Mitra Future Technologies, also known as Mitra Chem, has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Social Capital Holdings. The startup aims to boost the North American battery supply chain by producing an iron-based cathode.
Iron-based battery chemistries have long dominated the market in China, while US and European automakers have mostly used nickel-based chemistries. This situation may change soon, as a series of key patents held by Chinese firms are soon to expire. Tesla recently confirmed that it plans to begin using the cheaper iron-based chemistry in Models 3 and Y.
Global OEMs may be shifting to iron-based chemistries, but Chinese firms still dominate the market. “This is a huge Achilles’ heel,” Vivas Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Mitra Chem, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. His company’s plan to manufacture an iron-based cathode is aimed at closing this supply chain gap.
“If you look at batteries as being the biggest part of the bill of materials of a vehicle, and also the part of the electric vehicle that defines the performance for the whole vehicle, it was only a matter of time before that differentiation by application needed to happen, where one-size-fits-all cathode solutions that are used in the market today just wouldn’t cut it,” he said, adding that the time is ripe to create a vertical supply chain hub in the US, as GM, Ford and others are planning domestic cell factories.
Mitra Chem is building a facility in Mountain View, California, with the aim of producing pre-pilot cathodes by mid-2022.
“For 75 years, the United States was a net importer of oil, and that energy disadvantage had massive implications to the American consumer, and to our positioning against other sometimes hostile nations,” Kumar told TechCrunch. “We see the same happening right now. Not having some semblance of a supply chain in North America, being 100% exposed to external parties—because there is zero cathode capacity in North America today—will leave us exposed in the same way that we have been exposed in the energy topic in the past.”
We are leading a $20m Series A in Mitra Chem, which is taking a fresh approach to lithium-ion battery production and doing it domestically in the U.S.— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) November 15, 2021
This is key if we want to accelerate electrification and build a sustainable energy future.
My one pager attached. pic.twitter.com/GaCpBw7Jtd