GM backs EV battery startup as it shifts future focus to cheaper materials

General Motors (GM.N) is investing in a Silicon Valley startup to help it speed development of a more affordable battery chemistry for its future electric vehicles, the company said on Wednesday.

GM will lead a $60 million investment in Mitra Chem, a two-year-old Mountain View, California, company that uses artificial intelligence to accelerate development of lithium-ion battery materials.

Mitra Chem will help the automaker develop advanced iron-based cathode active materials such as lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP) that could be used in some of GM’s next-generation Ultium batteries after 2025.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and manganese-enriched LMFP are less expensive, more sustainable alternatives to the nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) mixture used in many current EV battery cathodes. Iron-based batteries typically do not store as much energy, however.

LFP battery cells were developed in the United States, but Chinese companies such as BYD (002594.SZ) and CATL (300750.SZ)currently dominate global production.