It’s possible no electric vehicles will qualify for the new tax credit

Volkswagen is one of several automakers that are already assembling their EV battery packs locally. But the value of the materials that go into the pack will determine whether it qualifies for the revised clean vehicle tax credit.

Enlarge / Volkswagen is one of several automakers that are already assembling their EV battery packs locally. But the value of the materials that go into the pack will determine whether it qualifies for the revised clean vehicle tax credit. (credit: Volkswagen)

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed the United States Senate on Sunday and heads to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. It contains numerous changes to the tax code, meant in large part to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Among these is a revision to the existing tax credit for new plug-in electric vehicles. As we detailed last week, the IRA introduces income caps for the tax credit, and it will only apply to sedans that cost less than $55,000 and other EVs that cost less than $80,000. The bill also drops the 200,000 vehicle-per-OEM cap on the tax credit, which would benefit both General Motors and Tesla.

At least it will if their EV batteries are mostly made within North America, with at least 40 percent of the materials used having been extracted and processed within North America or a country with a free trade agreement. Now, instead of being based on battery capacity, half the credit ($3,750) is tied to where the pack is made, and the other half its supply chain. And that will be a problem if you’re looking to buy an EV in 2023.

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#battery, #cars, #china, #ev-tax-credit, #ford, #general-motors, #inflation-reduction-act-of-2022, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #sk-innovation, #stellantis, #tesla, #volkswagen

Here’s one way we know that an EV’s battery will last the car’s lifetime

close-up of a mechanic's hands disassembling an electric car battery on top of a trailer inside a mechanic shop

Enlarge / An EV’s battery represents as much as 25 percent of the cost of the car, so it’s understandable that people are nervous about longevity. (credit: Aranga87/Getty Images)

It’s often said that the easiest way to get people to buy an electric vehicle is to let them test-drive one. But here in the US, EVs only accounted for 3 percent of the 15 million new vehicles sold in 2021. That means there are an awful lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to these newfangled machines.

The top concern is probably range anxiety, a fear that is usually dispelled as someone gets used to waking up to a full battery every morning. I won’t dwell on that today, but the next-most common point of confusion about EVs has to be the traction battery’s longevity, or potential lack thereof.

It’s an understandable concern; many of us are used to using consumer electronic devices powered by rechargable batteries that develop what’s known as “memory.” The effect is caused by repeatedly charging a cell before it has been fully depleted, resulting in the cell “forgetting” that it can deplete itself further. The lithium-ion cells used by EVs aren’t really affected by the memory effect, but they can degrade storage capacity if subjected to too many fast charges or if their thermal management isn’t taken seriously.

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#ansys, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-battery, #lithium-ion-battery, #ni, #porsche, #simulation

Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?

Image of batteries arranged in the outline of a recycling symbol.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

Electric vehicles, power tools, smartwatches—Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere now. However, the materials to make them are finite, and sourcing them has environmental, humanitarian, and economic implications. Recycling is key to addressing those, but a recent study shows most Lithium-ion batteries never get recycled.

Lithium and several other metals that make up these batteries are incredibly valuable. The cost of raw lithium is roughly seven times what you’d pay for the same weight in lead, but unlike lithium batteries, almost all lead-acid batteries get recycled. So there’s something beyond pure economics at play.

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#batteries, #lithium-ion-battery, #policy, #recycling, #science

Nissan, NASA aim to ditch rare, pricey metals in solid-state batteries

Nissan is hoping that it can use computational materials science to find new battery materials faster.

Enlarge / Nissan is hoping that it can use computational materials science to find new battery materials faster. (credit: Nissan)

Nissan is partnering with NASA on a computational approach to developing all-solid-state batteries that don’t rely on rare or expensive metals, the AP has reported.

The automaker, which was the first to market with an affordable, mass-produced electric vehicle in the Leaf, is clearly hoping to make up for lost time. Nissan has floundered of late with its electrification strategy. Its second EV, the Ariya, is scheduled to arrive this fall, some 12 years after the first Leaf was sold. The company hopes that its in-house solid-state batteries will debut in passenger vehicles by 2028.

To get there, the company said it’s opening a pilot solid-state battery plant in 2024. The small-scale factory will be a key step in rolling out solid-state technology; many of the concepts that underpin the batteries have been demonstrated in laboratories time and again, but making the leap to manufacturing often reveals unexpected problems that can take years to solve.

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#cars, #computational-materials-science, #computational-modeling, #lithium-ion-battery, #materials-science, #nasa, #nissan, #solid-state-battery

Lithium-metal “hybrid” battery promises lighter, longer-range EVs by 2025

A Kia EV6 drives past the camera

Enlarge / Smaller vehicles like the Kia EV6 could benefit from lighter, more energy-dense batteries. (credit: Kia)

Solid-state batteries have been hailed as the Holy Grail for electric vehicles. While that might be an overstatement, they do promise to boost range and slash charging times, bringing zero-emissions vehicles that much closer to parity with their fossil fuel competition.

Yet solid-state batteries, which use a solid electrolyte as opposed to a liquid or gel, remain just over the horizon. Recently, they’ve started to look less like vaporware and more like a real product, and they will probably make their way into cars and trucks by the end of the decade. Still, that’s a timeline that gives competitors an opening.

One of those competitors is a company called SES, which last week announced a new battery that promises to nearly double the energy density of today’s lithium-ion cells. The key was eliminating a piece of the battery that added weight and thickness—but to do so without introducing dangerous conditions that could lead to a fire.

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#cars, #evs, #lithium-metal-batteries, #lithium-ion-battery, #science, #ses

After ignoring EVs for too long, Toyota will invest $13.6 billion in batteries

Toyota's first modern battery EV will be the bZ4x, due in 2022.

Enlarge / Toyota’s first modern battery EV will be the bZ4x, due in 2022. (credit: Toyota)

Toyota was an early pioneer in hybrid electric vehicles, and it has sold more than 18 million hybrids since the introduction of the first Prius in 1997. But it’s fair to say that the world’s largest automaker has been left behind in the shift toward battery EVs.

That situation looks like it’s set to change. On Tuesday, Toyota announced that it will spend $13.6 billion (¥1.5 trillion) on batteries between now and 2030. Of that money, $9 billion (¥1 trillion) will go toward battery production, with a planned output of 180 to 200 GWh/year by the end of the decade.

“What Toyota values the most is to develop batteries that its customers can use with peace of mind. Especially, we are focusing on safety, long service life, and high-level quality to produce good, low-cost, and high-performance batteries,” said Chief Technology Officer Masahiko Maeda.

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#batteries, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #lithium-ion-battery, #solid-state-batteries, #toyota

Misaligned factory robot may have sparked Chevy Bolt battery fires

Misaligned factory robot may have sparked Chevy Bolt battery fires

Enlarge (credit: Chevrolet)

GM announced last Friday that it was recalling every Chevrolet Bolt it had ever made, including the new electric utility vehicle model that debuted this year. After a string of fires affected Bolt models, the company traced the problem to two simultaneously occurring defects in the cars’ LG Chem-made batteries.

The automaker initially discovered the problem in batteries from one of LG’s Korean plants, and it recalled cars with those cells last November. But then more Bolts caught fire, and other LG plants were ensnared in the investigation, spurring two expansions of the recall. The problem, GM said, has been traced to a torn anode tab and a folded separator. 

That’s all GM has said so far. It hasn’t said how widespread the defects are, nor has it said how, exactly, the fires started. But in what little information has been released, and in the timing of GM’s recalls, there are clues. To decipher them, Ars spoke with Greg Less, technical director of the University of Michigan’s Battery Lab.

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#battery-fire, #battery-recall, #cars, #chevrolet-bolt, #electric-vehicle, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery

Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply

Battery joint ventures have become the hot must-have deal for automakers that have set ambitious targets to deliver millions of electric vehicles in the next few years.

It’s no longer just about securing a supply of cells. The string of partnerships and joint ventures show that automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells, .

Automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells.

And the deals don’t appear to be slowing down. Just this week, Mercedes-Benz announced its $47 billion plan to become an electric-only automaker by 2030. Securing its battery supply chain by expanding existing partnerships or locking in new ones to jointly develop and produce battery cells and modules is a critical piece of its plan.

Mercedes, like other automakers, is also focused on developing and deploying advanced battery technology. In addition to setting up eight new battery plants to supply its future EVs, the German automaker said it was partnering with Sila Nano, the Silicon Valley battery chemistry startup that it has previously invested in, to increase energy density, which should in turn improve range and allow for shorter charging times.

“This follows a trend that we’ve seen of automakers realizing how critical the battery is and taking more control of the production of the cells in order to ensure their own supply,” Sila Nano CEO Gene Berdichevsky said in a recent interview. “Like if you’re VW, and you say, ‘We’re going to go 50% electric by whatever year,’ but then the batteries don’t show up, you’re bankrupt, you’re dead. Their scale is so big that even if their cell partners have promised them to deliver, automakers are scared that they won’t.”

Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen were early adopters of the battery joint-venture strategy. In 2014,Tesla and Panasonic signed an agreement to build a large battery manufacturing plant, or a gigafactory as everyone is now calling it, in the U.S. and have worked together since. BMW began working with Solid Power in 2017 to create solid-state batteries for high-performance EVs that could potentially lower costs by requiring less safety features than lithium-ion batteries.

In addition to its partnership with Northvolt, VW is also in talks with suppliers to secure more direct access to supplies like semiconductors and lithium so it can keep its existing plants running at full speed.

Now the rest of the industry is moving to work with battery companies, to share knowledge and resources and essentially become the manufacturer.

#automotive, #basf, #bmw, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-vehicle, #ford, #general-motors, #greentech, #hyundai, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #panasonic, #porsche, #renault, #sk-innovation, #solidenergy-systems, #tc, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation, #volkswagen

Porsche will build a high-performance battery factory in Germany

Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don't know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020.

Enlarge / Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don’t know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020. (credit: Porsche)

Porsche is setting up a new factory for battery cells, called Cellforce, in Tübingen, Germany. The plant will be run as a subsidiary of Porsche in a joint venture with Customcells and will develop cells that use silicon as opposed to graphite for the anode material.

“We already started within research and pre-development to build up know how and knowledge about cell chemistry, and the company Cellforce Group will have around 60 engineers in development and about 20 in production; the main focus, at least in the beginning, is to take care about the development of the cell and cell chemistry,” said Michael Steiner, member of the executive board, R&D at Porsche.

But unlike other recent battery factory announcements, the goal for Cellforce is high performance, not high volume.

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#battery-factory, #cars, #cellforce, #customcells, #lithium-silicon, #lithium-ion-battery, #motorsport, #porsche, #racing, #silicon-anode

This Swedish carbon-fiber battery could revolutionize car design

Over the next few years, the batteries that go into electric vehicles are going to get cheap enough that an EV should cost no more than an equivalent-sized vehicle with an internal combustion engine. But those EVs are still going to weigh more than their gas-powered counterparts—particularly if the market insists on longer and longer range estimates—with the battery pack contributing 20-25 percent of the total mass of the vehicle.

But there is a solution: turn some of the car’s structural components into batteries themselves. Do that, and your battery weight effectively vanishes because regardless of powertrain, every vehicle still needs structural components to hold it together. It’s an approach that groups around the world have been pursuing for some time now, and the idea was neatly explained by Volvo’s chief technology officer Henrik Green when Ars spoke with him in early March:

What we have learned… just to take an example: “How do you integrate the most efficiently a battery cell into a car?” Well, if you do it in a traditional way, you put the cell into the box, call it the module; you put a number of modules into a box, you call that the pack. You put the pack into a vehicle and then you have a standardized solution and you can scale it for 10 years and 10 manufacturing slots.

But in essence, that’s a quite inefficient solution in terms of weight and space, etc. So here you could really go deeper, and how would you directly integrate the cells into a body and get rid of these modules and packs and stuff in between? That is the challenge that we are working with in future generations, and that will change how you fundamentally build cars. You might have thought that time of changing that would have ended, but it has just been reborn.

Tesla is known to be working on designing new battery modules that also work as structural elements, but the California automaker is fashioning those structural modules out of traditional cylindrical cells. There’s a more elegant approach to the idea, though, and a group at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden led by Professor Leif Asp has just made a bit of a breakthrough in that regard, making each component of the battery out of materials that work structurally as well as electrically.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #lfp-battery-cells, #lithium-ion-battery, #structural-battery, #volvo

Volkswagen will bring 240 gigawatt hours of battery production capacity to Europe by 2030

Volkswagen AG is gearing up to seize the top spot as the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer with plans announced Monday to have six 40 Gigawatt hour (GWh) battery cell production plants in operation in Europe by 2030.

To get there, the automaker put in a 10-year, $14 billion order with Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt – and that’s only one of the six planned factories. A second plant in Germany will commence production in 2025.

The company also announced serious investments in charging infrastructure across China, Europe and the United States. It aims to grow its fast-charging network in Europe to 18,000 stations with its partner IONITY, 17,000 charging points in China through its joint venture CAMS New Energy Technology, and to increase the number of fast-charging stations in the United States by 3,500.

The company’s first dedicated battery event, a clear nod to Tesla’s Battery Day, also included a deep dive into novel battery chemistries that will reduce costs by up to 50%. The cell also paves the way for the transition to a solid-state battery cell, which the company anticipates for the middle of the decade. VW has made significant investments in solid-state battery manufacturer QuantumScape.

Volkswagen’s new Unified Premium Battery platform will be rolled out in 2023 and will be used across 80 percent of its EV models. The first to contain the new battery, the Audi Artemis, will be rolled out in 2024.

Scania AB, VW’s brand of heavy-duty trucks and busses, also has plans to increase its share of EVs. Departing from other major heavy-duty players that have opted for hydrogen fuel cells, company representatives on Monday said that it is unequivocally possible to electrify the heavy-duty transportation sector.

Looking to the battery’s end-of-life, VW said it will be able to recycle up to 95% of the battery through a process called hydrometallury.

#audi, #automotive, #batteries, #battery-technology, #charging-station, #china, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #ev, #fuel-cells, #germany, #lithium-ion-battery, #rechargeable-batteries, #tc, #tesla, #united-states

Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt receives a $14 billion order from VW

Northvolt, the Swedish battery manufacturer which raised $1 billion in financing from investors led by Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen back in 2019, has signed a massive $14 billion battery order with VW for the next 10 years.

The big buy clears up some questions about where Volkswagen will be getting the batteries for its huge push into electric vehicles, which will see the automaker reach production capacity of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

The deal will not only see Northvolt become the strategic lead supplier for battery cells for Volkswagen Group in Europe, but will also involve the German automaker increasing its equity ownership of Northvolt.

As part of the partnership agreement, Northvolt’s gigafactory in Sweden will be expanded and Northvolt agreed to sell its joint venture share in Salzgitter, Germany to Volkswagen as the car maker looks to build up its battery manufacturing efforts across Europe, the companies said.

The agreement between Northvolt and VW brings the Swedish battery maker’s total contracts to $27 billion in the two years since it raised its big $1 billion cash haul.

“Volkswagen is a key investor, customer and partner on the journey ahead and we will continue to work hard with the goal of providing them with the greenest battery on the planet as they rapidly expand their fleet of electric vehicles,” said Peter Carlsson, the co-founder and chief executive of Northvolt, in a statement.

Northvolt’s other partners and customers include ABB, BMW Group, Scania, Siemens, Vattenfall, and Vestas. Together these firms comprise some of the largest manufacturers in Europe.

Back in 2019, the company said that its cell manufacturing capacity could hit 16 Gigawatt hours and that it had sold its capacity to the tune of $13 billion through 2030. That means that the Volkswagen deal will eat up a significant portion of expanded product lines.

Founded Carlsson, a former executive at Tesla, Northvolt’s battery business was intended to leapfrog the European Union into direct competition with Asia’s largest battery manufacturers — Samsung, LG Chem, and CATL.

Back when the company first announced its $1 billion investment round, Carlsson had said that Northvolt would need to build up to150 gigawatt hours of capacity to hit targets for. 2030 electric vehicle sales.

The plant in Sweden is expected to hit at least 32 gigawatt hours of production thanks, in part to backing by the Swedish pension fund firms AMF and Folksam and IKEA-linked IMAS Foundation, in addition to the big financial partners Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs.

Northvolt has had a busy few months. Earlier in March the company announced the acquisition of the Silicon Valley-based startup company Cuberg.

That acquisition gave Northvolt a foothold in the U.S. and established the company’s advanced technology center.

The acquisition also gives Northvolt a window into the newest battery chemistry that’s being touted as a savior for the industry — lithium metal batteries.

Cuberg spun out of Stanford University back in 2015 to commercialize what the company called its next-generation battery combining a liquid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode. The company’s customers include Boeing, BETA Technologies, Ampaire, and VoltAero and it was backed by Boeing HorizonX Ventures, Activate.org, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Energy and the TomKat Center at Stanford.

Cuberg’s cells deliver 70 percent increased range and capacity versus comparable lithium ion cells designed for electric aviation applications. The two companies hope that they can apply the technology to Northvolt’s automotive and industrial product portfolio with the ambition to industrialize cells in 2025 that exceed 1,000 Wh/L, while meeting the full spectrum of automotive customer requirements, according to a statement.

“The Cuberg team has shown exceptional ability to develop world-class technology, proven results and an outstanding customer base in a lean and efficient organization,” said Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder, Northvolt in a statement. “Combining these strengths with the capabilities and technology of Northvolt allows us to make significant improvements in both performance and safety while driving down cost even further for next-generation battery cells. This is critical for accelerating the shift to fully electric vehicles and responding to the needs of the leading automotive companies within a relevant time frame.”

 

#abb, #asia, #bmw-group, #boeing-horizonx-ventures, #catl, #department-of-energy, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #european-union, #germany, #goldman-sachs, #ikea, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #samsung, #siemens, #silicon-valley, #stanford-university, #sweden, #tc, #tesla, #united-states, #vestas, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-group, #vw

From the ashes of nearly a billion dollars, Ample resurrects Better Place’s battery swapping business model

A little over thirteen years ago, Shai Agassi, a promising software executive who was in line to succeed the chief executive at SAP, then one of the world’s mightiest software companies, left the company he’d devoted the bulk of his professional career to and started a business called Better Place.

That startup promised to revolutionize the nascent electric vehicle market and make range anxiety a thing of the past. The company’s pitch? A network of automated battery swapping stations that would replace spent batteries with freshly charged ones.

Agassi’s company would go on to raise nearly $1 billion (back when that was considered a large sum of money) from some of the world’s top venture capital and growth equity firms. By 2013 it would be bankrupt and one of the many casualties of the first wave of cleantech investing.

Now serial entrepreneurs John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah are reviving the battery swapping business model with a startup called Ample and an approach that they say solves some of the problems that Better Place could never address at a time when the adoption of electric vehicles is creating a far larger addressable market.

In 2013, there were 220,000 vehicles on roads, according to data from Statista, a number which has grown to 4.8 million by 2019.

Ample has actually raised approximately $70 million from investors including Shell Ventures, the Spanish energy company Repsol, and the venture capital arm of the $10 billion money manager, Moore Capital Management. That includes a $34 million investment first reported back in 2018, and a later round from investors including Japan’s energy and metals company, Eneos Holdings that closed recently.

“We had a lot of people that either said, I somehow was involved in that and was suffering from PTSD,” said de Souza, of the similarities between his business and Better Place. “The people who weren’t involved read up about it and then ran away.”

For Ample, the difference is in the modularization of the battery pack and how that changes the relationship with the automakers that would use the technology.

“The approach we’ve taken… is to modularize the battery and then we have an adapter plate that is the structural element of the battery that has the same shape of the battery, same bolt pattern and same software interface. Even though we provide the same battery system.. .it’s same as replacing the tire,” said Hassounah, Ample’s co-founder and chief executive. “Effectively we’re giving them the plate. We don’t modify the car whatsoever. You either put a fixed battery system or an Ample battery plate. We’re able to work with the OEMS where you can make the battery swappable for the use cases where this makes a lot of sense. Without really changing the same vehicle.”

Ample’s currently working with five different OEMs and has validated its approach to battery swapping with nine different car models. One of those OEMs also brings back memories of Better Place.

It’s clear that the company has a deal with Nissan for the Leaf thanks to the other partnership that Ample has announced with Uber. Ample’s founders declined to comment on any OEM relationships.

It’s clear that Ample is working with Nissan because Nissan is the company that inked a deal with Uber earlier this year on zero-emission mobility. And Uber is the first company to use Ample’s robotic charging stations at a few locations in the Bay Area, the company said. This work with Nissan echoes Better Place’s one partnership with Renault, another arm of the automaker, which proved to be the biggest deal for the older, doomed, battery swapping startup.

Ample says it only takes weeks to set up one of its charging pods at a facility and that the company’s charging drivers on energy delivered per mile. “We achieve economics that are 10% to 20% cheaper than gas. We are profitable on day one,” said Hassounah.

Uber is the first step. Ample is focused on fleets first and is in talks with multiple, undisclosed municipalities to get their cars added to the system. So far, Ample has done thousands of swaps, according to Hassounah with just Uber drivers alone.

The cars can also be charged at traditional charging facilities, Hassounah said, and the company’s billing system knows the split between the amount of energy it delivers versus another charging outlet, Hassounah said.

“So far, in the use cases that we have, for ride sharing it’s individual drivers who pay,” said de Souza. With the five fleets that Ample expects to deploy with later this year the company expects to have the fleet managers and owners pay for. charging.

Some of the inspiration for Ample came from Hassounah’s earlier experience working at One laptop per child, where he was forced to rethink assumptions about how the laptops would be used, the founder said.

“Initially i worked on the keyboard display and then quickly realized the challenge was in the field and developed a framework for creating infrastructure,” Hassounah said.

The problem was the initial design of the system did not take into account lack of access to power for laptops at children’s homes. So the initiative developed a charging unit for swapping batteries. Children would use their laptops over the course of the day and take them home, and when they needed a fresh charge, they would swap out the batteries.

“There are fleets that need this exact solution,” said de Souza. But there are advantages for individual car owners as well, he said. “The experience for the owner of a vehicle is after time the battery degrades. With ours as we put new batteries in the car can go further and further over time.” 

Right now, OEMs are sending cars without batteries and Ample is just installing their charging system, said Hassounah, but as the number of vehicles using the system rises above 1,000, the company expects to send their plates to manufacturers, who can then have Ample install their own packs.

Currently, Ample only supports level one and level two charging, but won’t offer fast charging options for the car makers it works with — likely because that option would cannibalize the company’s business and potentially obviate the need for its swapping technology.

At issue is the time it takes to charge a car. Fast chargers still take between 20 and 30 minutes to charge up, but advances in technologies should drive that figure down. Even if fast charging ultimately becomes a better option, Ample’s founders say they view their business as an additive step to faster electric vehicle adoption.

“When you’re moving 1 billion cars, you need everything… We have so many cars we need to put on the road,” Hassounah said. “We think we need all solutions to solve the problem. As you think of fleet applications you need a solution that can match gas in charge and not speed. Fast charging is not available in mass. The challenge will not be can the battery be charged in 5 minutes. The cost of building  charges that can deliver that amount of power is prohibitive.”

Looking beyond charging, Ample sees opportunities in the grid power market as well, the two founders said.

“Time shift is built into our economics… that’s another way we can help,” said de Souza. “We use that as grid storage… we can do demand charge and now that the federal mandate is there to feed into the grid we can help stabilize the grid by feeding back energy.. We don’t have a lot of stations to make a significant impact. As we scale up this year we will.”

Currently the company is operating at a storage capacity of tens of megawatts per hour, according to Hassounah.

“We can use the side storage to accelerate the development of swapping stations,” de Souza said. “You don’t have to invest an insane amount of money to put them in. We can finance the batteries in multiple ways as well as utilize other sources of financing.” 

Ample co-founders John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah. Image Credit: Ample

#ample, #better-place, #cars, #charging-station, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #inductive-charging, #japan, #lithium-ion-battery, #nissan, #nissan-leaf, #one-laptop-per-child, #range-anxiety, #renault, #repsol, #sap, #shai-agassi, #shell-ventures, #tc, #transport, #uber, #venture-capital

Volta Energy Technologies raises over $90M of a targeted $150M fund to back energy storage startups

Volta Energy Technologies, the energy investment and advisory services firm backed by some of the biggest names in energy and energy storage materials, has closed on nearly $90 million of a targeted $150 million investment fund, according to people familiar with the group’s plans.

The venture investment vehicle compliments an $180 million existing commitment from Volta’s four corporate backers — Equinor, Albermarle, Epsilon, and Hanon Systems — and comes at a time when interest in energy storage technologies couldn’t be stronger. 

As the transition away from internal combustion engines and hydrocarbon fuels begins in earnest companies are scrambling to drive down costs and improve performance of battery technologies that will be necessary to power millions of electric cars and store massive amounts of renewable energy that still needs to be developed.

“Capital markets have noticed the enormity of the opportunity in transitioning away from carbon,” said Jeff Chamberlain, Volta’s founder and chief executive.

Born of an idea that that began in 2012 when Chamberlain began talking with the head of the Department of Energy under the Obama Administration back in 2014. What began when Chamberlain was at Argonne National Lab leading the development of JCESR, the lead lab in the US government’s battery research consortium, evolved into Volta Energy as Chamberlain pitched a private sector investment partner that could leverage the best research from National Laboratories and the work being done by private industry to find the best technology.

Support for the Volta project remained strong through both public and private institutions, according to Chamberlain. Even under the Trump Administration, Volta’s initiative was able to thrive and wrangle some of the biggest names in the chemicals, utility, oil and gas and industrial thermal management to invest in a $180 million fund that could be evergreen, Chamberlain said.

According to people with knowledge of the organizations plans, the new investment fund which is targeting $150 million but has hard cap of $225 million would compliment the existing investment vehicle to give the firm more firepower as additional capital floods into the battery industry.

Chamberlain declined to comment specifically on the fund, given restrictions, but did say that his firm had a mandate to invest in technology that is battery and storage related and that “enables the ubiquitous adoption of electric vehicles and the ubiquitous adoption of solar and wind.”

Back during the first cleantech boom the brains behind Volta witnessed a lot of good money getting poured into bad ideas and vaporware that would never amount to commercial success, said Chamberlain. Volta was formed to educate investors on the real opportunities that scientists were tracking in energy storage and back those companies with dollars.

“We knew that investors were throwing money into a dumpster fire. We knew it could have a negative impact on this transition to carbon,” Chamberlain said. “Our whole objective was to help guide individuals deploying massive amounts of their personal wealth and move it from putting money into an ongoing dumpster fire.”

That mission has become even more important as more money floods into the battery market, Chamberlain said.

The SPAC craze set off by Nikola’s public offering in electric vehicles and continuing through QuantumScape’s battery SPAC through a slew of other electric vehicle offerings and into EV charging and battery companies has made the stakes higher for everyone, he said.

Chamberlain thinks of Volta’s mission as finding the best emerging technologies that are coming to market across the battery and power management supply chain and ensure that as manufacturing capacity comes online, the technology is ready to meet growing demand.

“Investors who do not truly understand the energy storage ecosystem and its underlying technology challenges are at a distinct disadvantage,” said Goldman Sachs veteran and early Volta investor Randy Rochman, in a statement. “It has become abundantly clear to me that nothing happens in the world of energy storage without Volta’s knowledge. I can think of no better team to identify energy storage investment opportunities and avoid pitfalls.”  

The new fund from Volta has already backed a number of new energy storage and enabling technologies including: Natron, which develops high-power, fire-safe Sodium-ion batteries using Prussian blue chemistry for applications that demand a quick discharge of power; Smart Wires, which develops hardware that acts as a router for electricity to travel across underutilized power lines to optimize the integration of renewable power and energy storage on the grid; and Ionic Materials, which makes solid lithium batteries for both transportation and grid applications. Ionic Materials’ platform technology also enables breakthrough advancements in other growing markets, such as 5G mobile, and rechargeable alkaline batteries. 

 

#chemicals, #department-of-energy, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #energy, #energy-storage, #head, #lithium-ion-battery, #nikola, #oil-and-gas, #renewable-energy, #tc, #transport, #trump-administration, #united-states, #us-government

Battery companies are the latest SPAC target as EVs get a huge regulatory boost

Batteries are the latest landing pad for investors.

In the past week alone, two companies have announced plans to become publicly traded companies by merging with special purpose acquisition companies. European battery manufacturer FREYR said Friday it would become a publicly traded company through a special purpose acquisition vehicle with a valuation at $1.4 billion. Houston area startup Microvast announced Monday its own SPAC, at a $3 billion valuation.

A $4.4 billion combined valuation for two companies with a little over $100 million in revenue (FREYR has yet to manufacture a battery) would seem absurd were it not for the incredible demand for batteries that’s coming.

Legacy automakers like GM and Ford have committed billions of dollars to shifting their portfolios to electric models. GM said last year it will spend $27 billion over the next five years on the development of electric vehicles and automated technology. Meanwhile, a number of newer entrants are either preparing to begin production of their electric vehicles or scaling up. Rivian, for instance, will begin delivering its electric pickup truck this summer. The company has also been tapped by Amazon to build thousands of electric vans.

The U.S. government could end up driving some of that demand.  President Biden announced last week that the U.S. government would replace the entire federal fleet of cars, trucks and SUVs with electric vehicles manufactured in the U.S. That’s 645,047 vehicles. That’s going to mean a lot of new batteries need to be made to supply GM and Ford, but also U.S.-based upstarts like Fisker, Canoo, Rivian, Proterra, Lion Electric and Tesla.

Meanwhile, some of the largest cities in the world are planning their own electrification initiatives. Shanghai is hoping to have electric vehicles represent roughly half of all new vehicle purchases by 2025 and all public buses, taxis, delivery trucks, and government vehicles will be zero-emission by the same period, according to research from the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Chinese market for electric vehicles is one of the world’s largest and one where policy is significantly ahead of the rest of the world.

A potential windfall from China’s EV market is likely one reason for the significant investment into Microvast by investors including the Oshkosh Corp., a 100 year-old industrial vehicles manufacturer; the $8.67 trillion money management firm, BlackRock; Koch Strategic Platforms; and InterPrivate, a private equity fund manager. That’s because Microvast’s previous backers include CDH Investments and CITIC Securities, two of the most well-connected private equity and financial services firms in China.

So is the company’s focus on commercial and industrial vehicles. Microvast believes that the market for commercial electric vehicles could be $30 billion in the near term. Currently, commercial EV sales represent just 1.5% of the market, but that penetration is supposed to climb to 9% by 2025, according to the company.

“In 2008, we set out to power a mobility revolution by building disruptive battery technologies that would allow electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engine vehicles,” said Microvast chief executive Yang Wu, in a statement. “Since that time we have launched three generations of battery technologies that have provided our customers with battery performance far superior to our competitors and that successfully satisfy, over many years of operation, the stringent requirements of commercial vehicle operators.”

Roughly 30,000 vehicles are using Microvast’s batteries and the investment in Microvast includes about $822 million in cash that will finance the expansion of its manufacturing capacity to hit 9 gigawatt hours by 2022. The money should help Microvast meet its contractual obligations which account for about $1.5 billion in total value, according to the company.

If Chinese investors stand to win big in the upcoming Microvast public offering, a clutch of American investors and one giant Japanese corporation are waiting expectantly for FREYR’s public offering. Northbridge Venture Partners, CRV, and Itochu Corp. are all going to see gains from FREYR’s exit — even if they’re not backers of the European company.

Those three firms, along with the International Finance Corp. are investors in 24m, the Boston-based startup licensing its technology to FREYR to make its batteries.

FREYR’s public offering will also be another win for Yet-Ming Chiang, a serial entrepreneur and professor who has a long and storied history of developing innovations in the battery and materials science industry.

The MIT professor has been working on sustainable technologies for the last two decades, first at the now-defunct battery startup A123 Systems and then with a slew of startups like the 3D printing company Desktop Metal; lithium-ion battery technology developer, 24m; the energy storage system designer, Form Energy; and Baseload Renewables, another early-stage energy storage startup.

Desktop Metal went public last year after it was acquired by a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, and now 24m is getting a potential boost from a big cash infusion into one of its European manufacturing partners, FREYR.

The Norwegian company, which has plans to build five modular battery manufacturing facilities around a site in its home country intends to develop up to 43 gigawatt hours of clean batteries over the next four years.

For FREYR chief executive Tom Jensen there were two main draws for the 24m technology. “It’s the production process itself,” said Jensen. “What they basically do is they mix the electrolyte with the active material, which allows them to make thicker electrodes and reduce the inactive materials in the battery. Beyond that, when you actually do that you remove the need fo a number of traditional production steps… Compared to conventional lithium battery production it reduces production from 15 steps to 5 steps.”

Those process efficiencies combined with the higher volumes of energy bearing material in the cell leads to a fundamental disruption in the battery production process.

Jensen said the company would need $2.5 billion to fully realize its plans, but that the float should get FREYR there. The company is merging with Alussa Energy Acquisition Corp. in a SPAC backed by investors including Koch Strategic Platforms, Glencore, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Franklin Templeton, Sylebra Capital and Van Eck Associates.

All of these investments are necessary if the world is to meet targets for vehicle electrification on the timelines that have been established.

As the Royal Bank of Canada noted in a December report on the electric vehicle industry. “We estimate that globally, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will represent ~3% of 2020 global demand, while plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) will represent another ~1.3%,” according to RBC’s figures. “But we see robust growth off these low figures. By 2025, when growth is still primarily regulatory driven, we see ~11% BEV global penetration of new demand representing a ~40% CAGR from 2020’s levels and ~5% PHEV penetration representing a ~35% CAGR. By 2025, we see BEV penetration in Western Europe at ~20%, China at ~17.5%, and the US at 7%. Comparatively, we expect internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to grow (cyclically) at a 2% CAGR through 2025. On a pure unit basis, we see “peak ICE” in 2024.”

#3d-printing, #amazon, #automotive-industry, #biden, #blackrock, #boston, #cdh-investments, #china, #crv, #desktop-metal, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-storage, #ford, #franklin-templeton, #gm, #houston, #itochu-corp, #lithium-ion-battery, #mit, #northbridge-venture-partners, #plug-in-hybrid, #president, #proterra, #rivian, #royal-bank-of-canada, #shanghai, #sylebra-capital, #tc, #tesla, #u-s-government, #united-states

What’s the technology behind a five-minute charge battery?

Image of a set of battery racks.

Enlarge (credit: StoreDot)

Building a better battery requires dealing with problems in materials science, chemistry, and manufacturing. We do regular coverage of work going on in the former two categories, but we get a fair number of complaints about our inability to handle the third: figuring out how companies manage to take solutions to the science and convert them into usable products. So, it was exciting to see that a company called StoreDot that was claiming the development of a battery that would allow five-minute charging of electric vehicles was apparently willing to talk to the press.

Unfortunately, the response to our inquiries fell a bit short of our hopes. “Thank you for your interest,” was the reply, “we are still in pure R&D mode and cannot share any information or answer any questions at the moment.” Apparently, the company gave The Guardian an exclusive and wasn’t talking to anyone else.

Undeterred, we’ve since pulled every bit of information we could find from StoreDot’s site to figure out roughly what they were doing, and we went backwards from there to look for research we’ve covered previously that could be related. What follows is an attempt to piece together a picture of the technology and the challenges a company has to tackle to take research concepts and make products out of them.

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#batteries, #commercialization, #lithium-ion-battery, #materials-science, #science

New “targeted healing” approach rejuvenates run-down battery materials

Stock photo displays rows of batteries.

Enlarge (credit: Peter Miller / Flickr)

As electric vehicle adoption grows, the need for battery recycling is growing along with it. Typically, recycling involves breaking the battery down into pure chemical components that can be reconstituted for brand-new battery materials. But what if—at least for some battery chemistries—that’s overkill?

A new study led by Panpan Xu at the University of California, San Diego shows off a very different technique for lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. This isn’t the most energy-dense type of lithium-ion battery, but it is economical and long-lived. (It’s the chemistry Tesla wants to rely on for shorter-range vehicles and grid storage batteries, for example.) Its low cost cuts both ways—less expensive ingredients mean less profit from recycling operations. But rejuvenating the lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material without breaking it down and starting over seems to be possible.

The idea behind the study relies on knowledge of how LFP battery capacity degrades. On the cathode side, the crystalline structure of the material doesn’t change over time. Instead, lithium ions increasingly fail to find their way back into their slots in the crystal during battery discharge. Iron atoms can move and take their place, plugging up the lithium pathway. If you could convince iron atoms to return to their assigned seats and repopulate with lithium atoms, you could have cathode material that is literally “as good as new.”

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#batteries, #lithium-ion-battery, #recycling, #science

Tesla said to be readying new long-lasting, low-cost batteries to put EVs at price parity with gas cars

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been touting forthcoming battery technology improvements, going so far as to dub a forthcoming company talk “battery day” in prior public comments. Now Reuters is reporting that the automaker plans to unveil new advanced battery technology it has developed that can produce power sources for its EVs which last for “millions of miles” and can be produced at low costs — allowing the automaker to sell cars at or below the market cost of equivalent gas-guzzling internal combustion cars.

This would be a watershed moment for Tesla, if true. Reuters reports that the development is the result of joint R&D work conducted with China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology, and that it is based on work done by a team of crack Tesla battery technology researchers coming from an academic background that were enlisted by Musk specifically to change the economics of electric power storage.

Battery capacity and production costs has long been a limiting factor in terms of the manufacturing costs of electric vehicles, and is one big reason EVs carry a price premium when sold to customers. Ordinarily, automakers, including Tesla, point to lifetime fuel savings and tax incentives provided by local, state and federal governments as mitigating factors that mean the lifetime cost of an EV is equal to or less than that of a gas car, but if Tesla’s new battery tech can change the dynamics so that the price on the sticker is also lower than a gas vehicle, that would be a significant driver of broader EV adoption.

Tesla will first launch the new battery in China, Reuters says, beginning with the Model 3. It then plans to roll it out to other vehicles and markets, and ultimately produce batteries with new manufacturing processes that are meant to bring down labor costs while raising output volume, at so-called “terafactories” that would span up to 30 times the space of the current Tesla Gigafactories, including the one in Nevada.

The battery tech that Tesla is working on will include low-cobalt and cobalt-free versions of chemicals used, as well as newly developed materials and internal coatings to reduce the stress upon the active components and prolong their useful life, per Reuters. Simultaneously, it’ll also introduce a new system developed by its partner Contemporary Amperex Technology that removes the step of having to bundle cells prior to their installation in final battery packs, which will bring down battery pack unit weight and costs. It’s also developing new recycling technologies for the components in its batteries so that its vehicle power sources can eventually be used across its other energy products to extend their useful life.

#automotive, #battery-technology, #chemicals, #china, #driver, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #elon-musk, #lithium-ion-battery, #nevada, #science, #tc, #tesla