Battery Boost, a Boon for GM E-Car

Monday, August 13, 2012 @ 11:08 AM gHale

A General Motors-backed small battery company is working on breakthrough technology that could power an electric car 100 or even 200 miles on a single charge in the next two-to-four years.

After a big breakthrough in the amount of energy a lithium-ion battery can hold, Newark, CA-based Envia Systems is developing a battery will be able to take a car 100 miles within a couple of years, said GM Chief Exeuctive Dan Akerson.

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“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’s current electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, goes about 35 miles on a charge and has a small gas motor that generates power to keep the car going after that. Few competitors have electric cars with more than 100 miles of range. Tesla Motors’ Model S can go up to 300 miles, but it has a much larger battery and can cost more than twice as much as a Volt. Nissan’s Leaf and Ford’s Focus electric cars both claim ranges of around 100 miles, but that can vary with temperature, terrain and speed.

Envia said earlier this year its next-generation rechargeable lithium-ion cell hit a record high for energy density. The company said the new battery could slash the price of electric vehicles by cutting the battery cost in half.

GM Ventures LLC, the automaker’s investment arm, put $7 million into Envia in January of 2011.

Akerson said you can never underestimate small companies like Envia that come out of nowhere, and they can surprise you.

Akerson said the company is looking at hybrids, all-electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and natural gas vehicles, as well as developing more efficient petroleum-powered engines.

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