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GM bets on cheaper electric car batteries with Envia, leads $17M round


Riding high on a bout of good press of its Chevy Volt, GM is putting $7 million into its next big bet on electric cars: cheaper, higher-energy batteries.

In his state of the union address yesterday, President Obama called for the U.S. to be the first country to put one million electric cars on the roads by 2015. While there’s great interest in electric cars, mass adoption is still hobbled by availability, price of the battery and consumer concerns about range limitations.

Today, GM announced it had invested $7 million in Envia Systems, a Newark, Calif.-based maker of lithium-ion cathode technology that it says can increase energy density of battery cells by one-third and for less money. Envia says it uses cathode materials that stores more energy per unit of mass than current cathode materials, meaning less of it can be used, yielding a cheaper battery. GM also licensed Envia’s advanced cathode material for use in future GM electric cars.

The company’s venture capital arm led a $17 million round of fundraising for Envia, with investors that included Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass; and current investors Bay Partners, Redpoint and Panagea Ventures.
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