Evida - an Israeli battery under the hood By Karin Kloosterman - April 03, 2011 Israel 21C
First the Better Place electric car and now in a $250 million deal, Israel's Evida will supply the batteries, cooling systems and software tools to run Mia Electric's vehicles in Europe. Batteries for Mia Electric's vehicles will be supplied by Israeli company Evida. Racing from one business meeting to the next, Asher Bennett, the 42-year-old founder of Israeli electric battery maker Evida, couldn't elaborate on how he came up with the invention in such a short time. But the former military submarine man did say that his company has been in stealth mode for the last two years.
Under the media's radar until now, Evida has just signed a $250 million contract with the French-German automaker Mia Electric to manufacture its batteries. Funded with about $2 million from the Israeli venture capital firm Terra Venture Partners, and backed by private investment, Evida has been contracted to provide 50,000 8-kilowatt/hour battery packs for three of Mia's newest electric models, through to the year 2016. The deal was revealed after intense months of negotiations and was made public at the Geneva International Motor Show at the beginning of March. Mia will start rolling out its cars, powered by Israeli innovation, in June.
Born to American parents, Bennett spent a lot of time in the United States and speaks English fluently. Now living in Kfar Saba, Israel, he gave ISRAEL21c a brief background: "I got battery experience from being an officer in Israeli submarines -- ones that use batteries with fully electric drive trains." His motive for keeping things hush-hush was that he didn't want to create a huge buzz and then fizzle -- something all too common in the startup automotive landscape.
We've all heard about amazing companies attempting to create fuel from hydrogen, or air ... and then we hear nothing more. "We've been in discussion with many companies and were under the radar until recently -- until we'd proven ourselves," he says. Environmentalism fueled Bennett's passion. "The EV [technology] is one of the most cutting edge to come to the market. Where else do you get the opportunity to be part of one of the most important industries in the world - one that hasn't changed in the last 100 years?"
Evida currently runs operations in Israel, the United Kingdom, France and the United States (it's registered officially in California), plus a contracted manufacturing facility in China that employs 200 people. Fourteen of the company's 20 employees in Israel are engineers who have been working on the battery concept since 2009, a few years after the wheels in Bennett's mind began turning around the idea.
At its Jerusalem R&D center, Evida has created its own proprietary lithium-ion-phosphate battery pack. Unlike the extensive, and expensive, charging networks proposed by another Israeli electric car enabler, Better Place, Evida's batteries can be juiced from any ordinary electrical outlet at home, work or the shopping mall. In a pinch, a 10-minute "fast charge" will give the car an added range of about five miles.
With a five-year contract in place, Evida will supply 10,000 battery packs a year to Mia for its zero-emission three- and four-seater Mia and Mia L, town cars, and a European-sized utility vehicle. Evida will provide a comprehensive vehicle integration solution including batteries, cooling systems, a battery management system and software tools. With a battery charge range of up to 90 kilometers, or 55 miles, Mia's battery can be recharged in three hours when hooked up to a standard European 220V power supply. Mia managing director Laurent Buffeteau said, "We appointed Evida based on their ability to provide a flexible, low-cost and high-quality battery pack solution tailored to the characteristics of our individual models, coupled with access to unrivalled expertise and a high level of durability for our customers." Now, other major players are lining up to talk with Bennett. Some smaller contracts in the range of a million or so dollars have also been signed.
The battery part was "easy"
Bennett reveals that developing the battery was the easy part. The hard part was adapting it to Mia's systems, with all the quality control and reliability checks and balances in place. He tells ISRAEL21c that he does not consider Better Place, now deploying an electric charge network in Israel and Denmark, to be a competitor. As he told the Israeli newspaper Globes: "Better Place will ultimately use another company's batteries, but it is familiar with our product, and I highly esteem the company. It's an amazing company that is driving the entire electric car industry forward, and it will go far."
Harold Wiener of Terra Ventures says that from the VC's perspective, "we believe that the right solution for mobility within cities is all-electric, zero-emissions vehicles including buses, taxis and trucks. There are no technological barriers for this to happen and prices of batteries will go down with escalation of production lines all over the world and mainly in China." Evida, he adds, "will be perfectly positioned to become a leader in this new area and the experience that will be gained in the deployment of 50,000 cars with Mia will be a tremendous advantage for us in the field of all-electric fleets."