Upstart battery maker SES has broken ground on a Singapore plant to produce solid-state lithium-metal batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), the first effort to produce the technology at market scale.
Solid-state batteries are likely to be the “battery breakthrough” that EVs critics and enthusiasts alike hope for: they can be lighter than today’s lithium-ion power packs, cheaper to make, and eliminate chemical difficulties that can short-circuit lithium-ion batteries and spark fires or explosions.
Solid-state and lithium-metal batteries have been in development by various labs for some time. However, SES claims to be the first venture to scale one up from a cell-phone-size power pod to something about 25 times as big—big enough, in fact, to make power packs for EVs.
SES says vehicles loaded with its power cells will go as far as 600 miles between plug-ins and will charge to 80-percent capacity in 15 minutes.
SES, which began as a research project in 2012 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, forged a partnership with General Motors in 2015.
Including GM’s $139-million investment, SES has raised about $325 million and, from its Singapore factory now under construction, will have solid-state lithium-metal batteries ready to install in EVs in 2025, the company says.
SES plans to merge with Ivanhoe Capital Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, before the end of this year in a $3.6-billion deal.
TRENDPOST: SES has GM’s backing; BMW and Ford have sunk money into Colorado’s Solid Power and Volkswagen has committed $300 million to Quantumscape’s solid-state technology (“How and When Electric Vehicles Will Go Mainstream,” 21 Sep 2021).
Solid-state batteries are poised to drive electric cars farther between fuel stops than gas guzzlers can go and reduce charging times to fewer minutes than most people spend checking their phones on a coffee break.
The crucial question for EVs is whether the materials to make them, especially lithium, will be available. Copper, cobalt, and other key metals are in short supply; China, hoping to become a major global EV producer, currently controls most of the world’s available rare earth metals.
Car and battery makers are busy locking down supplies of key materials where they find them, especially in Australia, Bolivia, and Chile, which hold the bulk of the world’s lithium.
Materials shortages and inflated costs will slow EVs’ mass production and keep sticker prices high through at least 2026.