General Motors (GM) announced its significant investment in Mitra Chem, a Silicon Valley-based startup focused on innovative battery materials for electric vehicles (EVs). The move underscores GM’s robust commitment to the EV landscape, aiming for faster commercialization, cost reductions, and fortifying the U.S. battery supply chain.
Mitra Chem’s Cutting-Edge Battery Innovations
- Founding: Mitra Chem was established by industry veterans from Tesla and Toyota.
- Battery Focus: The startup is researching lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. Unlike standard lithium-ion cells, LFP batteries don’t require costly minerals like cobalt and nickel.
- Present Users: Notable automakers such as Tesla, Rivian, and Ford Motor already incorporate LFP cells in their cost-effective models.
- The Challenge: While LFP cells are durable and cost-effective, they possess lower power density, necessitating more cells and weight for a comparable range to standard batteries.
- Current Market: The majority of LFP cells are manufactured by Chinese enterprises, creating obstacles for automakers targeting U.S. subsidies.
Revolutionizing LFP Batteries
Mitra Chem is experimenting with a variation of LFP chemistry by adding manganese to the battery cathodes. This move aims to enhance power density while preserving the LFP’s economic advantage. Their distinctive “AI-powered platform” accelerates the battery chemistry testing process. Mitra Chem’s CEO, Vivas Kumar, shared insights during a news conference, stating, “Our battery materials R&D facility can synthesize and test thousands of cathode designs monthly… These processes drive significantly shorter learning cycles, enabling a faster time to market for new battery cell formulas.”
General Motors’ Strategic Move
With this investment, GM aims to further optimize its proprietary Ultium EV platform, powered by Ultium battery cells. Gil Golan, GM’s Vice President of technology acceleration and commercialization, emphasized the alignment between Mitra Chem’s and GM’s research objectives.
Golan noted, “Mitra Chem’s labs, methods, and talent will fit well with our own R&D team’s work. If Mitra Chem is successful, its batteries could feature in GM’s vehicles later this decade.”
Key highlights include:
- Investment Details: GM leads a $60 million Series B funding round for Mitra Chem. Specific investment figures remain undisclosed.
- Strategic Positioning: GM continues its journey to fully electrify its lineup, prioritizing its U.S. battery supply chain and embracing new battery technologies.
- Commercialization: The partnership aims to co-develop iron-based cathodes and other cell chemistries to support GM’s growing line of EVs.
As part of GM’s ongoing investment, Mitra Chem will assist in developing active materials such as lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP) cells. Their advanced labs employ simulations and machine learning models, boasting a reduction of over 90% in the lab-to-production battery timeline.
The collaboration’s ultimate goal is to facilitate the production of more affordable and locally-sourced EV batteries. Such advancements could potentially increase eligibility for federal tax credits, as stipulated in the Inflation Reduction Act.
GM’s Expanding EV Lineup
GM’s aggressive push into the electric vehicle market has already produced models like the GMC Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq, Chevrolet Bolt, Bolt EUV, and Blazer EV, each designed with the consumer in mind and priced competitively in the market.
Furthermore, GM has announced the release of the Chevrolet Silverado EV for commercial users, followed by its availability for retail customers next year. Additionally, the Chevrolet Equinox EV and the luxury hand-built Cadillac Celestiq are set to debut later this year.
GM’s investment in Mitra Chem is more than a financial endeavor; it’s a pivotal step in reshaping the EV battery landscape. With the combined expertise and innovation from both companies, the future looks promising for more efficient, cost-effective, and high-performing electric vehicles.