A quiet little company with big problems, Envia Systems, originally developed a lithium-ion battery with an astounding 400Wh/kg energy density.
Garnering millions of dollars in government and corporate investment, it seems that Envia Systems was well on its way to success. General Motors had put in $7 million toward the development of the new lithium-ion battery, which would effectively double the range of any electric vehicle it was installed in. The Chevy Spark EV, for example, might have been capable of up to 160 miles, which isn’t bad for an electric vehicle under $30,000 (The current production Chevy Spark EV has a range of just 82 miles).
Envia Systems could have made it happen, but there’s a couple of problems. First, as we talked about earlier, it seems that there could be a problem with who actually owns the lithium-ion battery technology that Envia Systems is developing. Envia pins the lawsuits on disgruntled former employees, but maybe the problem is even deeper than that.
Yes, the Envia Systems lithium-ion battery holds somewhere close to 400Wh/kg, which is great but (and it’s a big one), like many other experimental rechargeable battery technologies, it has a cycle problem. If a battery is going to be suitable for use in an electric vehicle, it’s going to need to keep its charge, even after many cycles. Current lithium-ion battery technology, such as that used in the Tesla Model S 85kWh and the Nissan Leaf, should last for, typically, 1,000 cycles, while retaining at least 80% of its capacity. Envia Systems’ battery doesn’t even come close.
Supposing the theoretical 1,000-cycle limit, the Tesla Model S 85kWh battery has a lifespan of about 265,000 miles or twenty-three years. The Nissan Leaf’s lifespan is closer to 75,000 miles or six-and-a-half years. Considering that most cars on the road are about nine years of age, this leaves an Envia Systems-powered electric vehicle out on the shoulder, since its lithium-ion battery technology can only cycle about 400x before dropping to 72% capacity. Who would want to change the battery pack after just 36,000 miles?
Image © Envia Systems