By Ucilia Wang, GigaOMGeneral Motors is turning to a national lab for battery technology that will be crucial for its push to peddle electric cars. The company on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with Argonne National Laboratory for the lab’s composite cathode material. Argonne is granting a worldwide licensing of its composite cathode material, a combination of lithium and manganese oxides, for making lithium-ion cells. The license isn’t exclusive and covers only GM vehicles, though Argonne officials declined to name other licensees. GM plans use the intellectual property to develop battery packs that will last longer, as well as be safer and possibly cheaper, said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, on a conference call with reporters. “We believe this will give us access to cutting-edge technology not for current vehicles, but rather future electrified vehicles,” Lauckner said. LG Chem, a battery cell supplier to GM, also licensed the cathode material to make lithium-ion cells for the Chevy Volt, the plug-in hybrid electric car GM launched late last year. The agreement with LG Chem only covers the U.S. market, and LG Chem can use it to develop cells for customers other than GM. The Korea-based battery cell maker does plan to use the cathode material in the cells it will produce at its new factory in Michigan starting in 2012, said Mohamed Alamgir, research director of LG Chem Power, during the conference call. Cells from that factory will end up in the Volt. A battery is made up of anode on one side and cathode on the other, with electrolyte in between. Lithium ions travel from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte, creating a chemical reaction that allows electrons to be harvested along the way. Argonne is licensing a set of patents to the two companies, and some patents dated back to a decade earlier.