars because electric vehicles would replace them immediately. And all the teradollar level investment capital on ICE technology would lose any value overnight. And when the car fleet is rapidly electrified, most likely new Tesla like aggressive start-up companies would crush old dinosaurs, who have ignored the research and development of electric vehicles.

    Therefore mostly it is just impossible that small start-up companies would revolutionize the teradollar scale markets. Technological progress does not happen by disruptive innovations, but it is gradual process where the cost is pushed down due to competition and economy of scale.

    However there is reason to be optimist. The battery technology follows Swanson’s Law. The more production volume there is for batteries, the faster the battery cost declines. According to Swanson’s Law, tipping point when long range electric vehicles are cheaper, should happen around 2020. But this is not disruptive change but gradual change. Tesla has already demonstrated, that BEVs can beat gas mobiles in top premium sedan class. And by 2017, long range BEVs (Tesla Mode E) should be competitive in mid range premium sedans class. And by 2030 long range electric vehicles should be cheaper in every price category without subsidies. This is the power of Swanson’s Law.

    1. Gene says:

      If a BEV’s battery is ~1/3 the cost of a current car, then your 8%/year figure means a new BEV will in 3 years still cost more than 90% of what a new one does today and there won’t be any disruptive breakthroughs by then. It sounds like a good argument against leasing right now (or before now) to me (even worse for a 2 year lease).

    2. Spec9 says:

      They do realize it and that is why there are so many dreamers and scam artists.

    3. Mark C says:

      {Jouni Valkonen
      December 4, 2013 at 11:16 am
      People often do not realize how valuable disruptive battery technology actually is. It would annihilate big oil industry almost immediately as oil price would plunge into $25 per barrel.}

      This is the very reason I think even folks who hate electric vehicles should be rooting for their success. Even if the price of oil settled at $75 per barrel for a great length of time, the competition in the vehicle “fuel” arena will make gas / diesel fuel cheaper. It may even mean we have fewer oil tankers to protect. And, it will close down the worst of the convenience stores, since fewer people need to stop for gas, fewer will be there to make any inside purchases.

    4. sven says:

      If oil plunges to $25 it would be short lived. Oil companies would shut down production at wells were the production costs were much greater than $25 (most oil wells). The lower supply of oil would cause prices to rise until they reached equilibrium with production costs.

      You do realize that a barrel of oil isn’t used just to make fuel for transportation, and that there is a demand for these other products unaffected by EV adoption. For example, crude oil is cracked to make the feedstock for various petrochemical products like the plastic keyboard that you’re typing on.

      1. Ben says:

        or the oil to lubricate your monolithic wind turbine, and the plastics for EVs and solar panels.

    5. Mint says:

      Your nuclear comment is nonsense. Batteries need levelized costs of less than 2 cents per kWh-cycle to make solar/wind with storage viable, and even that assumes solar/wind get down to 3c/kWh LCOE. Otherwise, ramping natural gas up and down will be cheaper than storing in batteries.

      The EV industry, meanwhile, is struggling to achieve a guaranteed 20 cents per kWh-cycle (which would destroy the ~30c per mechanical kWh of gasoline).

      There needs to be a further order of magnitude cost improvement for batteries to revolutionize the grid, and that’s *after* they revolutionize the streets without subsidy.

  11. Ocean Railroader says:

    I knew they where lying a few months ago when I checked their website and the last update was over a year ago to it. There are several other companies out there that sounded more believable in that they said things like a 25% improvement in battery range which made more logical sense vs tripe or five times.

  12. David Murray says:

    I’m sure Samsung, LG Chem, and Panasonic are working hard to deliver new battery technologies as well.

  13. Spec9 says:

    Yeah, once again a miracle breakthrough turns out not to be true. This is why I remain very skeptical every time I read a new battery technology story. I’m hopeful but not gullible.

  14. krona2k says:

    How many more times will this happen? I hoped news coming out of Envia had dried up because they were working on productizing their battery with GM. I should have assumed the more likely explanation!

    1. David Murray says:

      I had assumed the same thing.. That lack of news was a good thing because GM was going to shock the world (and their competition) when they released a cheaper, longer-range BEV or PHEV.

    2. kdawg says:

      13 more times… then that’s it. =)

  15. Francis L says:

    We had a lot of faith in Envia because it was backed by GM. This is why this news is so hard to take compare to all the others EEStor out there that didn’t delivered what they promised.

    1. Anom says:

      Was waiting for someone to mention EESTOR! :D

  16. brotherkenny says:

    Battery prices have gone from approximately $1000/kWh in 2008-09 to about $350 today. a reduction of 65% in 4-5 years. That’s about 15% annually, not 8%. I think what your confusing that with is the increase in capacity which is 7-8% annually, but is also related to cost. No one familiar with Envia was unaware that they were using a licensed silicon anode (which by the way does work and is a break through- it’s just not theirs). The cathode was a manganese rich material and combined with silicon should easily make 400 Wh/kg. In fact there are a number of chemistries that can acheive this type of capacity in initial cycling tests. The issue, and I said this at the time when Envia made their initial announcement, was whether they can get the cycle numbers up to where they need to be for cars.

    It’s not the fault of knowledgable technical people if the announcements made by certain companies are assumed to be correct. No one with any technical capability was confused by Envia’s proclamations. Look back at stories and comments made by others. I can point to numerous other overly optimistic statements made by numerous companies with the intent of raising funds. I can understand when the average citizen is fooled by the false reports in our media (all news is lies), but all you supposed technical/business guys need to fess up here, you just don’t know anything about batteries and you never will. Your comments previously and your comments here suggest an ingnorance that would for a rational person make them tend to keep their mouths shut.

    The manganese rich cathodes will be pursued by others and may see commercialization, whether by GM or someone else. The silicon anodes are much closer to commercialization and will be in products in the near future. More likely high voltage NMC combined with silicon anodes will be the next step change and down the road Si-S has the potential to be a huge change.

    Cost is the main driver for batteries, even without technical breakthroughs cost will come down significantly and already has. Wide spread acceptance of EV is all about cost, not technical breakthroughs.

    1. Bonaire says:

      If everyone drove a current Volt, they could cut their gas usage by 70%. And cost of scale would cut the price 10k. And no range anxiety. With today’s battery tech.

    2. Nix says:

      The 8% number that gets thrown around always seems to go back to conservative estimates make by Pike. Pike documented a 14% year-over-year trend that went back 15 years, But then they used just 8% for their projections going forward. I think they did that specifically so that other folks wouldn’t say they were being overly optimistic.

      Meanwhile, Panasonic at that same time was claiming that their Si based batteries would actually increase how quickly cost per kwh would drop. I read one Panasonic study that suggested 19% improvement with Si. But then Panasonic was late on delivering those very same Si batteries. So somewhere between 8% and 14% is probably a justifiable range to use for projections.

  17. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Well, that is one bubble bursting…

    I guess I will have to bet on Tesla delivering the 55KWh – 60KWh version of their Model E for less than $35K….

    That would require that battery pack to cost less than $10K or about 1/2 what today’s cell cost. @ 8% per year, that would take about 5-6 years to get there…. 2017/2018? Well, if Model E gets delayed by 1-2 years, then that is right on schedule.

    1. Rob Stark says:

      More like 45KWh Model E for $39.9k

      With the production constraints Tesla has at Freemont making an ultra low margin BEV makes no sense. Particularly when demand looks to outstrip supply for at least the first few years.

      If they ever sell a Model E for under $35k it will have a tiny pack and be around for 5 minutes like the 40 KWh $50k Model S.

  18. Leonard Janus says:

    Even if battery specific energy will be higher and allow long range, another problem will be:
    How to charge fast? Imagine what kind if currents or voltages?
    I think that solution for EV are not rechargeable batteries, but “switchable” battery packs.

  19. Angelo says:

    I’d like to your attention to an old Chinese proverb; “Fall down 7 times, get up 8″. The sky is not falling, all you “chicken littles”.
    Secondly, how quickly we forget! Time to review WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR. It was GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner who claimed that the company saw zero interest by the public in electric cars. And if memory serves me, all the very fine EV1s were recalled and crushed. ARE YOU LISTENING HONDA INC.? Let’s not forget that there is an unholy alliance between Big Oil and what’s left of Big Detroit. There is very little advertising for electric cars. The gasoline car builders are very reluctant to give up the after market. [tune ups, oil changes, etc.] Nissan and Tesla are the only ones in the game in earnest. All the rest are building “compliance cars”.

  20. Sujeet Kumar says:

    The allegations against Envia Systems by former employees and NanoeXa Corp are totally baseless, we are still continuing our relation with General Motors (the relation is very very strong indeed), they have promised us not to pull any investmentin us, so stay tuned, more good news are coming!