In Taiwan, Gogoro has unveiled what is said to be the world’s first swappable lithium ceramic solid-state battery for two-wheelers. Furthermore, a new study tackled a long-held assumption that adding some liquid electrolytes to improve performance would make solid-state batteries unsafe and found them to be more powerful and safer than the conventional lithium-ion chemistry. In the UK, Aston Martin and Britishvolt have inked a deal to develop a new high-performance battery cell technology. Meanwhile, concerns surrounding the EV supply chain continue to grow.
While the technology remains relatively unproven, many legacy automakers have invested heavily in solid-state devices, including Toyota and Volkswagen. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, electric scooter maker Gogoro has unveiled a prototype lithium ceramic solid-state battery for two-wheel battery swapping. The prototype was jointly developed with Taiwanese solid-state battery specialist ProLogium, which has recently teamed up with German luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz to codevelop a range of passenger vehicles powered by this type of batteries. Touted as the world’s first of its kind, Gogoro’s solid-state batteries have an estimated capacity of 2.5kWh, far exceeding current exchange batteries with lithium-ion technology and liquid electrolyte, which currently stand at 1.7kWh. The prototype announcement is particularly important for the market in Taiwan, where Gogoro Battery Swapping is powering 95% of all electric two-wheelers. Gogoro’s new prototype can be integrated with the manufacturer’s existing vehicles and battery swap network, which comprises over 10,000 battery swapping stations at over 2,300 locations servicing more than 450,000 riders. According to the manufacturer, the number of its swapping stations nearly equals the one of petrol pumps in the country, and is likely to exceed it in near future.
A study led by the US Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) has tackled a long-held assumption that adding some liquid electrolyte to solid-state batteries would make them unsafe. Instead, the research team found that in many cases a small amount of liquid electrolyte did not compromise the safety of solid-state batteries and could in turn fix one of the chemistry’s main problems — the solid electrolyte interface. Namely, adding a bit of liquid electrolyte could greatly increase performance while only having a negligible impact on safety, and thus help bridge the gap to commercialization in the EV and energy storage industries. It is often claimed that solid-state batteries are safer than lithium-ion ones, and the SNL researches have found this to be true under external heating failure scenario. However, as they probed the upper bounds of heat release and temperature rise across several cell-level failure scenarios and battery configurations, the researchers also found that Li-metal anode solid-state batteries are not necessarily safer under short-circuit failure scenarios or if the solid electrolyte integrity is compromised. What is more, in configurations involving Li-metal anodes, solid-state batteries were found to experience higher temperature rises than LIBs because the same amount of heat is generated over a smaller mass and volume.
Another rechargeable battery concept this time for EVs comes from US-based lithium-metal battery specialist Sion Power. Earlier this week, the company announced it had reached a development milestone with its Licerion EV battery technology demonstrating more than 2500 cycles to 70% of initial capacity. The results were achieved by a multilayer R&D pouch cell, charged in 180 minutes (C/3 rate), and completely discharged (100% depth of discharge) in 45 minutes (4C/3 rate). Sion Power describes Licerion as a hybrid between today’s lithium-ion and tomorrow’s solid-state batteries. Its technology utilizes several levels of lithium protection and can be paired with common cathode materials, including LFP and NMC. The current version of Sion Power’s 6 Ah large-format Licerion EV cell has exceeded 800 cycles as validated by an independent test laboratory under the identical conditions of C/3, 4C/3. The same 6 Ah cell can also be fast-charged to 80% capacity in less than 15 minutes. The Licerion-EV, 17 Ah cell has been independently verified with an actual (not projected) specific energy of 400 Wh/kg and energy density of 780 Wh/L.
Meanwhile in California, General Motors (GM) Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE) are readying to test the use of EVs as on-demand power source for homes. Their pilot aims to demonstrate how EVs can serve as a backup power option at home and more broadly as a resource for the grid, leveraging the capabilities of vehicle-to-home (V2H) bidirectional charging. The pilot will involve collaborating on both the bidirectional hardware and the software-defined communication protocols that will enable power to flow from a charged EV into a customer’s home, automatically coordinating between the EV, home and PG&E’s electric supply. Multiple GM EVs will be included in the pilot, although the auto giant did not specify which. The companies aim to test the technology by this summer, and open larger customer trials by year’s end.
With its roadmap to full electrification still in the works, British luxury car maker Aston Martin has teamed up with EV battery start-up Britishvolt on development of battery cell technology for high-end performance cars. Aston Martin plans to launch its first battery EV in 2025 and to provide an electrified powertrain option to all new product lines by 2026, with a target of displaying a fully electrified core portfolio by 2030. Under the new collaboration, a joint research and development team from Aston Martin and Britishvolt will design, develop, and industrialize battery packs, including bespoke modules and a battery management system. The two organizations will work together to maximize the capability of special cylindrical high performance cells being developed by Britishvolt, which is currently working on its 45GWh manufacturing site in Cambois, Northumberland, which is expected to be fully operational in 2027. In January, Britishvolt secured $2.3 billion in UK government funding for the project, with the goal to establish mass production of batteries with high nickel content and more energy dense materials.
Another battery cell partnership was announced this week between Indian lead-acid battery major Exide Industries and China-headquartered EV battery maker SVOLT. Under the agreement, SVOLT will grant Exide an irrevocable right, license to use, exploit and commercialize necessary tech and know-how owned by them for Li-ion cell manufacturing in India. Additionally, SVOLT will provide the support required to set up a state-of-the-art greenfield manufacturing plant on a turnkey basis. Exide plans to set up a multi-gigawatt factory equipped to manufacture cells across two popular chemistries and three formats, catering to the diverse requirements of customers in India.
Meanwhile, on a global scale, an extraordinary surge in oil prices to the highest levels in 14 years is already driving up demand for electric vehicles (EVs), but surging raw material costs, made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are set to trigger price increases. On Wednesday, Tesla raised prices of its US Model Y SUVs and Model 3 Long Range sedans by $1,000 each and some China-made Model 3 and Model Y vehicles by 10,000 yuan ($1,582.40). While price increases for the most affordable Model 3 and Model Y versions happened a dozen times last year, this time around the US carmaker has only increased the price of vehicles with nickel in their batteries. The price of nickel has been sent on a wild ride by the war in Ukraine and both the London Meta Exchange the Shanghai Exchange were forced to halt trading in certain contracts related to nickel earlier this week, adding to the Covid-19 induced semiconductor shortages and shipping delays that have left inventories at low levels. In a separate announcement, Tesla confirmed that deliveries of Model Y vehicles built at Giga Berlin in Germany, which received its environmental approval last week, are starting on March 22.
But there is more to the supply concerns than just the nickel price surge. The ongoing tight supplies of semiconductors and other raw materials, as well as Covid-19-induced shipping delays that have left inventories at low levels, are making it difficult for the EV industry to keep up with the bullish demand. On Friday, Rivian, the best-funded EV startup in US history, said that ongoing supply chain issues mean it will have to halve its production outlook and only build about 25,000 pickups, SUVs and delivery trucks this year. The California-based automaker said losses during its initial year of electric truck production were nearly $5 billion. It reported a $4.7 billion loss and annual revenue of $55 million, coming from deliveries of just 920 of its high-end vehicles. The company has orders for about 83,000 R1 T pickups and R1 S SUVs. Amazon, an early investor, is also waiting to get 100,000 electric delivery trucks.
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