Sales of the less than $30,000 Chevy Bolt being assembled here in Orion Township, Michigan, helped GM recently overtake Ford as second only to Tesla in EVs. Future low-cost GM EVs could benefit from batteries being developed by Mitra Chem.
Joe White | reuters
General Motors Said Wednesday it is leading a $60 million funding round in Mitra Chem, a California-based startup working to develop low-cost batteries for electric vehicles.
Founded by veterans of Mitra Chem, Tesla And toyota, is working on developing new types of batteries based on lithium iron phosphate chemistry. The batteries, abbreviated LFP based on the chemical symbols of the elements, are of great interest to EV makers because they operate without expensive minerals such as cobalt and nickel, meaning they cost less than standard lithium-ion cells.
LFP cells have proven to be quite durable in EVs. But they have one drawback: their power density is lower than that of standard cells. This means that an EV needs more LFP battery cells to match the range of a similar model powered by conventional batteries, and thus more weight.
Furthermore, most LFP cells that are currently available made by chinese companies – posing a challenge to automakers aiming to make EVs eligible for US subsidies.
Mitra Chem is working on a variation of the LFP battery chemistry that adds manganese to the cathode of the battery to increase the power density of the battery cells while retaining the LFP cost advantage. The company is using an “AI-powered platform” that, it says, significantly speeds up the process of trying out new battery chemistries because it aims to hit just the right formula.
“Our battery materials R&D facility can synthesize and test thousands of cathode designs monthly, ranging in size from grams to kilograms,” said Vivas Kumar, CEO of Mitra Chem, at a press conference ahead of the announcement. “These processes significantly shorten the learning cycle, allowing for less time to market for new battery cell formulas.”
GM vice president Gil Golan, who is charged with expediting the process of bringing new EV technologies to market, said the auto giant is turning its attention to potential breakthroughs in battery technologies.
“Mitra Chem’s laboratories, methods and talent will fit well with the work of our own R&D team,” Golan said.
Golan said that if Mitra Chem is successful, its batteries could appear in GM vehicles later this decade.
The specifics of GM’s investment in Mitra Chem were not disclosed.