Svolt Energy, a division of China’s Great Wall Motors, has been hard at work creating true solid-state batteries for several years now. In its rush to get there, it may (or may not) have enticed some employees of CATL to join its research department. In any event, CATL sued Svolt and that suit has now been settled — amicably, we presume.
This week, CnEVPost is reporting that Svolt Energy is the first company to create prototype 20 Ah solid-state sulfide battery cells with an energy density of 350 to 400 Wh/kg. Those prototype cells have successfully passed nail puncture and thermal runaway tests at temperatures of up to 200° C. Once those cells are commercially available, they could make it possible for electric vehicles to drive 1,000 kilometers or more on a single charge, according to the company.
Svolt Energy says its sulfide technology has been difficult to develop, but it now has the ability to produce many kilograms of solid-state electrolyte materials, is able to continuously prepare solid-state electrolyte films, and can assemble solid-state soft pack cells with its newly developed production equipment. It has been awarded 109 sulfide battery technology patents, of which 93 cover the manufacturing process.
The 1000 Kilometer Challenge
Several Chinese automakers are touting new battery systems that can power an electric car for 1000 kilometers or more on a single charge. According to Notebook Check, NIO approached CATL last year about developing a hybrid semi-solid 150 kWh battery pack that could power its ET7 high performance sedan for 1000 kilometers. CATL reportedly sent NIO away, claiming it had all the business it could handle, thank you very much.
NIO than turned to WeLion to develop semi-solid state batteries for its ET5 and ET7 cars, which forced CATL to reassess its position and invest in the development of batteries with a high nickel content. Now Gotion, which is backed by Volkswagen, says it is ready for pilot mass production of semi-solid state batteries as soon as this year.
Semi-solid state batteries may be a bridge to true solid-state batteries, just as plug-in hybrid cars may act as a bridge to battery electric driving, but true solid-state batteries have significant advantages over conventional lithium-ion and semi-solid state batteries in terms of energy density, charging rate, safety, durability, and thermal management of the individual cells. Svolt Energy is pushing hard to produce prototypes of its solid-state batteries as soon as possible so that automakers can evaluate them for use in the future
The downside could be higher costs for manufacturers and consumers as the price of battery raw materials — especially nickel — goes through the roof. In the final analysis, less expensive LFP batteries may be the choice of many automakers as they struggle to balance affordability and range. For many EV drivers, a range of 1000 kilometers may be desirable but totally unnecessary to meet their driving needs.
Which would you rather have, a $40,000 car that goes 500 kilometers between charging events, or a car with 1000 kilometers of range that costs $70,000? As the Rolling Stones taught us, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you can get what you need. At the moment, it appears that solid-state batteries may not be the key to affordable EVs, despite their many advantages.
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