Tesla Co-Founder Endorses New Solid-State Electric Car Battery

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Mercedes-Benz is piling on to the solid-state electric car battery stampede with a bang. The company has just inked a deal with the advanced energy storage firm ProLogium Technology, which cites Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard among the fans of its new ceramic-based solid-state energy storage platform for electric cars.

The Long Road To The Solid-State, Electric Car Battery Of The Future

For those of you keeping score at home, Martin Eberhard co-founded Tesla with Marc Tarpenning in 2003, after reportedly having been inspired to fill in the electric mobility gap left when GM pulled the ill-fated EV1 off the market. Elon Musk got the company rolling in 2004 as an investor, and the rest is automotive history.

EV batteries certainly have come a long way since 2003. Our friends over at Car and Driver remind us that the original EV1 sported 26 lead-acid batteries for propulsion, good for just 55 miles of range a far cry from today’s lithium-ion technology.

The driving public had to wait a few years before lithium-ion electric car batteries entered the scene. Mitsubishi is credited with getting the first highway-legal, mass-produced EV with a lithium-ion battery pack off the ground in 2009 under the name i-MiEV, though some auto industry observers credit Tesla with delivering the first Tesla Roadster in 2008.

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Tesla Motors previewed the Roadster Li-ion battery pack in 2006. A Tesla document on file at Stanford University describes it as “one of the largest and technically most advanced Li-ion battery packs in the world.”

“It is capable of delivering enough power to accelerate the Tesla Roadster from 0 to 60 mph in about 4 seconds,” the authors noted.  “Meanwhile, the battery stores enough energy for the vehicle to travel more than 200 miles (based on EPA city/highway cycle) without recharging, something no production electric vehicle in history can claim.”

Be that as it may, the first iteration of the Roadster was expensive, and production maxed out at approximately 2,500 units in 2012. That’s somewhat ironic, considering that GM was roundly criticized for pulling EV1 after reaching a similar point in a similar timeframe, topping out at approximately 1,000 units. The i-MiEV fared much better than both cars, though it still only managed a little over 31,000 units in 10 years.

Wait, Did Martin Eberhard Really Endorse A Solid-State Battery?

Lithium-ion EV battery technology has improved exponentially since those first two Li-ion EVs, but the technology still relies on a liquid electrolyte. Various attempts to replace it with a solid electrolyte have surfaced in recent years, in an attempt to improve battery range while cutting costs, streamlining the supply chain and reducing lifecycle impacts.

In 2017 the US Department of Energy noted that a solid-state EV battery could be forthcoming within the next few years, and it looks like its energy storage forecast has come true. All the leading automakers are piling on, even though the technology is not quite ready for its closeup.

The solid-state EV battery of the future is coming close, though. That brings us to ProLogium Technology, a Taiwanese firm founded and helmed by Vincent Yang, who launched the company 15 years ago with the vision of inventing a better battery. ProLogium bills itself as “a global leader in high-performing, safe, and cost-effective battery technologies in EV, consumer, and industrial applications” and the first to “successfully develop, mass produce, and commercialize the solid-state lithium ceramic battery.”

The company already has a pile of commercial accounts under its belt and a major scale-up is in the works (more on that in a sec).

And yes, ProlLogium has also enlisted Martin Eberhart’s opinion on its ceramic battery. In press release last April, the company cited this observation from the Tesla co-founder (and original CEO, for the record):

“ProLogium’s solid-state electrolyte battery technology is the most exciting new development I have seen in this field. The combination of safety, aging characteristics, fast charge rate, and bipolar packaging, all without sacrifice energy density, and at a competitive price, make ProLogium cells the best I have seen for automotive applications.”

Coming Soon: Better EV Batteries For Your Mercedes

Things have moved along at a quick pace since then. Last October, ProLogium announced the completion of a $326 million round of financing, which will be deployed to develop and expand Prologium factories in Asia, Europe, and the US in the coming years.

That brings us to the new Mercedes-Benz deal. A hint regarding the automaker’s interest in a solid-state EV battery surfaced last year, when Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler put their money on the solid-state battery firm Factorial.

The ProLogium deal was announced on January 27, which set the wheels in motion for Mercedes-Benz, though it will be some time before Mercedes-Benz customers get their hands on the new technology. The automaker expects to receive its ProLogium solid-state EV battery for test vehicles over the next several years, with full integration across a number of models expected after 2025.

As for the benefits of a solid-state EV battery over its liquid-electrolyte cousin, Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Procurement, noted that solid-state technology helps to reduce the size of the battery, which would provide high-end automakers with more design flexibility.

“This is why we are partnering with companies like ProLogium to ensure that Mercedes-Benz continues to break new ground in the automotive sector – for the benefit of our customers,” Schäfer said.

And They Are Recyclable, Too

Automakers are scrambling to clean up their supply chains in order to satisfy the demands of car buyers and investors who want to drive around without killing the planet, so it’s no surprise the ProLogium emphasizes ease of recycling and reusing, as well as sustainable and ethical sourcing, for its solid-state EV battery.

Mercedes-Benz is among those scrambling to carve out a sustainability space for automotive technology in the sparkling green future. In a press release dated January 27, Mercedes-Benz touted an environmental validation audit for its oversized EQS 450+ electric car, and detailed its efforts to build recyclability and ethical sourcing into its liquid electrolyte EV battery. The company should find the going a little smoother once it transitions into the solid-state EV battery field.

For the record, Mercedes-Benz is not ProLogium’s first automaker. The Vietnamese automaker Vinfast, which first popped up on the CleanTechnica radar back in 2020, zeroed in on ProLogium for its EV batteries last year, so stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Solid-state EV battery courtesy of ProLogium.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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