General Motors is leading a $60 million Series B round into Mitra Chem, a battery materials startup promising to help build more affordable and accessible EV batteries for future GM vehicles.
Battery innovations are crucial for automakers seeking to lower electric vehicle costs and promote widespread consumer adoption.
GM’s latest investment is in line with its commitment to build a U.S.-focused battery supply chain. The automaker has already pledged to invest $13.5 billion in four battery factories in the U.S. that will have a collective capacity of 165 gigawatt-hours annually by 2026. GM is also working with startup SolidEnergy Systems to build a high-capacity, pre-production lithium-ion battery, and with South Korea’s Posco Chemical to build a $400 million battery materials facility in Canada.
As part of GM’s strategic investment with Mitra Chem, the two will develop advanced iron-based cathode active materials, like lithium manganese iron phosphate, to power batteries compatible with GM’s EV architecture, Ultium.
Ultium is GM’s new electric platform that includes a new battery design and serves as the foundation for the automaker’s EV plans and supports a range of future vehicle models.
Most cathodes today are made out of nickel and cobalt, which are both in limited supply. An iron-based cathode has the potential to deliver a more efficient charge, hold more capacity and extend the lifespan of the battery via a more sustainable material.
Mitra Chem uses AI to simulate, synthesize and test thousands of cathode designs monthly, enabling a 90% shorter time to market for new battery cell formulas, according to the company. The startup will use the Series B funds to scale its current operations, which include an R&D facility in Mountain View, Calif.
Mitra Chem says its lab is powered by an “atoms-to-tons acceleration platform” that uses simulations and physics-informed machine learning models to accelerate everything from the discovery of battery cell formulas and cathode synthesis, to the evaluation of a cell’s lifetime and how to scale-up the whole process.
The startup’s in-house cloud platform automatically collects data as Mitra Chem’s team goes about their work, like creating materials, studying their properties, testing cells and analyzing the results. This makes it easier to understand and visualize the information in a consistent way, which the AI models can then learn from.
“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, deploy and commercialize U.S. made, iron-based cathode materials that can power EVs, grid-scale electrified energy storage and beyond,” said Mitra Chem CEO and co-founder Vivas Kumar, in a statement.