General Motors recently announced a partnership with SolidEnergy Systems which is also part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which focuses on improving the energy density in Lithium-ion batteries. The new business relationship is in place to help for a high-capacity preproduction battery by the year 2023. The project plan to build a test facility in Woburn, Massachusetts.
The public was made aware of the partnership by GM’s President Mark Reuss during a Washington Post Live virtual conference. The Verge also had a conversation with the company’s executive director on global electrification and battery system Kent Helfrich about the purpose of the joint venture and how it will help power the company’s electric vehicles by the year 2035.
“In the long run, what this is going to mean is more range and lower cost,” Helfrich said. “And it’ll also mean most likely smaller batteries, so a lighter weight vehicle.”
GM announced its Ultium battery platform just this past year and claimed the energy system is able to power EVs up to 400 miles and more on a single charge and then by November of the same year, the automaker changed the number to 450 miles.
The GMC Hummer EV became the first EV to be powered by the Ultium battery which will see the car reaching 350 miles of range on a single charge. The advanced EV truck is expected to go into production at the end of the year 2021.
Hiwever, the numbers on the Ultium battery is ye to change as GM sticks with the 450 Miles of range on a single charge and declining ti speculate as to how many more miles it anticipates to add through its joint venture with SolidEnergy Systems considering the fact that the company has been focused on improving the energy density in li-ion batteries for nearly a decade. According to MIT:
Founded in 2012 by MIT alumnus and former postdoc Qichao Hu ’07, SolidEnergy Systems has developed an “anode-free” lithium metal battery with several material advances that make it twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, electric cars, wearables, drones, and other devices.
GM is interested in the company’s intellectual property, which includes the manufacturing process for lithium metal anodes and electrolytes to improve the battery’s overall life cycle.
The technology used by the company SolidEnergy Systems are liquid electrolytes which isn’t a solid-state battery and the company never claimed to being a sold-state battery company even though its name points otherwise.
Solid-state systems have been the subject of intense focus from the auto industry in recent years, as companies seek to develop EV batteries that will charge faster, hold more power, and last longer than traditional EV batteries.
While the focus of this joint venture with SolidEnergy is the production of “wet” li-ion batteries with liquid electrolytes, GM is looking closely at solid-state technology for the future. “Is our advanced team also looking at solid state type technology? Absolutely,” Mike Lelli, senior manager of advanced battery cell technology, said. “We wouldn’t leave anything off the table at this point.”
There was in fact a claim by a senior official of GM last year who said the company is “almost there” at developing EV batteries that are able to reach 1 million miles on a single charge but how soon this will be is what is unknown.
Speaking to a group of investors, GM executive VP Doug Parks wouldn’t specify a timeline, but said “multiple teams” at the automaker are working on such advances as zero-cobalt electrodes, solid-state batteries, and ultra-fast charging. Typical EV batteries today last up to 100,000 to 200,000 miles.
It’s also worth noting that GM has been injecting millions to SolidEnergy Systems as an investor since 2015 through its venture capital arm.
Even though GM is on the run to make powerful batteries for its EVs, there are also competitors like Tesla which is also working to create powerful batteries. A good example of such is the company’s announcement about taking more control over its battery-making process and then there is Volkswagen which is also on the verge of unveiling its own vision for EV batteries during its virtual “Power Day” event.