VW shoots 200 million in company for super batteries

The solid-state battery is intended to double the range of electric cars without the fire hazard of current lithium-ion batteries. Toyota wants to go into series production in 2025, VW is now investing 200 million in QuantumSpace. F eststoffbatterien deemed to make the mass market for electric transportation savior. Especially when it is not possible to take away the customers’ fear of insufficient range and to change their behavior to several – even if only short – charging processes.

VW invests billions

With a solid-state battery, a range of several hundred kilometers should be able to be drawn from the fast charger in just one minute. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess also believes in the breakthrough of the solid-state battery in the coming decade. As already communicated at the IAA in September 2017, the Wolfsburg-based company wanted to invest 50 billion euros in battery research and development in the coming years.

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When it comes to solid-state batteries, the Wolfsburg-based company wants to be at the forefront right from the start, in contrast to the strategy of most car manufacturers with the current lithium-ion batteries. The group is therefore increasing its stake in QuantumScape and is investing up to a further US $ 200 million in the US battery specialist, as VW announced in mid-June 2020. The aim is to promote the joint development of solid cell technology. In the future, solid-state batteries should significantly increase their range and further shorten charging times. “We are making technological progress with our partner QuantumScape. The additional investment will sustainably strengthen and accelerate our joint development work,” says Thomas Schmall, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group Components.

Production of solid cell batteries with the help of US specialist

The Volkswagen Group has been working with QuantumScape since 2012 and is the largest automotive shareholder with an investment of more than 100 million US dollars to date. The completion of the new investment of up to a further 200 million US dollars and the associated increase in stake are still subject to various conditions precedent, according to the group. The two companies founded a joint venture back in 2018 to prepare mass production of solid-state batteries for Volkswagen. The partners aim to set up a pilot production. The plans should be finalized this year.

“Volkswagen is expanding electromobility. A strong position on the subject of batteries is one of the decisive factors here,” says Frank Blome, Head of the Battery Cell Business Unit at Volkswagen Group Components. “We secure our worldwide supply with high-performance suppliers, we are gradually building up production capacities and we are driving the development of the solid cell technology of the future. Here we rely on long-term strategic partnerships.” VW sees the solid battery rickshaw manufacturer as the most promising approach for electromobility of the next but one generation.

According to earlier information from the company, the range of the E-Golf would increase “from the current 300 to approx. 750 kilometers” through the use of a solid-state battery. Translated to the ID.3, which will soon be on the road, ranges of more than 1,000 kilometers would then be possible.

Toyota plans solid-state batteries for 2025

Competitor Toyota wants to offer series vehicles with solid-state batteries in 2025. With this, the Japanese group seems to want to move straight into the fast lane in the development of electric cars . So far, Toyota has primarily relied on the hybrid technology and plug-in hybrids that were once established with the Prius. Toyota’s cooperation partner in the development of battery chemistry is BMW. Both companies are currently still focusing on lithium-ion batteries. The first electric car from Toyota (with lithium-ion batteries) is expected to be launched in Europe as the Lexus UX 300e in 2020. However, Toyota also wanted to introduce a solid-state battery ready for series production on the occasion of the (canceled) Olympic Games.

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi also invested

In 2018, the Franco-Japanese auto alliance also invested in the development of solid-state batteries – in the form of a stake in Ionic Materials, also a US company, which wants to develop solid-state batteries to series production. The investment is part of a billion dollar investment plan in promising start-ups – announced by the now accused and fleeting ex-boss Carlos Ghosn.

What is special about the solid-state battery?

In addition to the range advantages, the solid cell also promises fewer headlines on the subject of fire risk – reports of difficult-to-extinguish electric cars with burning lithium-ion batteries are remembered, as are warnings from airlines that certain types of smartphones are not allowed on board due to the risk of fire.

In the case of conventional lithium-ion batteries, the battery fluid, which acts as a conductive medium between the two electrodes (positive and negative pole), is a fire hazard. In the liquid, which can also have a gel-like consistency, so-called electrolytes, the charges move.

If a battery is internally damaged and suffers a short circuit, overheated due to massive solar radiation or otherwise, the liquid electrolyte can ignite, then the battery is difficult to extinguish – it works best if it is completely immersed in a pool of water – which with one Car is not always possible quickly.

A battery pack with liquid electrolyte also needs a cooling circuit, which costs installation space and increases weight. The solid conducting medium between the plus and minus pole does not require any additional cooling, and it also has a higher energy density. So you can “squeeze” more current into the same volume than with a liquid.

The solid-state battery kills several birds with one stone. It is not only much safer than the current batteries, but also offers a longer range – with a smaller volume. However, a major disadvantage of the solid-state battery has so far been the low current strength with which it can be charged or discharged.