There’s so much cleantech news to cover that we generally have hundreds of stories on our “story sheet” that we’re never able to cover. In the coming days, we’ll be rolling out a couple of strategies to help deal with our backlog. Yep, this #NewsParty format is one of those.
Batteries are the most critical cleantech subject these days. So much cleantech growth depends on quickly multiplying battery production and lowering battery prices. We have 23 EV battery stories from the past couple of months that we’ve been aiming to cover and just haven’t gotten to, so here’s a special rundown of the news.
1. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) updates us that average battery pack pricing ($/kWh) has dropped 85% since 2010 and now sits at $176/kWh. There’s a nifty GIF chart to go along with the news too.
Our 2018 Battery Price Survey has found that the volume-weighted average price of a lithium-ion battery pack is $176/kWh – the price has fallen 85% in real terms since 2010 due to tech improvements resulting in higher energy density at the cathode material, cell & pack level. pic.twitter.com/BhnA6ezLrd
— BloombergNEF (@BloombergNEF) December 19, 2018
2. BMW Group has a factory in Dingolfing, Germany, prepping to start producing EV battery modules next year. The battery packs produced there will be used in the fully electric MINI, which will go into production in late 2019 in Oxford, South England. The MINI’s electric motors will be produced in Landshut, Germany, right down the street from Dingolfing. “From 2020, the Dingolfing plant will also produce the fifth generation of electric drive systems for future electrified vehicles of the BMW Group, such as the BMW iX3, the BMW i4 and the BMW iNeXT,” BMW adds. “The extensive construction and preparation measures required for this have also already started.” This Dingolfing facility has already been the production site of battery modules and electric motors for BMW plug-in hybrids.
3. The German government decided that a good way to help its automakers is to set aside €1 billion ($1.14 billion) for a consortium aiming to produce EV battery cells and an R&D center for next-gen solid-state batteries. “The measures, expected to be announced next week, are designed to reduce the dependence of German carmakers on Asian electric vehicle (EV) battery suppliers and protect German jobs at risk from the shift away from combustion engines.”
4. Battery scientist Kenan Sahin announced that he had invented a battery compound that would cut the need for cobalt in battery cathodes. “Sahin says his new material can reduce the amount of cobalt in battery cathodes from about 20 percent to as little as 4 percent, which could result in dramatic cost savings for electric cars.” Will it work out commercially? We’ll see, but Sahin says he already has one automaker agreeing to use GEMX, what he calls the compound, and Sahin also sold a cathode compound to BASF back in 2016.
5. Audi & Umicore have been working together to set the table for EV battery recycling, and they’ve now finished phase 1 of their partnership. Starting with an analysis of the Audi A3 e-tron, they determined that 95% of the battery’s materials could be recycled. What’s next? “The partners are now developing specific recycling concepts. The focus is on the so-called closed-loop approach. In such a closed cycle, valuable elements from batteries flow into new products at the end of their lifecycle and are thus reused. The Ingolstadt-based company is now applying this approach to the high-voltage batteries in the new Audi e-tron** electric car. The aim is to gain insights into the purity of the recovered materials, recycling rates and the economic feasibility of concepts such as a raw materials bank. Security of supply and shorter delivery cycles are the goals.”
6. BMW Group, Northvolt, and Umicore are also teaming up “to work closely together on the continued development of a complete and sustainable value chain for battery cells for electrified vehicles in Europe,” the trio announced. “The project is seeking to press ahead with the sustainable industrialisation of battery cells in Europe and the associated acquisition of skills, from cell chemistry and development through to production and ultimately recycling.”
7. Northvolt announced a few days later that it was setting up a “state-of-the-art production facility, including a R&D center, for battery modules and energy storage solutions” in Gdansk, Poland. “The facility will be operated as a partnership between Northvolt and South Bay Solutions, a company specialized in manufacturing battery modules.” This facility is for battery module production. Northvolt’s location for battery cell production is in its home country of Sweden, in Skellefteå. Module production is supposed to start in 2019 and cell production in 2019, which seems to imply Northvolt will initially get battery cells elsewhere as it gets its module production process rolling.
8. Daimler’s Kamenz e-mobility facility has produced 200,000 lithium-ion batteries since 2012. To help ramp up production in 2019 for the coming Mercedes-Benz EQC, a fully electric SUV, Daimler announced in early November that it would double the number of employees in its Accumotive division by the end of 2018. EQC production is supposed to begin in spring 2019.
9. LG Chem recently hosted its first edition of The Battery Challenge, which is an “open innovation contest for start-ups with new battery technologies.” There were 4 categories for the battery competition: ‘battery material’, ‘battery management and control’, ‘design, manufacturing and processing’, and ‘recycle and regeneration’. LG Chem was offering $1.9 million to start-ups through the competition.
10. BASF & Norilsk Nickel announced a partnership on battery materials for EV batteries. BASF also announced that it would produce battery materials at a facility in Harjavalta, Finland, right next to a nickel and cobalt refinery owned by Norilsk Nickel. “This investment is part of BASF’s €400 million multi-step investment plan announced last year and builds upon initial battery materials production started in Harjavalta in 2018. Start-up is planned for late 2020, enabling the supply of approximately 300,000 full electric vehicles per year with BASF battery materials. The new plant in Harjavalta will utilize locally generated renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind and biomass.”
11. Enevate, which has been working on advanced lithium-ion battery technology, indicated that it had received investment from EV battery giant LG Chem, which the company rightfully notes is a strong nod of confidence for what it’s developing. “Enevate’s HD-Energy® Technology for EVs allows Li-ion batteries to be charged to 75 percent capacity in five minutes, while also providing higher energy densities than available for today’s current long-range EVs. They can also safely charge and discharge down to -40°C and capture more energy during regenerative braking, extending their range in cold climates,” the company adds.
12. Talga Resources, an advanced materials tech company out of Australia, announced that it has seen positive test results for a graphene-silicon lithium-ion anode. That testing is part of the UK government’s “Safevolt” project, “a Talga-led program run in conjunction with consortia partners, Johnson Matthey, the University of Cambridge and manufacturing research group, TWI.”
13. Cabot Corporation has been picked “by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to participate in an $80 million investment in advanced vehicle technologies research.” The aim is low-cobalt cathodes for next-gen lithium-ion batteries. Sound familiar? “The DOE is investing in a total of 42 projects to support advanced vehicle technologies that can enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, reduce dependence on foreign sources of critical materials, and enhance U.S. economic growth. Of the $80 million, nearly $32 million has been allocated for battery and electrification initiatives, including $2.9 million for Cabot’s research in aerosol manufacturing technology for low-cobalt lithium-ion battery cathodes.” Cabot is “a leading global specialty chemicals and performance materials company.”
14. Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) & ACI Systems Alemania GmbH (ACISA) joined forces for lithium extraction and industrialization in Bolivia. YLB is a Bolivian state enterprise, while ACISA is a German company. “The signing of the partnership agreement by YCB and ACISA represents an important milestone in the realization of the Bolivian-German lithium project. The partnership also guarantees Germany access to the metal. Salar de Uyuni in the Bolivian Andes is the world’s largest known lithium deposit— around ten million tons.
“The consortium around ACISA offers state-of-the-art technology, plants and machinery to establish a value-added chain in Bolivia in the mid-term, from extracting the raw material lithium through producing cathode material right up to manufacturing battery systems as end-products.
“Apart from the use of leading-edge technologies, another key aspect is environmentally and socially-compatible implementation, for example by using renewable energy.
“Furthermore, knowledge will also be transferred as Bolivian employees undergo training and qualification courses. This will create between 500 and 1,000 direct jobs and up to 10,000 indirect jobs in Bolivia in areas such as transport, logistics and services.
“The start of the production of lithium as a raw material is scheduled for the second half of 2021. By the end of 2022, the goal is to achieve an annual production capacity of 35,000 to 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide. Further expansion of this capacity is planned.”
15. SK Innovation, a top EV battery producer based out of South Korea, announced it would invest $1.67 billion into an EV battery factory in the US state of Georgia. The plant is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs. “Customers for SK Innovation include Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai-Kia Motors, and this new investment will provide opportunities for SK Innovation to bring its world-class products to additional automakers in the United States,” the company adds.
“The new plant will be located in Jackson County, Georgia. Construction will occur in two phases, beginning in early 2019. The first phase will invest approximately $1 billion and employ more than 1,000 advanced manufacturing employees, making it the largest scale electric vehicle battery plant in the United States. SK Innovation leadership worked closely with federal, state and local officials to finalize the investment.” I’m not sure where the claim of “largest scale electric vehicle battery plant in the United States” comes from, given that we’ve got Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, but it is good to see another large EV battery factory coming to the US.
16. SK Innovation is also investing 400 bln won ($360 million) to build an EV battery separator plant in China. “The company said it plans to break ground early next year for the plant that will make lithium-ion battery separator (LiBS) and ceramic coated separator (CCS) in Changzhou in China’s southeastern Jiangsu province. … The plant is set to start commercial production in the third quarter of 2020 with an annual capacity of 340 million square meters of LiBS and 130 million square meters of CCS, SK Innovation said. The plant — the first overseas project for SK Innovation’s material business — will boost SK Innovation’s total lithium-ion battery separator production volume to 850 million square meters per year.”
17. Saratoga Energy thinks it has come up with a breakthrough for low-cost carbon nanotubes made from carbon dioxide, carbon nanotubes to go into high-performance Li-ion batteries. The US National Science Foundation appears to agree, as Saratoga Energy just won an NSF grant. “The $723,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant will allow Saratoga Energy to increase production from 100 grams of carbon nanotubes per day to one kilogram per day. That pilot-scale level of production will help the company sell nanotubes to research labs and small customers as it further develops and tests its product, and gains traction in the advanced-battery marketplace.”
18. 24M, a lithium-ion battery innovator not to be confused with 3M, “has raised a $21.8 million Series D to accelerate the deployment of its simple, capital-efficient, low-cost manufacturing process and the development of differentiated, high-energy-density lithium-ion cells for the EV market.” Kyocera Group and ITOCHU Corporation led this investment round. North Bridge Venture Partners, which had previously invested in 24M, also added to the cash infusion.
19. Corvus Energy says that it has contracts lined up for a new production facility and equipment enabling “fully automated battery production.” The location is Bergen, Norway. “The supplier chosen for the production equipment is Intek Engineering of Raufoss, Norway; the factory will be fully operational in Q3 2019. The total investment is approximately US$9.3m financed through equity funding and loans from DNB and Innovation Norway.”
20. MGX Minerals & the University of British Columbia have partnered on a research consortium “to develop a low-cost and scalable method for fabricating silicon-based anode to improve the energy density of Li-ion batteries.” What’s the aim? “1) fabricating nanostructured silicon using low-cost metallurgical silicon as a feedstock and 2) compositing nanostructured silicon with commercial graphite to develop a high-performance silicon anode. The purpose of the research is to replace the graphite anode with silicon and complete a hybrid in the short-term which will not require retooling. The ultimate goal is to enable next-generation Li-ion batteries capable of quadrupling energy density from current 100 Wh/kg up to 400 Wh/kg for use in long-range electric vehicles and grid storage.”
21. Bernal Institute is leading a €8 million EU-funded EV battery R&D project called Si-DRIVE. “The project will focus heavily on the sustainability of the system, with rare and expensive materials (e.g. cobalt) targeted for removal. This green focus will be supplemented by performing life cycle analysis, assessing the suitability of the cells for 2nd life applications and through the development of recycling processes for cell materials. Alongside their role as project coordinator, UL will also focus on the development of the high performance silicon based anodes materials. This research will lead to the development of lightweight anodes, composed of abundant elements that can reduce the overall weight of the final batteries. Coordination of the project will ensure that UL are at the forefront of battery research, through the development of research links and demonstration of the game-changing performance of their advanced anode materials. …
“The Si-DRIVE consortium is comprised of 16 academic and industrial partners from 7 European countries, across the entire battery development chain. Battery active material design will benefit from state of the art modelling capabilities, coupled with expertise in materials production and characterisation, to deliver higher capacity, safer materials required for future batteries. Cell safety enhancements will be achieved through the use of non-flammable solid electrolytes, which will be custom designed to allow fast charging capabilities desired by consumers. As part of the project, cell prototypes will be prepared using the optimised anode, cathode and electrolyte materials, to demonstrate performance enhancements compared to current state of the art electric vehicle batteries.”
22. Panasonic & LG Chem are planning large increases in the battery production in China thanks to loosening market rules there. Panasonic is planning an 80% production boost there and LG Chem is planning new facilities for Nanjing by 2020. “The Chinese government will relax rules on foreign players setting up electric-vehicle companies or facilities from next month. … Osaka-based Panasonic, whose current Chinese battery output capacity is believed to be nearly 5 gigawatts hours, has secured land for two more buildings to go with the current two at its Dalian, Liaoning Province, facilities.
“The completion of LG Chem’s Nanjing factory is expected to bring the South Korean company’s annual output at the site to around 500,000 electric vehicles’ worth. LG also plans to set up joint ventures with China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and begin production of cathode materials, a key battery component.
“LG compatriot Samsung SDI is also considering setting up a vehicle battery factory in the Jiangsu Province city of Wuxi, near Shanghai.”
23. CATL, a Chinese EV battery giant, opened its first North American sales and service center. CATL currently has partnerships with BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, and Jaguar Land Rover. The new US base is in … Detroit. Which automakers could it be targeting? Hmm. …