Sometimes, you have to go across the border to get the skinny on what's happening in the US. For example, did you know GM might be testing electric cars with batteries that have about three times the energy density of today's EV?

That's could be the case, since during the recent Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association conference in Canada, The Windsor Star reporter Chris Vander Doelen spoke with J. Gary Smyth, General Motors' executive director of Global Research and Development. Smyth told Vander Doelen, "Today there are prototypes out there with 400 Watt-hours per kilogram."

We have to assume Smyth was talking about batteries made by Envia, which announced it had developed just such batteries last year (and sent along the nifty cartoon image you see above). GM invested $7 million in the company in 2011 and also made a separate licensing deal to use those advanced packs in its vehicles. While we don't know the details of what kinds of vehicles are being tested with the 400 wh/kg packs in – Smyth would not even mention the brand – but we have previously calculated that that kind of power could mean 300-mile EVs. And earlier estimates put the cost of such a car with Envia's technology at just $20,000, giving more heft to Smyth's statement to Vander Doelen that, "Innovation is exploding right now. The industry is in a period of rapid transformation."


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  • 64 Comments
      Electron
      • 2 Years Ago
      Tesla's batteries are the best in the business for energy density but even they are "only" 500kg/85=170Wh/kg. A competitor getting exclusive access to battery tech that is substantially better than its own must be Tesla's worse nightmare. Of course that may be the very reason why GM keeps dropping these hints. We'll see what they really come up with.
        archos
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Electron
        Worst nightmare? Yeah, if Tesla was a company based on building affordable EVs with razor thin margins. Right now they do pretty well selling luxury EVs with huge margins. Lets say GM drops a $20K Volt with 300 miles. Would that help or hurt Tesla? Higher EV adoption would help Tesla. If anything it might postpone an affordable EV coming out of Tesla by a year or two. They'll still be just fine selling luxury models till then.
          Electron
          • 6 Months Ago
          @archos
          So far Tesla is the only carmaker doing a long range BEV. My hunch would be that if GM managed to launch its own long range BEV except with even better range and at a much lower price things will get that more difficult for Tesla, especially if it needs to branch out to the affordable segment for long term viability. OTOH: Tesla's battery tech certainly has further scope for (cost) improvement: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1084682_what-goes-into-a-tesla-model-s-battery--and-what-it-may-cost
          BraveLil'Toaster
          • 6 Months Ago
          @archos
          @Electron: Yes, maybe if GM were to sell a long-range EV under the Cadillac brand as a true luxury electric vehicle, then Tesla might start to sweat a bit. That is, after they could actually beat them on quality *and* price. Which they currently can't do with any of their *gas* cars. See, there's a certain market out there, where people in that market will pay *anything* for the very best. Of anything, regardless of whether it's cars or socks. And if you could meet the demands of that market, it no longer matters what price point you have to charge to be profitable. It's why some Mercedes go for over half a million dollars. So as long as Tesla holds the crown for "best car ever made" (and thus, nuking the idea that all electric cars suck), I don't think they have too much to worry about. Except keeping that crown.
      methos1999
      • 6 Months Ago
      http://green.autoblog.com/2012/11/30/tesla-adds-replacement-battery-pack-costs-to-price-increase-deta/ Replacement battery for $60 kW-hr is $10k, which would put the cost at $167/kW-hr
      Dave
      • 6 Months Ago
      "I believe current pack prices (or at least with Tesla) are $250/kW-hr" source?
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      Please don't sell the tech to the oil companies this time :P
      markkiernan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I feel like buying an EV is like buying a computer, just wait another 6 months and you will get something better and cheaper ;)
        Ryan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @markkiernan
        And that is the problem. The EV people needed to learn from Steve Jobs to not announce what you are working on or coming out with before you are ready to sell it. And then make it seem like the greatest thing that will make your life better (and it does).
          skierpage
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ryan
          "The EV people" include all the carmakers who aren't seriously making BEVs yet but are happy to trot out concept cars to hinder sales of the few BEVs in mass production; see Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, VW... That doesn't work if the actual BEVs for sale are better than your concept cars; see Tesla.
          archos
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ryan
          Steve Jobs didn't run a car company. If this does come out the fact it was hinted at before won't stop it from being the greatest thing in automotive tech to come out in years.
          Warren
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ryan
          If I was GM, with stagnating sales vis-a-vis the Leaf, I might want people to wait for some pie-in-the-sky EV too.
        methos1999
        • 6 Months Ago
        @markkiernan
        In general yes, but there is no "Moore's Law", so wait 6 months it may be better & cheaper, but by how much?
      Warren
      • 2 Years Ago
      The current cells in a Leaf have an energy density of 140 Wh/kg. It gets low 70's range. You could get an easy 200 mile range with 400 Wh/kg, but 300 miles is going to require a super aero vehicle. Nothing like that is on offer from any OEM in the foreseeable future.
        paulwesterberg
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Warren
        Cruising on the highway at 55 miles per hour, the Model S achieves over 300 miles.
          Dave
          • 6 Months Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          (with a brand new battery pack)
          Ziv
          • 6 Months Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          Paul, a Tesla S driving at a steady 55 mph is simply not going to happen too often... ;-) But your point is a good one.
          Aaron
          • 6 Months Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          Hypermilers are even able to squeeze over 400 miles from a Model S's battery. Heck, if I keep it under 35 MPH, I can get over 100 miles out of my i-MiEV (as compared to its EPA estimated range of 62 miles).
        Electron
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Warren
        It's my understanding that the Leaf's battery weighs ~300KG (660lbs) which would put gravimetric energy density at 80 Wh/kg.
        Giza Plateau
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Warren
        Warren, with 400Wh/kg batteries I can do a 2000km range electric car. There is a lot of flexibility in how big a mass percentage you make batteries. And indeed how piss poorly you pack the batteries which adds weight. And the Leaf's EPA range is now 84 miles and 200km in the European driving cycle. And that's a car with very poor aero and weight. if you have 400Wh/kg batteries then 500km range is not hard. But you don't have such batteries. And even if you did, it would be a big mistake to give it 500km range. It's a waste of money and weight. The trick to EVs is small battery and fast charge because when you charge at home you only rarely need long range. So it makes no sense carrying around the cost burden of a huge pack. Tesla went for maximum range and they ended up with a 2.1 ton 100k$ car. and losing big money on each.
          archos
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          It makes sense if the battery has large capacity and is cheap. Someone who lives in an apartment and parks on the street could just do a partial or full top up every few days when they start getting low. Of course the shills who fear cheap high capacity batteries would hate that. They'd prefer the batteries be small (smaller the better) to exaggerate the need for repeated charging throughout the day and the added inconvenience and costs associated. Charging once a night is perfectly fine. Only needing to do so twice or so a week just makes options even better. Of course, this is why the shills attack Tesla, a highly successful start up which proves buyers are willing to pay $100k for an EV with good looks and range. A $20K 250 mile EV would be a big seller, to say the least.
      BraveLil'Toaster
      • 2 Years Ago
      Heh. Nice cartoon. When people ask questions about my wife's Leaf, she usually gets questions that are more along the lines of the capabilities of the ZENN, not the Leaf. People are still thinking "does it go faster than 50km/h?" not "Do I still have to charge after only 80 miles?"
        Aaron
        • 6 Months Ago
        @BraveLil'Toaster
        When someone asked what the top speed of my i-MiEV was, and I replied 81 MPH, they said, "that's all?" I responded to them, "How fast do you really need to go?" They didn't have an answer.
          Ashton
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Aaron
          I go faster then that on a daily basis. (I run late every morning, and usually go around 90mph) I'm sure my future Tesla Model A(ffordable) will go plenty fast. :p
      chechnya
      • 6 Months Ago
      I've been hearing this for the last 10 years now. And the BEV fanboys talk smack about hydrogen? HAH.
        Val
        • 6 Months Ago
        @chechnya
        Perhaps because we've been reading about hydrogen cars for 40 years.
      Dave
      • 6 Months Ago
      That's actually the cost of insurance / extended warranty. Not the cost of the battery. And, don't forget, that you are exchanging your battery pack for a new one. The used battery pack is not valueless.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      More watt-hours per kilo is cool, but what we really need even more is more kWh per $$$. If they really do have a solution that does both, that would be a game changer.
        Ziv
        • 6 Months Ago
        @raktmn
        raktmn, I agree, density is nice but dollars are king. But the truth is that we really don't know what it costs per kWh to build a battery pack, so it is really hard to judge how fast the prices have been dropping over the past 3 years of large scale BEV/EREV sales, let alone make accurate assessments of where we will be in the next 2 to 5 years. If I had to guess I would say the GM/Tesla/Nissan are paying $450/$300/$300 per kWh, respectively, for their packs, including the pack/thermal management systems given Lutz statements about $8000 packs. That and the $2974 GM pack replacement price would indicate that the Volt battery is not nearly as expensive at it was in 2010. Patel was pretty clear that in early 2010, the GM pack was costing around $625 per kWh, all in. So GM has seen price improvements of around 10% per year if my guesstimate is close to being right. Tesla and Nissan I have read less about but those seem to be ballpark figures.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      "GM still talking about 300-mile EVs with high energy density batteries " For a small car, that's a 100kwh battery pack. (~$40,000 to build the battery pack alone at todays prices) For a full size pickup truck, that's a 250+ kwh battery pack. (~$100,000+ to build the battery pack alone at todays prices) Maybe someday.
        Warren
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave
        Perhaps these are the cells Musk is hoping for, for his 200 mile Leaf eater.
          Val
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          Envia will never ever produce the actual batteries, they will license the anode and cathode to third parties. Sony had already expressed interest. So could panasonic. When it comes to batteries, Panasonic/Sanyo are way bigger than GM. And envia won't be so stupid to deny the biggest supplier of batteries for some exclusivity deal with GM, which is worth the daily turnover of GM. “There are three countries in the race for batteries for electric vehicles: Japan, Korea and the U.S.,” said Atul Kapadia, CEO of Envia Systems to me in an interview at ARPA-E. Envia is looking to partner with global battery manufacturers to license it’s tech or establish joint ventures.
          Dave
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          GM apparently will have more access to them than Tesla: "GM invested $7 million in the company in 2011 and also made a separate licensing deal to use those advanced packs in its vehicles."
        methos1999
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave
        Well yes, someday, but your prices are out of whack. I believe current pack prices (or at least with Tesla) are $250/kW-hr, which multiplied by 100 kW-hr would be $25k. Also the whole point of the article is that there appear to be breakthrough technologies with lower price points undergoing testing as we speak.
        Val
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave
        But you see, these batteries won't be at TODAY'S prices.
        Warren
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave
        Why would there be any increase in price? Unless they are using some exotic, and expensive new materials, the pack would presumably require exactly the same amount of material and labor as currently. It would just have 2.8 times the energy density.
          Dave
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          "So you'll retain the ~4mi/kWh efficiency." The 24 kwh pack in the Leaf is rated for 75 miles. That's 3.125 miles / kwh. Of course, in mild weather, driven moderately, the Leaf can obtain 4mi/kwh.
          JakeY
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          @Dave @Rotation You guys are forgetting with the Leaf, even at "100%" charge only 21kWh of the pack is usable. So that will skew his efficiency number higher, although with the same SOC window, the range per capacity is more important. You use the Model S pack actually for comparison. It's 265 miles per 85kWh pack, which means a 96kWh pack will give it 300 miles. 100kWh seems like an overestimate for a small car. You have cars like the Fit EV that go 82 miles on a 20kWh pack, meaning 73 kWh for a 300 mile pack.
          Dave
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          "Why would there be any increase in price?" I didn't mention anything about an increase in price.
          Dave
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          "You guys are forgetting with the Leaf, even at "100%" charge only 21kWh of the pack is usable" I did not forget that. I simply assumed that the same percentage of the larger pack would be usable. I did round off. If a 24 kwh pack yields 75 miles, a 300 mile pack would be sized at 96 kwh. However, it is worth remembering that if the larger pack is heavier, the resulting vehicle is likely to be less efficient so the ratio gets worse.
          Rotation
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          SublimeKnight, I too have a LEAF and with the A/C off (radio on though), I have to drive under 40mph to get 4 mi/kWh. So no, at 45mph, it's not going to get "well over" 100 miles on a charge. I mean, it's a 24kWh pack, right? You already mention at 40mph you're only getting 3.7 mi/kWh, for a range of 88.8 miles. How are you going to get "well over" 100 at 45mph?
          SublimeKnight
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          Dave, That's weird, because I actually have one and driving to/from work 75% interstate at 75-80mph and 25% at about 40mph I get 3.7mi/kWh. If you drive 45mph the LEAF will go well over 100mi on a charge. At 55mph you should get right about 4mi/kWh. I think you're confusing "well-to-wheels" (not applicable to range and capacity) vs battery-to-wheels.
          SublimeKnight
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Warren
          Exactly and he's not figuring in the change in weight, which will change the range. A pack that is 3x more energy dense, means a car the weight of a LEAF, but the charge capacity of a Model S. So you'll retain the ~4mi/kWh efficiency. So 300mi / 4 = 75kWh 75kWh / 3x more energy dense = same weight as a 25kWh pack today. So rought estimates that's a 300mi LEAF-ish car at the same price as Today's model... that's revolutionary.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm all for progress in EV land but I'm not aware of any of these high density batteries that are stable enough to be used in a car. They degrade extremely rapidly. So I'm not exactly holding my breath on this one. If only nitwit GM did a light aero car however.. Let's call it EV1
        archos
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        Anybody who's seen your posts knows you troll EV posts with nothing but negative comments and misinformation. So you can't claim to be "not aware" these high density batteries are stable in cars anymore: Envia Systems is developing large capacity pouch cells based on a novel high-voltage Manganese rich (HCMR) layered-layered Li2MnO3·LiMO2 composite cathode with a Si-carbon anode and proprietary electrolyte. Having a high amount of manganese in the structure translates to high capacity, increased safety and low cost. Envia’s HCMR cathode material is based on layered-layered cathode work licensed from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Envia has built on Argonne’s layered-layered chemistry to fine-tune the composition of Ni, Co, Mn and Li2MnO3. It innovated on particle morphology (particle size, shape, distribution, tap density & porosity) and also developed novel nanocoatings to enhance cycle life & safety. The HCMR cathode materials offer capacity of 220-295 mAh/g, and power of >1200 W/kg; cycle life @ 80% DOD is more than 1,000. Combined with a conventional graphite anode, the HCMR cathode would support a cell energy density of around 220-230 Wh/kg. Combined with the Si-C anode, it supports the heralded 400 Wh/kg density. Envia-anode Envia’s highest capacity silicon-carbon anode. Click to enlarge. With support from the ARPA-E grant, Envia has demonstrated silicon-carbon nanocomposite anodes with very high capacity (1,530 mAh g-1) and promising cycle life. The material features nanopores with certain nanocoatings, said Dr. Sujeet Kumar, Envia Systems Co-Founder, President & CTO, in an interview with Green Car Congress at the recent ARPA-E Energy Inovation Summit (EIS). The silicon is embedded with the nanostructure. The approach is mundane and cost-efficient, he said, not exotic. The company is currently scaling up the material using a low-cost production process. Envia has also developed an electrolyte that is stable up to a voltage of 5.2V (vs Li/Li+). In cyclic voltammetry studies of standard electrolytes, as the voltage window was opened from upper cut-off of 4.3V vs Li/Li+ the electrolytes showed an increase in oxidation currents. When the voltage window was further increased to voltages above 4.5V the oxidation currents increased significantly showing that the electrolytes were almost completely oxidized at these voltages. However, Envia’s High Voltage Electrolyte showed stability up to 5.2V without any rapid increase in the oxidation currents. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/03/envia-20120306.html
        David Murray
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        The EV1 was sort of ugly. It also seated only 2 people. It would have never sold it quantities of any significance.
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