At a conference hosted by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers in Shanghai last week, Meng Xiangfeng, a senior executive at Contemporary Amperex Technology, said his company is working a new type of battery, one that would operate with no nickel or cobalt, according to a report by Reuters. Details weren’t provided, so nothing is known about the new battery except that nickel and cobalt are two of the most expensive ingredients for many of today’s lithium-ion batteries. The speculation is that eliminating them will reduce the cost of batteries for electric cars and make them more affordable.
In the absence of more information, we don’t know specifics like energy density, how long these new batteries might last, or how much they might cost. But the implication is they will be less expensive enough to offset whatever loss of performance may occur. We are seeing this principle in action today as Tesla and others are putting lithium iron phosphate batteries in some models to lower costs, even though LFP batteries have a lower power density than many other lithium-ion batteries.
More Batteries In More Places
CATL is pushing ahead with other battery innovations as well in its quest to become the 800-pound gorilla in the battery industry. Green Car Reports says the company is working on strategies to increase the range of electric cars to 800 kilometers or more. (Lucid says its Air sedan will be able to travel that far when it become available early next year.)
It says CATL chairman Zeng Yuqun told an industry conference in Wuhan last week that it is experimenting with adding battery cells throughout the frame of an electric car to boost range. More cells means more range. The idea is appealing, but once again details are sketchy. It seems safe to assume Zeng is talking about LFP cells, which do not require a complex cooling system to control temperatures during operation. Owners and passengers might also be concerned if they are surrounded by battery cells, and first responders may be less than thrilled by the idea of a car that has battery cells placed in lots of different locations.
Despite such technical and practical considerations, companies and research labs around the world are hard at work figuring out ways to move the EV revolution forward by making less expensive electric cars with longer range. By the time 2030 gets here, much of the EV technology we consider cutting edge today will be ready for display in the ancient history section of the Smithsonian Institute.
Keep in mind that CATL has a close relationship with Tesla, so whatever CATL is experimenting with today has a good chance of being in a Tesla automobile in the future. The future’s so bright we gotta wear shades!