Guess Who’s Back? Envia Returns With $7.7 Million Advanced Battery Contract Funded By U.S. Government

JUL 24 2014 BY MARK KANE 12

Envia System cell

Envia System cell

After developing lithium-ion battery cells with energy density of over 400 Wh/kg, followed by some strange scandal and lawsuits and more lawsuits, it seems that Envia is moving forward with developments together with the DoE, who recently awarded company $3.8 million with goal of exceeding 200 Wh/kg and now the USABC with another $7.7 million with a goal of 350 Wh/kg on the cell level.

It’s hard to understand where all this taxpayer money is going as once the promised Envia-developed high energy cells should be on market already. Instead, we almost monthly see new projects with different energy density goals.

Let’s start with first graphic from Envia’s website to see what it really developed. Envia claims roughly 430 Wh/kg energy denisty for 48 Ah cell at 100% DOD cycles between 1.5 to 4.6 V. However, this is available at a very low power level C/20, which means that discharge takes 20 hours! We believe that even with such low power, the cycle number which the cell can withstand must be low. 390 Wh/kg is available for C/3 current, which is better but still we don’t know how long it would last.

Then we see the second graph, with C/3 current but for 80% DOD to prevent rapid capacity drop. Envia cells starts from 310 Wh/kg (100%), at C/3 fading to 248 Wh/kg (80%) after 200 cycles and 210 Wh/kg (65%) after 500 cycles.

We could cautiously assume that this result was achieved at optimum temperature, without pulse discharge current or fast charging, which makes such cells probably much less capable in real-world life. In an electric car, it’s losing almost all of its advantage of higher initial energy density.

After two years since Tesla Model S production, we strongly believe that Panasonic cells (probably 200-250 Wh/kg according to some sources) can withstand at least a few hundred cycles without such capacity drop and with high power density as car can be quick charged multiple times a day.

Where is the Envia breakthrough then? Maybe this is the answer why instead of commercialization we see more and more government-funded projects.

Let’s get back to The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (USABC), which is a collaborative organization (a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR)), established in 1992 and operated by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors (GM and Envia again?).

$7.7 million will be spent for the 36-month long project with USABC’s goal for 2020 of 350 Wh/kg on cell level @ C/3 current (USABC Goals for Advanced Batteries for EVs – CY 2020 Commercialization – pdf):

“The 36-month lithium ion layered-layered cathode/silicon based anode program will focus on the development of high-energy cathode and anode material appropriate for vehicle applications and the development and scale up of pouch cells that exhibit performance metrics that exceed the minimum USABC targets for electric vehicles.”

Steve Zimmer, executive director of USCAR stated:

“We are pleased to announce the award of this contract to Envia Systems as part of USABC’s broad battery technology research and development programs. These programs are essential to advance the technology needed to meet both near- and long-term goals that will enable increasingly efficient and affordable vehicle electrification.”

So, what do you think Envia is actually up to these days?

Categories: Battery Tech, General


12 responses to "Guess Who’s Back? Envia Returns With $7.7 Million Advanced Battery Contract Funded By U.S. Government"
  1. Roy_H says:

    It is disappointing to find out that their original claims were mostly hype. Cycle life needs to improve, so we hope this additional research can accomplish that.

  2. kdawg says:

    Next we will hear Eestor has a working prototype. 🙂

    1. David Murray says:

      I thought they claimed to already have one.. just wouldn’t ever let anyone see it, conveniently.. Kind of like the working prototype I have in my garage of a perpetual motion machine. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it exists and pay me millions for the design plans.

  3. Jouni Valkonen says:

    I wonder why Blacklight Power does not apply for US government funding?

    1. David Murray says:

      Because an L3 robot might cause a blacklight explosion that could wipe out this corner of the galaxy.

      1. Jouni Valkonen says:

        Good point. I did not think about that.

        Although BLP and Envia has the same business model, i.e. attracting venture capital with high promises for ROI due to technological breakthrough that is “just around the corner”, apparently the risk factors are like from different planet.

        1. Chris O says:

          Business model based on technological breakthroughs that are always just around the corner? Certainly works for hydrogen.

  4. scott franco says:

    “So, what do you think Envia is actually up to these days?”

    Since the government started investing in “green projects” a number of them have clearly been designed mainly to get government funding. It does not mean they are crooked, it just means they are following the money.

    The simple act of trying to please bureaucrats instead of customers is a warpage of capitalism that can doom a company. Thus there is a reason why “the government does not just pick winners and losers, they mainly pick losers”.

    The moral is that government money works best when spent:

    1. Basic research that is not otherwise addressed in the industry.

    2. For research that is openly shared with industry.

    This sounds like university research to me. Support higher learning institutions, help educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, etc.

    1. kdawg says:

      From the linked article:
      “With just 1.4% of its Recovery Act clean tech investments in “losers”, it looks like the Obama administration is batting a much better average in “picking winners and losers” than the private Venture Capital (VC) market itself.

      The US government guarantee of a private loan to Solyndra, at $535 million, represented a minuscule 1.4% of the Department of Energy investment in all renewable technologies. By contrast – VCs (who were out $1 billion to Solyndra, for example) expect much higher failure rates. Richard Stuebi, who advises VCs on expected green energy failure rates, says that just 3 in 10 successes represents a successful VC investment strategy. That is 70% losers – not 1.4%.

      The argument against “picking winners and losers” that Republicans in congress have long cited to avoid clean energy investment got a poster boy in Solyndra, and they are flogging it to death. They have pounced on one startup bankruptcy as yet another excuse to shut down all clean energy investment by the Democrats.

      Republicans argue that “government should not pick winners and losers” because “the invisible hand of the marketplace” should be allowed to (continue to) decide the winners and losers in energy supplies. It is no coincidence that the invisible hand favors the dirty energy lobby that funds their seats in congress.”

      1. Mark H says:

        Manufacturing is not a left or right US issue, it is global.

      2. James says:

        Yet before we start lauding the Democrats and blaming Republicans – see this story, posted 6 days ago:

        Oil idiocy is a bi-partisan, non favorer of men.

  5. Anthony says:

    I’m hopeful that Envia has ousted those who were accused of acting unethically, and now they can work on battery research instead of being focused on lawsuits and such.

    The cells Envia is targeting for 2020 are ambitious. But if they manage to meet those US ABC goals, EVs will be cheap enough and long range enough for mass consumption.