Industry heavyweights look to solid-state battery cells, resources, and recycling


In light of its ambition to go all electric by 2030, German luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz continues to expand its network of tech partners, this time through a collaboration with Taiwanese solid-state battery specialist ProLogium.

The first Mercedes-Benz test vehicles equipped with solid-state batteries co-developed with ProLogium are expected to be introduced in the coming years. The companies have agreed on milestones to enable the integration of solid-state battery technology into a range of passenger vehicles in the second half of this decade.

“We believe that range and efficiency are the new industry benchmarks for electric cars,” said Daimler head of development Markus Schäfer. “Solid state technology helps to cut down battery size and weight. This is why we are partnering with companies like ProLogium to ensure that Mercedes-Benz continues to break new ground in the automotive sector for the benefit of our customers.”

Under the agreement, Mercedes will take a seat on the ProLogium board. The high double-digit million euro investment by the carmaker will be used to support the development of the technology and ProLogium's plan of establishing production capacity in Europe. The Taiwanese battery maker focuses on the development of next-generation batteries including solid-state devices with silicon and lithium metal anodes and bipolar technology.

“We have been working with Mercedes-Benz on the testing of our EV [electric vehicle] battery cells since 2016 and are excited to strengthen and expand our partnership,” said ProLogium CEO and founder Vincent Yang. “At ProLogium, we believe that innovative technology must be backed by the scalability of production. We look forward to ramping up our new plant by the end of 2022 and working with our customers toward successful mass production.”

Thus far, the development of solid-state batteries has been primarily driven by automotive companies. Mercedes has partnered with Canadian battery material specialist Hydro-Québec to integrate the technology into field applications and cut development cycle times and other legacy automakers have invested heavily in solid-state devices, including Toyota and Volkswagen.

Offering potentially higher energy density, more cycles at a reduced rate of degradation, and less weight, solid-state battery cells are described as one of the key levers for determining the cost, scalability, and energy density of EV batteries. A solid-state electrolyte offers the option of using materials with high storage capacity, high-ionic conductivity, and better chemical stability; replacing the flammable electrolytes used in conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The innovative materials and design of solid-state batteries could almost double the range of today’s conventional li-ion battery cells and could be far cheaper as they do not require cobalt. However, the technology remains relatively unproven, with auto manufacturers hoping their battery partners will give them an edge and help bring forward commercial production.

Closing the loop

Elsewhere, Toyota and Panasonic have started research with the University of Tokyo into battery resources and recycling. In addition to closing the loop and realizing carbon neutrality, the aim of the project is to reduce production costs in the battery supply chain.

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Four project partners: the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo; the Prime Planet Energy & Solutions Inc joint venture set up by Toyota and Pansonic; Panasonic's Energy Company unit; and Toyota trading arm the Toyota Tsusho Corporation, will look at two aspects of the battery economy. They will focus on the development of new processes in an integrated manner, ranging from the development of nickel, lithium, and cobalt metal resources to refining them during the development and manufacture of battery materials. The research will also consider the development of new processes for the recycling of battery waste and used batteries.

With the aim of further improving the recycling rate of batteries, the research project will promote the development of technology for the efficient and waste-free recycling of leftover materials from battery manufacturing and used devices. Combining the knowhow of the partners – manufacturing experience; commercial collection, processing and recycling of materials; and university research into rare metal refining technology – the project aims to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and recycling costs, which are currently a big issue.

“We will not only supply battery materials but also contribute to the reduction of environmental impact and the formation of a recycling-oriented society by promoting recycling, making use of our knowledge in the recycling-oriented venous business,” said Masaharu Katayama, chief operating officer for Toyota’s Metals Business Unit.

New fab

Following its historic listing on the Korean Stock Exchange, LG Energy Solution unveiled its expansion plans yesterday, with a commitment to construct a $2.1 billion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. with General Motors. The facility will begin mass production in early 2025 and will produce 50GWh of EV batteries annually once fully operational.

The factory will be located in Lansing, Michigan and will produce batteries under the Ultium brand developed by a joint venture between General Motors and LG Chem. Ultium devices are said to be unique because their large-format, pouch-style cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside a battery pack, enabling engineers to optimize energy storage and layout for each vehicle design.

LG and General Motors are building two other battery cell manufacturing sites – one in Ohio and another in Tennessee – both of which will be capable of producing 35GWh of battery cells. “With a shared vision, GM and LG Energy Solution pioneered the EV sector by seizing new opportunities in the market well before anyone else did,” LG Energy Solution chief executive Young-Soo Kwon said. “Our third battery manufacturing plant, fittingly located in America’s automotive heartland, will serve as a gateway to charge thousands, and later, millions of EVs in the future.”

LG Energy Solution shares were sold at an IPO price of KRW300,000 ($250) this month in Asia's second largest float, behind only the $12.9 billion initial public offering for the Alibaba Group in 2019. On its trading debut today, LG Solution's shares surged 68%, solidifying the battery maker's rank as South Korea's second-most valued company.

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