VW increase stake in solid-state batteries with $100M investment

Volkswagen will increase its stake in the California technology company QuantumScape Corporation and form a new joint venture.

VW says it is paving the way for the next level of battery power for long-range e-mobility. Dr. Axel Heinrich, Head of VW Group Research, who will take a seat on the board of directors of QuantumScape, says: “We want to accelerate the commercialization of QuantumScape’s solid-state batteries. And we combine forces to leverage Volkswagen’s experience as a production specialist and QuantumScape technology leadership. Volkswagen is thus taking another step toward a sustainable, zero emission mobility for our customers in the future.” Volkswagen will invest 100m USD in US-based QuantumScape and will become the innovative enterprise’s largest automotive shareholder. Closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

Since 2012, Volkswagen Group Research has already been collaborating closely with the Stanford spin-off. Based on the significant technical progress that this cooperation has made, QuantumScape and Volkswagen will work together within a newly formed joint venture with the aim to enable an industrial level of production of solid-state batteries. One of the long-term targets is to establish a production line for solid-state batteries by 2025.

“Volkswagen is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer and leads the industry in its commitment to electrification of its fleet,” says Jagdeep Singh, CEO of QuantumScape. “We are thrilled to be chosen by Volkswagen to power this transition. We think the higher range, faster charge times, and inherent safety of QuantumScape’s solid-state technology will be a key enabler for the next generation of electrified powertrains.”

Founded in 2010, QuantumScape is headquartered in San José, California and holds approximately 200 patents and patent applications for solid-state battery technology. Its deep expertise makes the company a leading pioneer in the development of this form of energy storage. “The solid-state battery will mark a turning point for e-mobility”, says Axel Heinrich of Volkswagen Group. “By increasing our stake in QuantumScape and forming the joint venture we strengthen and deepen our strategic cooperation with an innovative partner and secure access to the promising QuantumScape battery technology for Volkswagen.”

Solid-state battery cell technology is seen as the most promising approach for the e-mobility of the future. For example, a solid-state battery would increase the range of the E-Golf to approximately 750 kilometers compared with the present 300 kilometers. This battery technology has further advantages over the present lithium-ion technology: higher energy density, enhanced safety, better fast charging capability and – above all – they take up significantly less space. A solid-state battery of the same size as a current battery package can achieve a range comparable to that of conventional vehicles. While the approach has a lot of promise, advances have been difficult to attain and no other battery supplier has been able to achieve automotive performance. Volkswagen successfully tested QuantumScape early-stage solid-state battery sample cells in Germany running at automotive rates of power—an industry first.

Honda to halve electric cars’ charging time to 15 minutes

Honda Motor plans to release in 2022 a selection of fully electric cars that can run 240km on a single 15-minute charge. Most electric vehicles now available take at least twice that long to reach an 80% charge even using a high-speed charger.

Key to this plan is developing a new type of high-capacity battery that can handle the ultra-quick charging. The carmaker sources batteries for its electric-gas hybrid vehicles from Panasonic and others, but plans to create the new batteries in collaboration with a partner to be chosen later. A lighter vehicle body and more efficient power control system will ensure the new cars can go farther on a single charge.

Before then, Honda plans to release mass-market electric vehicles in Europe in 2019 and in Japan the following year.

Fast chargers in Japan now provide a maximum output of 150kW, but industry plans call for raising that to 350kW starting in 2020. Europe is expected to have a network of several thousand 350kW charging stations by that year. Honda's next-generation electric vehicles will take advantage of this faster charging infrastructure.

Nissan Motor's new 2018 Leaf will also offer quicker charging times than the current model and range 30% longer -- more than 500km on a single charge. The automaker has a head start on Japanese rivals Honda and Toyota Motor in mass-market electric vehicles.

There were 470,000 electric vehicles on the world's roads in 2016, according to Tokyo-based research firm Fuji Keizai, making up 0.5% of the total. That share is expected to climb to only 4.6% by 2035. By offering faster charging and longer range, Honda hopes to give its electric cars an edge with everyday drivers.

VW to Invest €3.5B in Battery Cell & Modular Electric Drive Plant

Volkswagen will invest €3.5-billion (US$3.7-billion) in e-mobility and digitalization for its German plants.

To bring Volkswagen up-to-date in the future-oriented areas of e-mobility and digitalization, the company will be making a massive investment in new technologies. The German plants are to enter the field of developing and producing electric vehicles and components. A pilot plant for battery cells and cell modules is to be developed. Volkswagen will be investing €3.5 billion in the transformation of the company.

New competences in future-oriented areas are to be developed at the various locations. About 9,000 additional jobs with a secure future are to be created. Volkswagen will mainly be filling these vacancies with existing employees and will also be recruiting specialists from outside the Group. Over the next few years, Volkswagen will be cutting up to 23,000 jobs via natural fluctuation and partial early retirement, taking the demographic curve into account. It is expressly stated that this reduction in the workforce will be accomplished without compulsory redundancies.

The pact for the future includes agreements on new future-oriented vehicle products. The plants at Wolfsburg and Zwickau are to assume responsibility for the production of electric vehicles based on the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB). By investing in e-mobility, Volkswagen will create jobs with a secure future at these locations. In order to ensure efficient capacity deployment, a further model is to be produced at the Emden plant. At Wolfsburg, an additional Volkswagen Group vehicle will also be produced.

Future-oriented work is to be divided between the main German components plants. Brunswick will continue to produce the battery system for the Modular Transverse Toolkit and will also be developing and producing the battery system for the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB). Kassel is to develop the MEB drive system and to be responsible for the assembly of the entire system in addition to electric transmission production. Salzgitter will produce and supply MEB drive system components. In addition, the plant will be building a pilot facility for battery cells and cell modules.

By 2020, the Volkswagen brand intends to be completely repositioned.

Scientists develop new lithium-sulphur battery that offers up to 5x the energy density of Li-ion

Scientists have developed a new prototype battery inspired by human anatomy. The prototype – which offers up to 5x the energy density of the lithium-ion batteries – uses a lithium-sulphur cell with an intestine-mimicking design that could finally make these energy-dense batteries long-lasting enough for commercial use.

Headed by the University of Cambridge, this research has managed to overcome one of the major drawbacks to lithium-sulphur cells: the fact that they disintegrate very quickly, despite their superior energy density to lithium ions.

When a lithium-sulphur battery discharges, sulphur in the cathode absorbs lithium from the anode. This interaction causes the sulphur molecules to transform into chain-like structures called poly-sulphides.

After the battery goes through numerous charge-discharge cycles, the reaction starts to stress the cathode, leading to bits of the poly-sulphides breaking off and entering the battery's electrolyte, which joins the two electrodes.

When this happens, the battery starts to degrade, as it loses its active material.

Here is where bio-mimicry comes in. Our gut is lined with tiny protrusions called villi, which absorb nutrients during digestion. The villi increase the surface area of the intestines by 30x. Scientists have now developed a nano-structure made of zinc oxides which resembles and act like the villi. These prototype villi will absorb the polysulphides in the electrolyte, slowing down the degradation process of the lithium-sulphur cell.

In testing, after 200 cycles at 1C, the prototype nanostructure saw only 0.05% average capacity loss per cycle, making it almost as stable as lithium-ion – which ranges between 0.025 to 0.048 percent average capacity loss per cycle.

Samsung SDI to build $358M car battery plant in Hungary by 2018

South Korea's Samsung SDI plans to invest about 400 billion won ($358 million) to build a plant to make electric vehicle batteries in Hungary, joining the race to build capacity and tap European demand.

Samsung SDI, whose customers include BMW, said on Tuesday that the proposed factory near Budapest would start production in the second half of 2018 and it would be able to produce batteries used for 50,000 pure electric vehicles (EVs) annually.

The plant will "help us save logistics costs and quickly cope with demand from customers, as European companies have manufacturing bases around Hungary," Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Electronics, said in a statement.

The company currently produces batteries for BMW's i3 in South Korea. Samsung SDI last year started production at its factory in China, the world's biggest EV market, but subsidy regulations have hampered its sales.

Cross-town rival LG Chem plans to build an EV battery plant in Poland to meet rising demand from European automakers, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in April.

Samsung buys $450 million stake in Chinese electric car firm BYD

Samsung Electronics will pay $450 million for a stake in Chinese automaker and rechargeable batteries firm BYD Co Ltd, the Chinese company said in a stock exchange filing on Thursday.

Automakers and technology companies have formed a series of partnerships in recent years as the race to develop electric, self-driving, internet-connected vehicles has created demand for more electronics components and software.

The Samsung investment has been made through Chinese subsidiary Shanghai Samsung Semiconductor and gives the Korean firm a 1.92 percent stake in BYD, making it the ninth largest investor in the company.

Samsung Electronics said last week it was in talks to acquire a stake in BYD to boost its automotive chip business, after the Korea Economic Daily first reported that Samsung had agreed to buy a stake.

BYD, which also counts Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway as a backer, began as a battery maker for personal electronics before launching its automotive business that focuses on electric and hybrid vehicles.

CHAdeMO Announce 150 Kw Supercharging Protocol

During CHAdeMO’s annual General Assembly in Tokyo, Japan, the Association’s management has announced its plans and ongoing activities towards bringing high power CHAdeMO chargers to the market.

The Association plans to release an amendment to the current protocol, which will enable charging with up to 150kW (350A), this year. The revision of the protocol, announced to the Regular Members already last year, is still ongoing with technical consultations with members happening both in and outside of Japan.

CHAdeMO’s Secretary General Dave Yoshida said: “One of the purposes of the Association is to evolve CHAdeMO protocol so that it can better respond to market needs. We see a movement towards mass market EVs with higher capacity batteries and we, as the Association of fast charging protocol, prepare for it by working on the high power protocol. This will enable faster deployment of the high power charging infrastructure, in preparation for EVs that can charge with higher power.”

Recognising that the upward trend in EV autonomy will lead to a need for charging with higher power at key locations, especially along the motorways, CHAdeMO mandated its Technical Work Group to tackle issues such as the size of the high power cable or managing temperature increase of the charger that may come in contact with users.

The ‘plug’ itself will remain exactly the same as the current one, meaning the high power CHAdeMO chargers can feed power to both the current EVs as well as the upcoming EVs with higher battery capacity. Current CHAdeMO EVs will also be able to use the 150kW charger, but as today’s EVs are configured to charge at around 50kW, they will charge at the current speed.

Dave Yoshida added: “We are very pleased that, thanks to the hard work of our technical team, we will soon be able to release the new version of the protocol to our members. We expect first 150kW standardised chargers to be deployed in 2017.”

CHAdeMO technical representatives are also actively involved in the IEC Committee working on high power charging, where, together with other international experts, they are preparing a revision of the DC high power standards, based on the IEC standards published in 2014.

In terms of higher power, for example 350kW (1 000V x 350A), technical studies are ongoing and the Association will determine its further development around 2018, should there be market demand.

Volkswagen planning a multi-billion euro battery factory

Volkswagen is considering building a multi-billion-euro battery factory as part of a major expansion of its electric-car portfolio, Handelsblatt has learned from company sources.

The factory would allow VW to operate independently of Asian firms like Panasonic, LG and Samsung that have dominated the battery market to date.

VW Chief Executive Matthias Müller and his team are currently working on a new strategy to increase electric car sales in the coming 10 years to 1 million. The non-executive supervisory board will consider the plans before the Wolfsburg-based firm’s annual meeting on June 22.

The aim of the new plans in part is also to put the recent “Dieselgate” scandal over cheating emissions tests behind it. The hope is that focusing on battery technology and electric cars can help the beleaguered company make a fresh start and improve its negative image.

Building a new battery factory would also allow VW to take a leadership role in the development of the new technology. The company’s executive board looks likely to approve the plan, which is also supported in principle by the works council and the state of Lower Saxony, its major shareholder, sources said.

VW invested in solid-state battery startup QuantumScape in late 2014 and have publicly stated they expect the technology can deliver 700 km range. VW is also targeting a 66 percent cost reduction by using a single battery module design for all of its electrified vehicles.

“We want to launch a major initiative, one that will put us at the top of the industry,” said one insider familiar with the plans.

To date one of the main reasons established automakers have been reluctant to move into high volume EV manufacture is having to outsource battery production. Where the largest cost component in an internal combustion car is the engine itself, which virtually all automakers build in-house, in an EV it is the battery that is the most expensive component. Automakers need to vertically integrate battery production into their manufacturing process in order to make EVs profitable.

Tesla consider LG, Samsung & SK for Model 3 battery supply

Tesla Motors is approaching LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation as part of its strategy to diversify its battery-sourcing channels beyond Japan's Panasonic.

LG Chem is expected to win the Tesla business thanks to its output commitment, good pricing and on-time delivery. A solid partnership with LG Display could also help LG Chem. The company previously supplied batteries for Tesla's Roadster model, though the volume it shipped was "small."

"Tesla intends to use more Korean technology on its Model 3. It decided to use tires manufactured by Hankook Tire and LG Display will possibly be supplying its OLED panels for the automotive systems. Additionally, Tesla is testing the manufacturing capability and production of LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation," said an official, Tuesday.

Tesla executives recently visited key research centers at LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation, holding working-level meetings with all of them.

An LG Chem spokesman said the largest battery supplier in the world has no official comment about its business with specific clients. Samsung SDI said it has no authority either to confirm or to deny business deals with its major clients. SK Innovation wasn't available for comment.

The Model 3 electric vehicle is faster, cleaner, more reliable and has better handling; while its entry price will start at around $35,000, cheaper than many competing gas powered cars.

Because of those factors, market analysts and officials say that the Model 3 "should be a game changer" at an affordable price point.

They said the Model 3 will drive the "third wave of adoption" in the electric vehicle industry. This third wave will finally attack the majority "mainstream and economically attractive" segment and it's been expected that others will follow including the GM Chevy Bolt, which should help propel EVs to the real tipping point of mass adoption.

"This is why LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation all are keenly interested in boosting their tie-up with Tesla. The three Korean battery manufacturers can't afford to lose the new business given the Model 3's impressive initial responses from customers," said another official.

Tesla plans to produce up to 500,000 electric vehicles by 2018. The Model 3 will be available in 2017, at the earliest. The company has received 400,000 pre-orders.

Currently, Japan's Panasonic is the exclusive battery partner with Tesla, supplying 18650 batteries as these are more economical and easier to mass produce.

Both LG Chem and Samsung SDI are also manufacturing 18650 cells.

Although LG is pushing the pouch-type battery as its mainstream product with Samsung SDI focusing on the rectangular-type battery, sources who are involved with the issue say Tesla may use LG and Samsung's mainstream technologies to keep adequate inventory levels as it's been widely expected the supply for the Model 3 will remain tight.

Nissan working on next-gen amorphous silicon (SiO) Li-ion battery

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Nissan Arc Ltd. announced today joint development of an atomic analysis methodology that will aid in boosting the performance of lithium-ion batteries, and ultimately extend the driving range of zero-emission electric vehicles.

The breakthrough was the result of a combined R&D effort between Nissan Arc Ltd., a Nissan subsidiary, Tohoku University, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI), and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

The analysis examines the structure of amorphous silicon monoxide (SiO), widely seen as key to boosting next-generation lithium-ion battery (Li-ion) capacity, allowing researchers to better understand electrode structure during charging cycles.

Silicon (Si) is capable of holding greater amounts of lithium, compared with common carbon-based materials, but in crystalline form possesses a structure that deteriorates during charging cycles, ultimately impacting performance. However, amorphous SiO is resistant to such deterioration.

Its base structure had been unknown, making it difficult for mass production. However, the new methodology provides an accurate understanding of the amorphous structure of SiO, based on a combination of structural analyses and computer simulations.

The atomic structure of SiO was thought to be inhomogeneous, making its precise atomic arrangements the subject of debate. The new findings show that its structure allows the storage of a larger number of Li ions, in turn leading to better battery performance.

“The invention of this new analysis method is essential to further develop the next generation of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. It will certainly become one of our core technologies. The utilization of this analysis method in our future R&D will surely contribute to extending the cruising range of future zero-emission vehicles,” said Takao Asami, senior vice president of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and President of Nissan Arc Ltd.

Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Global Sales & Marketing including Zero Emission Vehicle and Battery business, said the development was another proof point of Nissan’s commitment to innovation in advanced technologies.

“Nissan is exploring a wide range of energy sources for tomorrow’s vehicles, and we recognize our role in continuously investing in multiple technologies and intelligent mobility,” said Schillaci.

More: Nature Communications