GM sustains EV battery starting as it shifts coming principle to cheaper fabrics

August 18, 2023: On Wednesday, General Motors stated that it’s leading a $60 million financing round in Mitra Chem, a California-based startup working to develop lower-cost guns for electric vehicles.

Mitra Chem, founded by veterans of Tesla and Toyota, is working to develop new types of batteries based on lithium iron phosphate chemistry. The batteries, abbreviated LFP based on the elements’ chemical symbols, are of great interest to EV makers as they do without costly minerals such as cobalt and nickel, which means they cost less than standard lithium-ion cells.

Tesla, Rivian, and Ford Motor are among the automakers using LFP cells in their more inexpensive models.

LFP cells have  to be quite durable in EVs. But they have a disadvantage: their power density is lower than standard cells. That means an EV needs better LFP battery cells, thus more weight, to match the range of a similar model powered by conventional batteries.

In addition, most LFP cells that are currently available are made by Chinese companies presenting a challenge for automakers aiming to build EVs that qualify for U.S. subsidies.

Mitra Chem is operating on a variation of the LFP battery chemistry that adds manganese to the guns’ cathodes to increase the battery cells’ power density while retaining the LFP cost advantage. The company is using what it calls an “AI-powered platform” that, it says, dramatically revs the process of testing new battery chemistries as 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 Mitra Chem CEO Vivas Kumar at a news conference ahead of the announcement. “These processes drive greatly shorten learning cycles, enabling shorter time to market for further battery cell formulas.”

Gil Golan, a GM vice president charged with speeding up the process of bringing new EV technologies to market, stated that the auto giant is focusing on potential breakthroughs in battery technologies.

“Mitra Chem’s labs, methods, and talent will fit well with our R&D team’s work,” Golan said.

Golan said that if Mitra Chem succeeds, its guns could occur in GM’s vehicles later this decade.

The specifics of GM’s investment in Mitra Chem weren’t disclosed.

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