Friday, March 16, 2012

Envia Envy

If you noticed in the comments section of my previous blog article on Envia, Atul Kapadia dropped by to clarify some items in part to tamp down some of my wilder speculative notions.  I decided to contact him directly to verify it was indeed him who left the comments and then ask a few more questions.   I'm going to post the exchange note style for those who hate my writing style (which is I think 1 or 2 of you).

Incidently, I am excited about this technology. I'm happy for DoE and ARPA-E as well.  I still reserve doubts about how investments are placed in companies rather than specs but that's not important in cases like these where it's time to celebrate some success.   From Mr. Kapadia:

Atul Kapadia said...
Thanks for recognizing Envia's achievement - our scientists and engineers have worked tirelessly for the past 4.5 years to get to these energy densities. Envia is a highly (highly) capital efficient model - almost all Series C funds from December 2010 are still in the bank.
Envia did take investmeiusnt from Japanese chemical companies but did not give whatsoever any manufacturing or intellectual property rights to any of these investors.
The facility in Jiaxing does system assembly of cells. Envia views cell-making as an assembly process in contrast to materials development and manufacturing (which is bulk of the IP and BOM of the cell). Envia's material is manufactured in Newark, CA.
So far, it is indeed an American company but the market is international and we intend to enable all automotive OEM's around the world.
February 29, 2012 2:54 PM  

 After I sent him a verification check, he responded with this:

Yes, I did leave a comment on your blog.
As you know, we make our own cathode, anode and electrolyte - all these materials are made in Newark, CA.  However cells are made in China - we ship this material to China and the cells are assembled in China.
As for manufacturing, I want to make sure we are not a capital intensive company.  We will partner with the right companies around the world to lower our manufacturing costs.  We will still continue to build pilot plants for mule vehicle testing, etc but when it comes to volume production - there has been a lot of capacity built out with public and private money last five years - we can take advantage of that.
Atul Kapadia

This was my reply to his reply:

Thanks for confirming and providing a bit more information.  Congratulations again.   That's a fantastic accomplishment.  Kudos to your hard working team!
Why wouldn't you make the C, A and E in China in addition to cell assembly?  Just curious.
Conversely, why wouldn't you have the cells assembled in CA?
Obviously, GM as a partner enables you to sell into a GM mass production environment easily.   But will you sell your batteries to Ford and other automakers if they come seeking it?  I would assume the answer is yes but want to be clear.   Are you planning to sell to any Chinese automakers?
Can you say whether your battery is already undergoing or scheduled to be tested in a Chevy Volt?   With nothing more than a battery swap, what do you think your battery could do to the range of a Volt?    Could Chevy offer your battery as an upgrade to current Volt owners?

I know you've laid out some conservative time tables so I apologize if these questions are a bit hysterical and overanxious in regard to timing.
Again, well done.  I'm happy for you and I'm happy for ARPA-E.  We had no innovation and investment in energy for so long as a country, thank God we have some success now. 

 Atul's reply to my reply to his reply with my pie in the sky to say hi:

We partitioned the tasks between China and US to ensure scale-up of IP sensitive material stayed near our scientists so we can have quick iterations between scale-up engineers and scientists.  We have a very good VP Manufacturing who has manufactured cells in China before - so we leveraged that skill set and saved some money early on when there was not much money in the bank by doing it in China.
Legally and formally, GM is not a partner - it is important to note that the word partner has specific definitions inside large companies.  GM Ventures is an investor and that implies we may possibly have other relationship with GM but I am bound by confidentiality to not discuss it.  You can approach GM directly.
We are free to do business with any automotive OEM around the world.  GM has demonstrated the highest integrity - they never ever probe or attend meetings where competitive program discussion is ongoing.
As for your questions on Volt, you will have to approach GM.
But I can tell you accurately that some of the components of our 400 Wh/kg are definitely undergoing qualification already with some of the large automotive OEMs around the world.  It is an open secret in the market that Envia is the larger in meeting automotive specs and capacity of material in the market.  I am being conservative in my timing estimates simply because automotive qualification cycles are long and it is the OEM's prerogative to decide when they integrate our solutions in their cars.
The last point you made is why we made this announcement.  For the country, for the market and to give the automotive OEMs confidence that while ionic breakthroughs will not be as fast as electronic breakthroughs, the anemic pace of innovation in materials and batteries for the past decade is unacceptable and not going to be the norm while Envia is around.
Thanks for your interest.

After this last note, I got pretty excited and had to break off further email communications.  I don't know why. Oh yeah, because I didn't want to badger him for more detail after he spent such a long time responding in such a thorough manner.  Ah, fresh air.

Ok, battery freaks of the world.  Let's dissect, speculate and formulate some new questions....if you are in fact interested which you should be if I say so. I say so.