Will Envia Be the Envy of Lithium-Ion Car Battery Makers?

The startup gets a lot of buzz with its boast of a 400 KW/KG Li-ion battery

2 min read
Will Envia Be the Envy of Lithium-Ion Car Battery Makers?

Envia Systems, the Bay Area startup with a name well crafted to inspire jealousy, succeeded in doing just that with its claim, yesterday, that it has developed a lithium-ion battery with an energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram and an ability to deliver energy at a cost of $125 per kilowatthour. If that boast is validated, which the company says GM is in the process of doing, the battery's energy density is two or three times better than what is otherwise available now and its cost perhaps half of the usual. At the very least, Envia's achievement ought to give lithium ion batteries developed for hybrid and electric cars a new lease on life, as the San Jose Mercury News observed in a report.

Nevertheless, the company's claims and their implied implications ought to be treated with some caution. Though Envia has had the support of ARPA-E and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, and though it publicized its claims at an ARPA-E conference yesterday, the advanced research agency for energy has not posted a press release about the event on its own website. (A one-paragraph ARPA-E summary of what Envia is and what it is trying to do preceded yesterday's conference.)

According to the Mercury News report, a battery pack made with Envia's technology could give a car a range of 300 miles at a cost of $25,000. That is still not all that cheap. (My Mini Cooper, if the reader will pardon my introducing a personal detail, has a range of 400 miles and the whole car cost $20,000.)

Last, and hopefully least, there is the improbable but not impossible prospect that current high oil prices will turn out to be a mere blip, and that Americans will soon be living in a world once again in which gasoline is cheaper than bottled water. If counter to mainstream opinion that turns out to be the case, hybrid and electric cars will be of course dead again.



The Conversation (0)

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

Keep Reading ↓Show less