To make its Ultium EV program a success, GM is counting on battery innovations to make the technology simpler and cheaper. As part of that program, the automaker has boosted its investment with Mitra Chem —a company focused on building batteries in the US using iron-based cathodes — via a new $60 million financing round.
“This is a strategic investment that will further help reinforce GM’s efforts in EV batteries, accelerate our work on affordable battery chemistries like LMFP and support our efforts to build a US-focused battery supply chain,” said GM VP Gil Golan.
Mitra Chem is more of a battery development company than a manufacturer. It uses AI to “simulate, synthesize and test thousands of cathode designs monthly, ranging in size from grams to kilograms,” the press release states. The aim is to shorten so-called learning cycles to get new battery formulas to market quicker. At the same time, it’s focused on LMFP (lithium manganese iron phosphate) tech that reduces reliance on rare minerals like cobalt.
To do all that, the company uses an in-house cloud platform specifically designed for battery cathode development. It can simulate everything from cathode synthesis optimization to cell durability to process scale-up — in other words, most of the steps required to get new battery designs to market. “GM’s investment in Mitra Chem will not only help us develop affordable battery chemistries for use in GM vehicles, but also will fuel our mission to develop… US made, iron-based cathode materials that can power EVs, grid-scale electrified energy storage and beyond,” said Mitra Chem CEO Vivas Kumar.
GM is developing new battery tech on a number of technological fronts. Along with its Mitra Chem investment, it’s working on pouch- and prismatic-style cells shaped like flattened boxes to reduce battery weight and volume. It’s also using aluminum-doped anodes to reduce cobalt quantities and working with LG Chem to reduce and eventually eliminate cobalt and nickel from their batteries.
Other car manufacturers are experimenting with different approaches. Toyota recently announced it would develop EVs with more than 600 miles of range, while others like Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen are investing in solid-state battery technologies. Most current models are playing catchup with Tesla, though, which has four EVs in the top ten in terms of range, including the $47,240 Tesla Model 3 Long Range (358 miles).