Battery innovation, at least at the prototype level, is alive and well in the U.S. and could even lead the next-generation of transportation and grid tech.
A startup called Envia Systems that’s been working on lithium ion battery technology says it’s developed a key breakthrough that could one day lead to an electric car that has a 300-mile range and could cost around $25,000 to $30,000.
The supply of batteries for electric cars could far surpass the demand for electric vehicles over the next few years, estimates Lux Research. It could be a “severe mismatch,” that could cause consolidation and the need for new markets for battery makers.
GM Ventures is now rapidly starting to invest its $100 million fund into auto innovations. This morning GM Ventures said it has pumped $7 million into battery startup Envia Systems, and has secured the rights to use Envia’s cathode materials for future GM vehicles.
Robert Stempel, whose brief tenure as chairman and chief executive for General Motors (s GM) in the early nineties earned him the moniker, “father of the EV-1,” in some circles, has just joined the board of directors for battery startup Envia Systems.
Nielsen is taking steps to integrate its measurement of TV and online video viewing, telling clients that it will soon install Internet meters into Nielsen homes to come up with cross-platform metrics for what content consumers are viewing.
As part of a new initiative called “TVandPC,” Nielsen will install 7,500 of these meters in homes that participate in its National Television Panel. Once installed, the company hopes it will be able to create a combined ratings system for TV and online.
Nielsen has provided the ratings for TV programming that content providers use to sell ads with for years, but the proliferation of video viewership online has led many of its clients to seek a better way to measure total audience across the Internet and TV.
Concerns among television programmers and advertisers have only increased with the rapid growth of viewership on Hulu and other premium content sites. And measurement of video consumption across multiple platforms will be essential to the success of TV Everywhere-type initiatives, which seek to make premium broadcast and cable content available online.
Envia Systems, a battery materials startup based in Hayward, Calif., has just entered an elite group: the 1 percent of applicants awarded a first-round grant under the Department of Energy’s high-risk energy tech fund, ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy). Given that Envia, founded in 2007, had previously announced only $3.2 million in venture capital financing, scoring $4 million in government funds this week has shifted the playing field for the startup.
As recently as August, when we spoke with co-founder and director Michael Sinkula about Envia’s cathode (or positive electrode) technology, the company was still operating under the radar, with a placeholder web site (it’s since been fleshed out a bit) and reluctance to provide much detail on its scheme to significantly cut the cost of batteries for electric vehicles. But Sinkula told us at the time that Envia, with less than 50 people on staff, was developing low-cost cathode materials specifically for vehicle batteries and working to optimize other components around the cathode in order to pack more energy into each lithium-ion cell. So what’s the new game plan?
Read More about How an ARPA-E Grant Can Transform a Startup
It’s not often that the Department of Energy gets to go far out on a limb with its investments. But that’s exactly the point of ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) — a program funded under the stimulus package to support moonshot technologies that might be too risky for other investors. Today the DOE has announced the first round of ARPA-E grants, awarding a total of $151 million for 37 projects.
The winners in this first round include General Motors (s GM) ($2.7 million), battery materials startup Envia Systems ($4 million), ultracapacitor developer FastCAP Systems ($5.3 million), auto supplier Delphi Automotive Systems ($6.7 million), solar tech developer 1366 Technologies ($4 million), efficient designers PAX Streamline ($3 million), and several universities (for a complete list see here). In all, the funding will cover work across the spectrum of green technologies, including building efficiency, carbon capture, energy storage, fuel-efficient vehicle technologies, renewable energy, waste heat capture and water desalination.
Read More about DOE Awards $151M for Early-Stage Green Tech
For the founding team of startup Envia Systems, working at battery companies before starting their own helped them realize a gaping hole in the battery industry: They saw an absence of quality batteries designed specifically for plug-in vehicles, with the right amount of power and as little weight as possible. According to Envia co-founder and director Michael Sinkula (previously an executive at lithium-ion battery developer Nanoexa), innovative companies in the plug-in vehicle space seemed to be either taking batteries designed for laptops (as Tesla has done) or power tools (where A123Systems got its start) and trying to force them into vehicle applications.
Starting with cathode materials that the company says are developed specifically for vehicle batteries (Sinkula wouldn’t give more details on the materials themselves), optimizing other components around the cathode, and working to pack more energy into each lithium-ion cell, Sinkula told us in a recent interview that Envia aims to significantly cut the cost of batteries for electric vehicles.
Read More about Stealthy Battery Startup Envia Systems Dishes On Its Cathode Tech
With billions of dollars in government funds coming down the pipeline for advanced batteries courtesy of the stimulus package, and the auto industry gearing up to make its first real go at marketing plug-in vehicles for the masses, the race to build lithium-ion batteries for vehicles has never been hotter.
Massive international battery makers may dominate the mobile device and laptop markets for lithium-ion batteries, but a growing number of companies — some founded just in the last year, others that have been around for over a decade — are hoping to carve out a piece of the battery vehicle market. They have their work cut out for them, however, as more established companies such as Sanyo, Hitachi (s hit) and NEC are eying the same prize.
As the money rolls out and competition heats up, here are 13 battery startups you should know about:
Read More about 13 Battery Startups Hitting the Road With Lithium-ion