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The heavier an EV, the less its climate benefits. With $200 million Lyten has a heavyweight solution

Updated: Sep 15, 2023


white EV close-up
Image Credit: Patrick Langwallner // Unsplash

  • In an oversubscribed round, FootPrint Coalition-backed company, Lyten, raised $200 million to scale its electric battery material: 3D graphene.

  • EVs have a weight issue. More and more consumers are buying heavier cars like SUVs and trucks, leading EVs to a larger trend. This results in heavier batteries, which means more materials, mining, energy, and therefore emissions.

  • That’s why Lyten created its 3D graphene, a form of carbon that can be customized for everything from batteries to composite materials to sensors and other technology needed for the clean energy revolution.

  • With the graphene, Lyten can take critical minerals out of the battery equation, while reducing vehicle weight by 60%.

  • The round was led by Prime Movers Lab with participation from Stellantis, the parent company of 14 automotive brands and the third top-selling automaker in the world. This participation confirms how the industry is looking to downsize EV weight and how Lyten is emerging as a heavyweight in the space.


Weight.


It may be one of the biggest hurdles to scaling electric vehicles for a plethora of reasons. As one 2021 article published in the journal Nature outlines, the increasing weight of vehicles hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it needs.


According to Keith Norman, the chief sustainability officer at FootPrint Coalition portfolio company, Lyten, via a recent blog post, “The heavier something is, the more energy it takes to move it. The more energy it takes to stop it. The more materials we mine from the earth to construct it. The heavier burden on infrastructure to support it. And the higher the safety risk if something goes wrong.”


That is the reason the automotive industry is searching high and low for ways to make EVs lighter. And that’s why in an oversubscribed Series B round, Lyten raised $200 million to scale its solution: 3D graphene, aka a form of carbon that can be customized for everything from batteries to composite materials to sensors and other technology needed for the clean energy revolution.


According to the Nature article, “Pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) now account for 57% of US sales, compared with 30% in 1990.”


“The mass of a new vehicle sold in the United States has also risen — cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks have gained 12% (173 kilograms), 7% (136 kg) and 32% (573 kg), respectively, since 1990,” the publication’s authors, who are researchers from the Universities of Calgary, California-Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University write.


“That’s equivalent to hauling around a grand piano and pianist.”


Aside from the weight increasing the likelihood of someone being hit, the weight presents an orchestra of other dilemmas. It takes a toll on the climate benefits of EVs — in addition to the issues highlighted by Norman, heavier EVs generate more particulate matter pollution from tire wear and require more energy to drive, and more cement and steel to make, leading to, of course, more emissions. And one key reason these cars are so heavy is the battery.


That’s why Lyten makes its 3D graphene into a high energy density, low weight Lithium-Sulfur battery that not only helps solve the problem of EV weight but goes beyond it, targeting other vehicles and aircraft, all of which must decarbonize to reach our climate goals.


Lyten's headquarters in San Jose, California
Lyten's headquarters in San Jose, California (Image Credit: Lyten)

By having an effect not only on electric vehicles but also on the materials that make them, Lyten targets some of the biggest greenhouse gas-emitting sectors on the planet from transportation to mining to steel and concrete production.


Plus, according to Dan Cook, Lyten’s co-founder and CEO, the applications of the 3D graphene don’t end at consumer and material travel. As he said in a statement announcing the round, the “guidance and expertise” of investors “help ensure Lyten applications address the critical needs of a wide range of industries, including automotive, transportation, defense, aerospace, manufacturing, energy, and construction.”


“The influx of strategic investors reflects the evolution of Lyten from its early days of developing a first-of-its-kind supermaterial to now collaborating with industry leaders to bring disruptive, decarbonizing applications to market, utilizing the differentiated properties of Lyten 3D Graphene,” he said.


The round was led by Prime Movers Lab, a venture capital firm focused on investments in breakthrough scientific startups, with participation from sector leaders like Stellantis (the parent company of several automakers including Dodge, Jeep, and Ram), FedEx Corporation, Honeywell, and Walbridge Aldinger Company.


This round brings Lyten’s lifetime funding to $410 million since the company was founded in 2015, and with it, Lyten can move the needle on an “automated pilot line” in San Jose, California, where it plans to break ground in 2024, catalyzing its fully domestic supply chain, and start shipping EV batteries the same year.


According to Lyten, the benefits go beyond emissions. Not only does the startup say its battery solution reduces the weight of vehicles by 60% but it also offers thermal runaway resistance, which helps to reduce the likelihood and severity of fire. Additionally, the 3D graphene helps reduce the costs due to the elimination of critical minerals like nickel, manganese, cobalt, and graphite.


Aside from costs, these materials are associated with a laundry list of mining issues, from resource use to human rights, allowing automakers to drive around them. That’s why Stellantis, the world’s third-largest automaker, is getting on board early.


“Specifically, Lyten’s Lithium-Sulfur battery has the potential to be a key ingredient in enabling mass-market EV adoption globally,” said Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO in a statement. “Their material technology is equally well-positioned to help reduce vehicle weight, which is all necessary for our industry to achieve carbon net zero goals.”


*Edited to further clarify thermal runaway.


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