San Jose, Calif.-For years, scientists at the Institute from Silicon Valley to Boston have been able to charge an electric vehicle in minutes and capture the chemicals, minerals, and metals that can travel hundreds of miles between charges. I’ve been looking for a part without it. Much lower cost than currently available batteries.
Now, some of those scientists and the company they founded are approaching a milestone. They are building factories to build the next generation of battery cells, allowing automakers to begin field testing of the technology to determine if they are safe and reliable.
Factory operations are mostly limited in scale and are designed to perfect manufacturing techniques. It will take years for cars with high-performance batteries to appear in the showroom, and even longer for affordable cars to have batteries available. However, the start of production on the assembly line offers a fascinating outlook for the revolution in electrical mobility.
If the technology can be mass-produced, electric vehicles can compete with fossil fuel-powered vehicles for convenience and reduce prices. Harmful emissions from car traffic can be significantly reduced. The inventor of technology can easily become a millionaire.
For dozens of start-ups working on new types of batteries and battery materials, the emergence from corridor laboratories into the harsh conditions of the real world is the moment of truth.
Manufacturing millions of battery cells in a factory is much more difficult than manufacturing hundreds in a clean room designed to minimize contaminants.
Jagdeep Singh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of QuantumScape, a battery manufacturer in San Jose, California, said: Silicon Valley. “You need to understand how to make it in a defect-free, sufficiently high-uniformity way.”
In addition to risk, the tech stock downturn has robbed publicly traded battery companies of billions of dollars in value. Building a manufacturing industry and raising the cash needed to pay staff is not so easy for them. In most cases, you haven’t started selling your product yet, so you have little or no revenue.
An important year for electric vehicles
The popularity of battery-powered vehicles is skyrocketing around the world as the entire automotive market stagnates.
QuantumScape was worth $ 54 billion in the stock market shortly after its launch in 2020. These days, it was worth about $ 4 billion.
Still, it hasn’t prevented the company from building a factory in San Jose and, hopefully, starting production of cells for sale by 2024. Automakers use factory power to test whether a battery can withstand rough roads, coldsnaps, heat waves, and car washes.
Automakers also know whether batteries can be recharged hundreds of times without losing their ability to store electricity, whether they can withstand collisions without exploding in flames, and whether they can be manufactured cheaply. You want to know.
It’s unclear if all new technologies will fulfill the inventor’s promises. David Deek, a former Tesla executive and now a battery materials consultant, said shortening charging times and extending range could sacrifice battery life. “Most of these new material concepts bring huge performance metrics, but compromise something else,” Deak said.
Still, with the support of Volkswagen, Bill Gates, and Silicon Valley figures, QuantumScape shows how much trust and money is spent on companies claiming to be able to meet all these requirements. ..
Shin, who previously founded a company that manufactures telecommunications equipment, founded QuantumScape in 2010 after purchasing Tesla’s first production vehicle, the Roadster.regardless of Roadster’s infamous lack of reliabilityMr. Shin became convinced that electric cars are the future.
“It was enough to get a glimpse of what we could do,” he said. The key he noticed is a battery that can store more energy, “the only way to do that is to look for new chemistry, chemical advances.”
Shin teamed up with Professor Fritz Prinz of Stanford University and Tim Home, a researcher at Stanford University. Seed money was provided by John Doerr, one of the first investors in Google and Amazon. Tesla co-founder JB Straubel is another early supporter and member of the QuantumScape board of directors.
After many years of experimentation, QuantumScape has developed a ceramic material that separates the positive and negative ends of the battery and allows ions to flow back and forth while avoiding short circuits. Its exact composition is a secret. This technology allows solid materials to be used instead of liquid electrolytes that carry energy between the positive and negative electrodes of the battery, allowing more energy per pound.
“We spent the first five years looking for materials that would work,” Shin said. “And after thinking we found it, we spent another five years or so on how to make it the right way.”
Technically a “pre-pilot” assembly line, San Jose’s QuantumScape factory is about the same size as the four football fields. Recently, a row of empty cubicles with black swivel chairs was waiting for new employees, and the machine stood on a pallet ready for installation.
In Silicon Valley and other laboratories, dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurs likewise take advantage of the venture capital and university research links that have driven the growth of the semiconductor and software industries. We are pursuing our technical goals.
Another well-known name is SESAI, founded in 2012 based on the technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SES is backed by General Motors, Hyundai, Honda, Chinese automakers Giri and SAIC, and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation. In March, SES, based in Warburn, Massachusetts, opened a factory in Shanghai to manufacture prototype cells. The company plans to start mass supply to automakers in 2025.
SES shares also plummeted, but CEO and co-founder Qichao Hu said he wasn’t worried. “That’s a good thing,” he said. “When the market is bad, only the good ones will survive. It will help reset the industry.”
SES and other battery companies say they have solved the basic scientific hurdles needed to make safer, cheaper and more powerful cells. Now it’s a matter of understanding how to unleash them by millions of people.
“I’m confident that the rest of the challenge is engineering in nature,” said Doug Campbell, CEO of SolidPower, a battery maker backed by Ford Motor Company and BMW. SolidPower, based in Louisville, Colorado, said it will set up a pilot production line in June and will begin supplying test cells to automotive partners by the end of the year.
Indirectly, Tesla has spawned many of Silicon Valley’s start-ups. The company trained a generation of battery professionals, many of whom retired and worked for other companies.
Gene Berdichevsky, CEO and co-founder of Sila in Alameda, California, is a Tesla veteran. Born in the Soviet Union, Berdichevsky emigrated to the United States at the age of nine with his parents, an electrician on a nuclear submarine. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Stanford University and is the seventh employee at Tesla. He helped develop the Roadster Battery.
Tesla has effectively created the EV battery industry by proving that people buy electric cars and letting traditional car makers consider the technology, Verdichevsky said. “It will make the world an electric car,” he said, “everyone is competing to make a better electric car.”
Sila belongs to a group of start-ups that have developed materials that significantly improve the performance of existing battery designs and expand their reach by more than 20%. Another is Group14 Technologies in Woodinville, near Seattle, with the support of Porsche. There is also OneD Battery Sciences in Palo Alto, California.
All three have found a way to store electricity in the battery using silicon instead of graphite, which is prevalent in existing designs. Silicon can hold much more energy per pound than graphite, making batteries lighter, cheaper, and faster to charge. Silicon will also ease the US reliance on graphite refined in China.
The disadvantage of silicon is that it swells to three times its size when charged, overstressing the components and potentially causing the battery to fail. People like Yimin Zhu, Chief Technology Officer at OneD, have spent 10 years baking different mixtures in equipment-crowded laboratories looking for ways to overcome the problem.
Currently, Sila, OneD, and Group14 are in various stages of increasing production at their Washington site.
In May, Shira announced a contract to supply Mercedes-Benz with silicone materials from its Moses Lake, Washington plant. Mercedes plans to use this material in luxury sports utility vehicles from 2025.
Porsche has announced plans to use Group 14 silicone materials by 2024, albeit with a limited number of vehicles. Group14 CEO Rick Luebbe said a major manufacturer will introduce its technology next year and will be able to charge the car in 10 minutes.
“At that point, you can take advantage of all the advantages of an electric vehicle without any disadvantages,” says Luebbe.
The demand for batteries is so strong that there is plenty of room for multiple companies to succeed. But dozens, if not hundreds, of companies are definitely failing, as all new cars are pursuing a $ 1 trillion worth of market if they become electric cars.
“In every new transformation industry, we start with a lot of players and narrow it down,” Luebbe said. “Check it out here.”