GM Licenses New Battery Technology, Potentially Improves EV Performance

General Motors has spent many years and millions of dollars developing its own lithium-ion battery packs for vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, the automaker announced yesterday it created licensing agreement with the Argonne National Laboratory to use an advanced lithium-ion battery design, which may improve both the range and performance of electric vehicles.

The key element in the advanced battery design lies with the material used to construct the cathode. Argonne’s design uses a carbon composite cathode, which reportedly incorporates in both lithium- and manganese-rich metal oxides. The unique cathode, developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, allows battery cells to store twice as much power without an increase in size. Better yet, the design increases the battery’s life span, and allows it to be charged at higher voltages, which in turn could decrease charge times.

“The creation of this battery technology represents an important return on the American investment in innovative vehicle and battery research,” Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said in a release. “This agreement gives GM the ability to use cutting-edge battery technology throughout its supply chain.”

“Engineers and researchers at General Motors are working on next-generation battery systems that will reduce cost while providing improved performance, expanding the practicality and affordability of electric vehicles in the future,” said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of electric vehicles and batteries.

In addition to the GM license, Argonne announced it had also licensed the technology to Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem, who presently supplies battery cells for the Chevrolet Volt program. LG Chem is expected to use the cells in battery packs destined for the Volt, but as this isn’t a GM-exclusive technology, the supplier is free to supply it to other automakers.

Neither company announced the terms of the agreement, but GM notes it will be a few years before the material appears in production vehicles. When it does, expect that 40-mile EV range touted by Volt marketing staffers to increase ever so slightly.