There will be no “Who Killed the Electric Car? – Part two,” asserts Atul Kapadia, Chairman/CEO of Envia Systems.

Kapadia said he’s confident electric vehicles will conquer the consumer market this time around because his Newark, California company has been able to nearly triple the energy density of a typical lithium-ion battery. Independent testing has just confirmed the Envia battery performed in the range of 378-418 watt-hours per kilogram, he says. Current batteries operate at about 140 Wh/kg.

That density, a world record, means an EV that can go 100 miles today before recharging, and could go 300 miles on the same size Envia battery.

Kapadia and Envia President/Chief Technology Officer Sujeet Kumar, in an interview with Breaking Energy, said their proprietary technology, using a manganese structure, also reduces the cost of EV batteries by more than half.

Confirmation of the battery’s achievement was heralded by Arun Majumdar, director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy, as “exactly the kind of innovation and breakthroughs that ARPA-E is looking for.” The news was unveiled at ARPA-E’s Energy Innovation Summit this week in Washington, DC.

For earlier coverage of the ARPA-E summit, read more here and here.

Multinationals Take Note

Frederick Smith, Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx Corp., said he’s “excited” by the progress and hopes auto makers like General Motors, an Envia investor, can incorporate advances soon.

FedEx tested some electric and hybrid vehicles in its 90,000-plus fleet, but so far, their capital costs make the cars too costly to produce a positive return, Smith said, even though he says they operate at 75-80% less cost per vehicle mile, compared to the same vehicle using fossil fuel.

If we can make a battery equivalent to a gas tank, it opens up the whole consumer market” – Kapadia

Kumar said his company, which started in 2007 using a local public library as the “office,” recognized EVs would not succeed unless they could travel a long distance, like gasoline-powered vehicles, and sell at a comparable cost. Since the bulk of a battery’s cost are the materials that go into it, he focused on finding lower-cost substitutes that performed better.

Kapadia said Envia’s proprietary manufacturing is currently done in Fremont, California, where intellectual property rights are established, but the finished batteries are assembled in China, where costs are “a fraction” of California’s. The company employs 35 people, half of them with PhDs. Envia has raised $28 million in venture funding, he said, and is not currently seeking additional investment.

Seeking to Put EV’s On Par With Gasoline

Kapadia said the next step is qualifying the new battery to commercial standards. Those include proving performance at various temperatures and other conditions over time, but qualification is done differently by each auto company. He said the process will take two to four years, depending on the company. If the batteries qualify as Envia hopes, he thinks the battery can be in vehicles by 2018.

Read more about electric cars on Breaking Energy here.

As battery density improves, Kapadia expects to see less investment in exotic battery technologies and more in fast-recharge technologies. No technology today comes near the convenience of a gas pump, with even commercial recharging taking more than half an hour.
Kumar said the Envia battery has recharging times similar to other lithium-ion batteries, but a driver could only partially recharge an Envia battery and travel three times as far.

The goal remains achieving full EV parity – or better – with gasoline-fueled vehicles, in both driving range and cost, Kapadia said. “If we can make a battery equivalent to a gas tank, it opens up the whole consumer market.”