Car automakers are racing to control the next generation of battery technology. Automaker juggernauts like General Motors, Volkswagen, and Ford Motor made bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future with their next generation of batteries.
Car automakers are racing to control the next generation of battery technology. In 2020, Tesla Unveiled their next-generation 4086 battery cell, which promises to last for 1 million miles or more before it can’t hold a charge strong enough to power an electric car anymore. Toyota is also in the game with its Solid-State Batteries, which will offer a range more than twice the distance of a vehicle running on a conventional lithium-ion battery under the same conditions.
General Motors is also not far behind with their next-generation Ultium EV platform & Battery Management to introduce an all-electric-powered vehicle lineup by 2035. So why is every car manufacturer trying to improve their battery? What are the odds & benefits?
The goal of all these improvements, breakthroughs, and funding, is to make batteries that are cheaper, faster to charge, and less vulnerable to raw material shortages. Whoever gets there first will have a major advantage. Automakers’ ability to master battery technology could help determine which companies thrive and which are overtaken by Tesla and other electric car manufacturers.
Batteries will help determine the price of new cars and could become the defining feature of vehicles. Like the megapixels on cameras or the processing power of computer chips that consumers once obsessed over, the characteristics of batteries will be the yardstick by which cars and trucks will be judged and bought. It’s a global contest with huge economic consequences for automakers, small battery start-ups, and car buyers, who, in a few years, will choose from a dizzying array of electric cars that use different kinds of batteries as the combustion engine era slowly fades away.
Need New Recipies
As automaker juggernauts like General Motors, Volkswagen, and Ford Motor make bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future, one thing is becoming apparent that they will need a lot of batteries. Car manufacturing hasn’t fundamentally changed in 50 years and is barely profitable, but the battery industry is still ripe for innovation. So carmakers are engaged in an intense race to acquire the chemical recipe to deliver the most energy at the lowest price and in the smallest package possible. The most immediate change coming is in the building blocks of batteries.
Most lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles rely on nickel, manganese, and cobalt. But some automakers, including Tesla and Ford, are moving to use batteries in at least some vehicles that rely on lithium iron phosphate, which is popular in China.
These Lithium iron phosphate batteries, or LFP for short, offer many benefits compared to lithium batteries. Longer life span, no maintenance, extremely safe, lightweight, and improved discharge and charge efficiency, just to name a few. These batteries are not the cheapest in the market, but due to a long life span and zero maintenance, it’s the best investment car manufacturers can make over time. According to CNN, tesla is already using cobalt-free LFP batteries in half of its new cars produced, including the widely popular Model 3 in Quarter 1 of 2022. Ford is also planning to use them for Mustang Mach-Es sold in North America next year and F-150 Lightning in early 2024.
Rethinking Supply Chain
Just by reinventing battery recipes or materials will not do the trick. Car manufacturers have to totally reimagine their complicated supply chain. In May of 2022, The Biden administration announced it would begin a $3.1 billion plan to boost domestic manufacturing of batteries, in a broader effort to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underlined the strategic importance of such efforts.
According to the Wall street journal, Volkswagen was forced to temporarily shut down its main electric vehicle factory in Germany after the fighting disrupted the supply of parts made in western Ukraine. Top Biden administration officials have said they want to help, acknowledging that the United States has done a poor job capitalizing on battery technologies created domestically. Many of those inventions have given birth to a huge industry in China.
If car manufacturers manage to crack this complicated battery equation, there’s almost nothing to stop the EV revolution. They already have powerful motors, excellent storage, and lot more features than gas-powered vehicles. If you just put looks aside for a moment, EVs have come to a point where it’s difficult to differentiate them from gas-powered vehicles in terms of performance. For example, take the 2022 Ford F-150 lightning. Ford has produced one of the most powerful electric trucks that you can ride. The lighting can haul about 10,000 pounds, sits on a regular F-150 chassis, offers more features, and is almost identical. The only thing giving it away is the lightning badge on the side & whenever you open the front trunk. It’s also one of the fastest trucks available on the market that can outrun some sports cars.
Gas-powered vehicles offer a great amount of lifespan before the engine needs to be swapped, which is possible and can be done pretty easily. But When you consider Ev’s, it’s the battery that’ll need to be changed, and it’s nothing less than a challenge for manufacturers as the battery is embedded deep in the chassis of a car.
So with that said, The future of EVs seems to be unstoppable if manufacturers manage to make the perfect battery for their already perfect cars.