Skeptics continue to doubt the likelihood of a solid-state battery breakthrough, but leading automakers are clearly not listening. One EV company after another is committing to the new energy storage technology, lured by the promise of doubling or even tripling the range of a typical EV battery while cutting costs. Say, maybe there is such thing as a free lunch after all.
Dongfeng Dives Into (Almost) Solid-State Battery Technology
This week, two items of interest popped up in the field of solid-state batteries, and we should have seen one of them coming. China’s state-run automaker Dongfeng Motor Corporation hooked up with the battery manufacturer Ganfeng Lithium Battery last summer on a solid-state R&D venture. Sure enough, earlier this week the two companies rolled out the first 50 demo versions of their new Dongfeng Fengshen (Aeolus) E70 with solid-state technology on board.
As reported by China PEV, an earlier iteration of the car launched in 2019, reportedly with a CATL battery possessing a respectable range of 249 miles for a 50.8 kWh capacity version, and 315 miles for a 61.3 kWh capacity version.
Dong Yi Chen of China Car News notes that you might not want to break out the solid-state pom-poms just yet. The new E70 battery is a hybridized version of the technology. A full-on solid-state battery has a solid electrolyte, as the name suggests. The battery in the new E70 contains some liquid.
“Though the battery is not fully solid-state. It is so-called semi-solid lithium metal (Li-OH) battery — there is still some liquid electrolyte. So it is not the holy grail as Lithium sulphur batteries (which can lift capacity up to 500% in theory) but it can increase energy density up to 80% which is fair enough,” Dong Yi Chen observes.
Doing the math, that should be quite a bit more than the CATL battery. If you can track that figure down, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Mitsubishi Catches Solid-State Battery Fever With Nissan-Renault Mashup
Nissan-Renault and Mitsubishi joined forces as something called “The Alliance” back in 1999 with a mission to electrify the auto industry, so it’s no surprise seeing them take a jump into the solid-state battery pool, especially after Automotive News caught some hints in that direction from Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida last month.
Actually, it was more than a hint. In a press release last November, Nissan Motor Corporation detailed its long term electric mobility vision. That included a goal of introducing electric vehicles with the company’s all solid-state batteries by 2028, with the “all” meaning no liquid.
“With the introduction of breakthrough ASSB, Nissan will be able to expand its EV offerings across segments and offer more dynamic performance,” Nissan enthused. “By reducing charging time to one-third, ASSBs will make EVs more efficient and accessible. Further, Nissan expects ASSB to bring the cost of battery packs down to $75 per kWh by fiscal year 2028 and aims to bring it further down to $65 per kWh to achieve cost parity between EV and gasoline vehicles in the future.”
Earlier this week, Reuters got the exclusive scoop on their latest venture, with reporter Norihiko Shirouzu explaining that a new Alliance 5-year plan involves investing more than 20 billion euros ($23 billion) in new battery-electric vehicle development.
Nikkei Asia picked up the story, reporting that “the automotive alliance formed by Nissan Motor, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors will invest a combined 3 trillion yen ($26.3 billion) through fiscal 2026 mainly into developing electric vehicles and new solid-state batteries that are expected to triple driving ranges.”
Everybody Hearts ASSBs — Except Fuel Cell Fans
The latest ASSB news also includes a new round of $200 million in funding for the US solid-state battery startup Factorial Energy, and EV batteries are not the only potential market. The firm Quantumscape is also testing the waters for solid-state technology to go to work on the stationary energy storage field as well.
Meanwhile, Ford and BMW are among those hopping on the ASSB train, with Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis nipping at their heels. GM also appears to be drifting in a solid-state direction (more on that in a sec).
Considering the potential for ASSBs to far outstrip the performance of today’s lithium-ion batteries, fans of fuel cell mobility may be having heart attacks right now. Nissan-Renault may have spared itself some pain when it pulled out of a fuel cell partnership with Ford and Daimler back in 2018.
Fuel cell passenger cars have struggled to compete with the latest iterations of lithium-ion technology, but other forms of mobility have been picking up the torch, including aircraft, locomotives, and ferry boats, so that may not be the last of it.
What’s Up With GM & ASSBs?
The hints dropped by GM about its solid-state battery intentions were more than a tease. Last October, GM announced plans for something called the Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center, which it billed as “an all-new facility that will significantly expand the company’s battery technology operations and accelerate development and commercialization of longer range, more affordable electric vehicle batteries.”
“The facility will play a pivotal role in advancing GM’s vision of an all-electric future and help pave the way to widespread adoption of EVs, building on more than a decade of advanced battery development at GM Research and Development. GM will also use the facility to integrate the work of GM-affiliated battery innovators, helping the company to reach its stated goal of at least 60 percent lower battery costs with the next generation of Ultium,” GM explained.
Interesting! GM introduced its Ultium lithium-ion EV battery to much fanfare last March, and here they are moving on to the Next Big Thing already.
“The Wallace Center will allow GM to accelerate new technologies like lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries, along with production methods that can quickly be deployed at battery cell manufacturing plants, including GM’s joint ventures with LG Energy Solution in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, and other undisclosed locations in the U.S.,” GM said, leaving all doubts about its solid state intentions to rest.
GM emphasized that the Wallace Center research team will “experiment with many types of future battery chemistry in addition to lithium-metal, including pure silicon and solid-state, along with different cell form factors.”
In case you were wondering about the Wallace name, that would be GM director Bill Wallace, who oversaw the company re-emergence as an electric vehicle maker after the demise of the ill fated EV-1 at the turn of the 21st century. Wallace was instrumental in the launch of the Chevrolet Volt gas-electric hybrid and the Bolt all-electric vehicle during the Obama administration, while facing down a storm of disdain from right-wing critics.
Like the saying goes, they who laugh last, laugh best.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: “ORNL scientists developed a scalable, low-cost electrochemical pulse method to improve the contact between layers of materials in solid-state batteries, resolving a key challenge in energy-dense solid-state batteries (credit: Andy Sproles/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy).
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