When a start up like QuantumScape claim to have a revolutionary solid-state lithium-ion cell that can change EVs forever it seems like just more grist for the hype mill. However, when Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen all announce substantial progress on the same technical pathway it starts to look like we may begin to see a real tipping point from here.
All of these announcements share a common core theme of changing the mainstream batteries we use today from liquid to solid medium. The benefits are many but the ones that really change the game are energy density and recharge time.
The release last week of hard data to back up QuantumScape’s claims from the summer indicate step change improvements, “its cell can charge to 80 percent of capacity in 15 minutes, it retains more than 80 percent of its capacity after 800 charging cycles, it’s noncombustible, and it has a volumetric energy density of more than 1,000 watt-hours per liter at the cell level, which is nearly double the energy density of top-shelf commercial lithium-ion cells.”
Toyota’s announcement last week mirrored this progress and claims that they will launch an EV next year with a solid state battery that provides 310 miles of range on a 10 minute charge. Toyota has had a proprietary effort focused on solid state batteries since 2017 and is focused on launching first, “Toyota plans to be the first company to sell an electric vehicle equipped with a solid-state battery in the early 2020s.” but it looks like they are in a race with Ford and Volkswagon.
Ford’s investments have centered on Solid Power, who announced last week that they plan to launch their first automotive grade battery packs with their solid state technology in 2022. Ford is joined in their investments in Solid Power by Hyundai and BMW and the company claims it is discussions with eight automakers overall.
Volkswagen has invested heavily in the QuantumScape effort and we may be seeing the beginnings of consortium formation that clusters around a few of these most promising start ups as the existing OEM’s all square off against Tesla. Of course established battery manufacturers including Samsung SDI Co. and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. are all trying to capture the space as well and there are other startups like Cuberg trying to carve out a business.
No matter the winner or winners of this race the potential for step change performance that finally solves the twin barriers of range anxiety and recharge time for EV’s appears to be getting much closer to reality.