GM’s electric-vehicle program got a boost this week when it signed a worldwide lithium-ion battery licensing agreement with a US government research laboratory.
The automaker said it would make advanced batteries using a patent from the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. The patented technology would help produce batteries that last longer between charges and can charge at higher voltages, GM said.
Batteries are somewhat of an Achilles heel for electric vehicle makers because they are heavy and, at this point, seldom give a car more than 100km of range on one charge. Industry executives, who expect battery capacity to improve in coming years, are concerned about consumer acceptance of the initial, relatively short range provided by the first-generation EVs.
The cathode material licensed to GM is part of a large, diverse suite of Li-ion battery inventions and patents developed at Argonne with Department of Energy funding.
Compared with currently available materials, Argonne's composite cathode material combines lithium- and manganese-rich mixed-metal oxides in a stable materials-design approach to achieve longer battery life, improve safety and Â allow for higher energy storage.
The technology will benefit the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s plug-in electric vehicle, which went on sale late last year. GM’s aim is to make “an electric vehicle without the range limitations associated with other electric vehicles in the market.”
Argonne is making its cathode technology available to LG Chem, the Korean chemicals company that provides the battery cells that power the Volt. GM builds the batteries itself.