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the main news – May 2020

Like every month, Automobile-propre has compiled the latest news from the battery sector for you. Despite the health crisis and the sharp slowdown in the automotive market, the news in this area is still as exciting and varied …

Solid batteries equip Mercedes electric buses

For years, teams of scientists have been active around the world to develop and improve the technologies used in batteries in electric cars. Sometimes we feel like they’re looking for … but can’t find. This perception is misleading because in reality these technologies are advancing by leaps and bounds, each new generation of electrified vehicle being equipped with more efficient and cheaper batteries than those of the previous generation.

Last example to date: the “solid” battery which for a long time is announced as that which should replace the family of lithium ion. Well … it is already on the market since it is now fitted to Daimler eCitaro electric buses. With a capacity of 400 kWh, they allow a range of 250 km while the lithium ion batteries of the NMC type used in the eCitaro released in 2018 (so barely 2 years ago) only displayed a capacity of 243 kWh for an autonomy, in “normal” use of 150 km.

Why is this technology entering the bus market and not the car market? Probably because in this segment its main advantage – that of using a non-flammable solid electrolyte – is the most interesting, and its main defect – that of being still relatively bulky – is the least restrictive. In electric buses, the battery is in fact placed on the roof and the space available there is therefore sufficient for large-volume batteries. However, this arrangement above the passengers’ heads poses a real safety problem in the event of an accident or shock when these batteries are filled with a large quantity of a flammable liquid electrolyte. Problem which is therefore solved with solid batteries.

Samsung and Hyundai to consider solid battery partnership

Lee Jae-Yong, vice president of Samsung, and Chung Euisun, vice president of Hyundai Motor recently met during a visit to a Samsung SDI factory dedicated to the manufacture of battery cells, south of Seoul . According to an internal source at Hyundai, the two men had an in camera conversation during which Chung Euisun asked for clarification on the current state of research carried out by Samsung in the technology of batteries with solid electrolyte. A possible partnership in this area would have been the real reason for the visit.

We know that researchers from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) and the Samsung R&D Institute Japan (SRJ) are working on the development of solid batteries. They recently announced the development of a very thin film of silver and carbon that would be used to prevent the formation of dendrites on the anodes of solid batteries.

Today, Hyundai sources its cells from LG Chem, and its subsidiary Kia from SK innovation.

Svolt reveals details of its cobalt-free cells

In July 2019, we reported that SVOLT Energy Technology, a Chinese manufacturer of battery cells, had announced the development of two new technologies, one of which is cobalt-free. At the time, it was in reality a vague promise, no technical details having been announced. This month, Yang Hongxin, the president of the company communicated new elements on the development of this technology. Two versions of these cells will be on the market next year: the first with a nominal capacity of 115 Ah and the other with 226 Ah. The latter will equip a model from the manufacturer Great Wall Motors of which Svolt is a subsidiary. During the presentation of these new cells, Yang Hongxin said that his company could guarantee a lifespan of 15 years or 1.2 million kilometers.

The batteries using 115 Ah cells will have an energy density of 245 Wh / kg and a range of 600 km. These cells will be marketed in July 2021. Batteries equipped with 226 Ah cells will have a slightly lower energy density (240 Wh / kg) but their autonomy may reach 880 km. These cells will be launched during the 2e semester 2021.

No technical details have yet been revealed on the chemistry used in these cells, except that they will contain a “crystal”. This information makes us assume that it will be a battery using a solid electrolyte.

In February SVOLT announced that it had received a first order for 7 GWh from a European manufacturer.

Batteries undergo the worst torture in GM’s laboratory

After having hesitated for a long time on the strategy to adopt in terms of electric mobility, General Motors finally seems to have understood that the future no longer belonged to combustion engines. But if it wants to make up for lost time and make up for its technological backwardness on Tesla, the American manufacturer understood as well that it had to bet big on the development of powerful batteries. This is what he is now doing in the Global Battery Systems Lab located north of Detroit. Occupying an area of ​​approximately one hectare, it is believed to be the largest battery testing laboratory in the world. GM engineers have 40 stands in particular where they submit the new generations of packs and cells developed in partnership with LG Chem to a whole series of charge and discharge tests and cycles designed to simulate the worst conditions of use and to test the behavior of the accumulators.

Software and algorithms are also developed there to predict the life of the batteries. This lab also has 18 climatic chambers where the batteries are subjected to the harshest conditions from those of arid and hot deserts to the rigors prevailing in arctic regions. In the “cold room”, the temperature can drop to -90 ° C!

In the cold room of the Global Battery Systems Lab, the temperature can drop to -90 ° C!

LG Chem funds huge increase in cell production capacity in Poland

The European Investment Bank (EIB) announces a € 480 million loan to LG Chem. The credit will be used to finance a major expansion of the plant, which the Korean cell manufacturer operates in Wroclaw, Poland. The site’s current production capacity is 15 GWh, less than half that of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. However, this is enough to equip 200,000 75 kWh packs or 300,000 50 kWh packs annually. But we remember that a few months ago, the production lines of the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace had to idle and even be stopped for a few days because of bottlenecks bottleneck in the supply of cells for their batteries. Both manufacturers are supplied by the Polish factory of LG Chem.

The EIB-funded project aims to increase the production capacity of the Wroclaw site to 65 GWh. Enough to supply the production of 800,000 to 1,000,000 vehicles depending on the size of their battery. In addition to the EIB, 3 Korean banks will participate in the financing, with total investment amounting to around 1.5 billion euros.

For this expansion, LG Chem recently acquired the buildings of a former television factory located near its plant in Wroclaw. When the new construction is finalized in 2022, the Polish site of LG Chem will employ 6,000 full-time equivalents. Then he will probably hold the world record in terms of cell production capacity.
LG Chem currently operates 5 cell factories in South Korea, China, the United States and Poland. The company equips the batteries of 13 car manufacturers including Volkswagen, Renault, General Motors and Hyundai.

Tesla allegedly ordered equipment for cell manufacturing

According to the Korea Times, Tesla ordered the Korean company Hanwha for machines and equipment used to manufacture battery cells. This information tends to confirm a persistent rumor that the Californian manufacturer is preparing to produce the cells of its batteries itself. Currently, the cells equipping the Tesla assembled in the United States are produced by Panasonic in the gigafactory of Nevada and those which equip the M3 manufactured in Shanghai are delivered by CATL and LG Chem.

The supply contract signed with Hanwha would relate more specifically to equipment used for formatting the cells. This is one of the last steps in the production of cells, in which they are electrically charged and discharged for the first time. This important operation requires great precision and conditions the life of the cells. It lasts several hours.

During Tesla’s likely Battery Day in June, Elon Musk’s plans to unveil plans for in-house cell manufacturing and cell performance are likely to be unveiled.

And as a reminder:

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