January 26, 2011 – New Canaan, CT
GM Ventures — the Venture Capital arm of General Motors — is now rapidly starting to invest its $100 million seed fund into automotive technology innovations. Earlier today, GM Ventures announced it has invested $7 million into Newark, California based battery startup Envia Systems, participating in a $17 million round, which also included Asahi Kasei, Asahi Glass, Bay Partners, Redpoint and Panagea Ventures. GM says it has also secured the rights to use Envia’s cathode materials for future GM vehicles.
Envia Systems will provide GM’s battery engineering team with access to advanced lithium-ion cathode technology that delivers higher cell energy density and lower cost. In a separate agreement, GM has secured the right to use Envia’s advanced cathode material for future GM electrically driven vehicles.
“Skeptics have suggested it would probably be many years before lithium-ion batteries with significantly
Other participating investors in Envia are Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass; as well as current investors Bay
“We believe our battery materials have taken the technology lead that will help lower price points and
Envia’s advanced cathode technology uses inexpensive materials that store more energy per unit of
“Our test results on small-format cells show that Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can
The mission statement of GM Ventures is basically a spinoff of the mission statement of GM: Help GM build the best vehicles. Envia Systems can clearly help GM with that goal, given its core battery technology.
GM can also bring a lot to Envia. Lauckner explained last week that when GM starts working on the technology with a company at an early stage, GM can likely help the startup “shave the lead time off of the product development process,” by months or more. GM can also raise the profile of a startup and “de-risk the equity structure of the company,” explained Lauckner. As a bonus, automotive testing and R&D is also an expensive undertaking and GM can help startups use its facilities and expensive tools. This is all in addition to being a massive key customer, and an equity backer of the startup.
Envia already raised a $3.2 million first round of financing in 2008 and by September of 2009, a regulatory filing indicates that Envia raised the bulk of another $7.7 million Series B round. Envia also snagged a first-round $4 million grant under the Department of Energy’s high-risk energy tech fund, ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy). Working in collaboration with the Argonne National Laboratory on the DOE-backed research, Envia aims to develop a prototype of a non-graphite anode for vehicle batteries.
What all this means for Fairfield County customers remains to be seen; but from all indications, the future at GM is shaping up to be electric.