Sales of the sub-$30,000 Chevrolet Bolt assembled in Orion, Mich., helped GM recently overtake Ford to become the second-largest car company behind Tesla in electric vehicles. Future low-cost GM electric vehicles could benefit from batteries developed by Mitra Chem.

Joe White | Reuters

General Motors On Wednesday it said it was leading a $60 million funding round in Mitra Chem, a California-based startup developing low-cost electric vehicle batteries.

Mitra Chem, Founded by Veterans tesla and toyota, is working on developing a new type of battery based on lithium iron phosphate chemistry. The batteries, abbreviated LFP after the element’s chemical symbol, are of great interest to electric carmakers because they do not contain expensive minerals such as cobalt and nickel, which means they cost less than standard lithium-ion batteries.

Tesla, Rivian and Ford is one of the automakers to use LFP batteries in its more affordable models.

Lithium iron phosphate batteries have proven to be very durable in electric vehicles. But they have a downside: They have a lower power density than standard batteries. That means EVs need more lithium iron phosphate batteries, and therefore weigh more, to match the range of similar models powered by conventional batteries.

In addition, most lithium iron phosphate batteries currently on the market are made by Chinese companies, presenting a challenge for automakers wanting to produce electric vehicles that qualify for U.S. subsidies.

Mitra Chem is working on a variant of the LFP battery chemistry, adding manganese to the battery’s cathode to increase the power density of the battery while maintaining the cost advantage of LFP. The company is using what it calls an “artificial intelligence-powered platform,” which it says greatly speeds up the process of trying out new battery chemistries, as it aims to find the right recipe.

“Our battery materials R&D facility can synthesize and test thousands of cathode designs every month, ranging in size from grams to Kilograms.” “These processes significantly shorten the learning curve and thus the time-to-market of new battery formulations.”

GM Vice President Gil Golan, who is in charge of accelerating the process of bringing new electric vehicle technology to market, said the auto giant is stepping up its focus on potential breakthroughs in battery technology.

“Mitra Chem’s labs, methods and people will be an excellent fit with the work of our own R&D team,” Golan said.

If Mitra Chem is successful, its batteries could appear in GM vehicles later this decade, Golan said.

Details of GM’s investment in Mitra Chem were not disclosed.

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