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February 7th, 2011
A California company called Envia Systems is developing a battery that promises to store twice the energy of lithium-ion batteries—the kind typically used in hybrid electric cars.
Envia has received investment from General Motors, which could be one of the biggest buyers of lithium-ion batteries for cars in coming years thanks to the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. The automaker's venture capital arm, GM Ventures, announced a $7 million investment in the startup last month.
Envia says its batteries could lower the cost of plug-in vehicles by reducing the need for costly metals, and by cutting the number of cells needed to store a given amount of energy in a vehicle's battery pack. The company's batteries use a cathode that is rich in manganese, which allows it to hold more charge. In current batteries, an imbalance exists between the two electrodes: the anodes are equipped to accept far more charge than cathodes are able to supply.
Elton Cairns, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, says a manganese-based cathode should indeed help to reduce battery costs. "Most other oxide cells have cobalt in them, which is expensive," he says.
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