Volkswagen has been trying to develop solid-state EV batteries with US startup QuantumScape for years, pouring millions into the startup, with the dream that VW Golf EVs would zip along with long ranges and charge in minutes, but that hasn’t happened – not yet anyway. Now Reuters reports that the automaker is in talks with France’s Blue Solutions.
According to an anonymous source who spoke to Reuters, VW and Blue Solutions aim to finalize a joint development agreement in the coming months. Currently, Blue Solutions produces solid-state batteries for Daimler electric buses, but the deal should help the company adapt the technology for passenger cars. Whether or not they can do any faster than QuantumScape, we’ll have to see.
Still, from the looks of it, VW is hoping to widen its options in pushing the technology further in the hopes of giving EVs longer ranges and shorter charging times than lithium-ion batteries. Blue Solutions, owned by French conglomerate Bollore, says it is working on a battery for passenger cars with a charging time of 20 minutes and planned to construct a gigafactory to build it by 2029.
It says it has signed deals with BMW and another undisclosed company, and was in talks with a third, according to the report. The French company recently signed a deal with Foxconn to develop its fourth-generation solid-state batteries for use in two-wheelers.
Blue Solutions uses a polymer electrolyte and ultra-thin lithium metal anode, aiming for a charging time of less than 20 minutes with a range increase of about 30% to nearly 620 miles, or 1,000 km. The company produces solid-state batteries for electric buses with a charging time of four hours. That works fine for buses plugged in overnight, but they will need to radically bring down that charge time for this to be a viable option, the report said.
And it faces plenty of competition in the field. Toyota aims to have its solid-state batteries up and running for production by 2025, but has said it will be pushing that back until 2027 or 2028. Other players include Chinese battery leader CATL, LG Energy Solution, Solid Power, and Honda. Tesla, however, is not developing any solid-state batteries.
VW says its deal with QuantumScape is still on track, and all things are running as planned after investing $300 million in the startup. The deal was signed in 2018, with the promise of VW’s EVs running around with extra-long ranges by 2025, but we’ll have to wait a little longer for that. QuantumScape, meanwhile, has deals in place with five other automakers.
QuantumScape does have a prototype, but it’s not pure solid state since it uses a liquid electrolyte. “We still have a lot of work to do,” QuantumScape’s CEO Jagdeep Singh told Reuters. “The prototype is meant to show the core functionality is there, not that the cell is fully ironed out in terms of all the different defects that can be introduced during the production process.”
Cracking the code for solid-state batteries has been an elusive, expensive quest so far, with decades and billions of dollars already poured into the technology – and boards of directors of huge automaker conglomerates probably want to see things happen faster than what is realistic. But for the true believers in the technology, with Tesla not among them, solid-state batteries are the “holy grail” game-changing advancement that EVs are waiting for. And while investments appear to be drying up in some cases, we are seeing some breakthroughs in the technology that keep the promise alive.
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