The Volkswagen Group is honing its electric plans, diversifying into battery manufacture and also switching most of its EV line-up to a single battery cell format by 2030.
This will undoubtedly have an effect on its relationship with LG Chem, Samsung and the like, as it plans on building a swathe of gigafactories. Part of the $US29b investment includes its own cell chemistries; the firm sees this expertise and production of packs as a core competency. It also needs to be in control of battery production because it is planning to sell upwards of 30million EVs from a 70-strong range by 2030.
Moreover, it will move all EV production to a single new platform, and all of these initiatives are aimed at drastically reducing the cost of electric cars.
Regarding batteries, the German plans to open six gigafactories in Europe by the end of the decade. This, along with other strategies, was revealed at the Group’s inaugural Power Day. Like Tesla, VW hopes to gain an edge in the industry by offering the best battery tech possible.
Herbert Diess, VW’s chief, commented “E-mobility is the only solution to reduce emissions quickly. It is the key pillar of Volkswagen’s future strategy, and our goal is to secure pole position in the global scaling of batteries.”
The VW Group intends to introduce its ‘Unified Cell Concept’ within two years. The technology will debut in the new Artemis platform being developed by Audi. The idea is to reduce the cost and complexity of the battery pack while simultaneously improving range and performance. VW believes its strategy “will finally make e-mobility affordable.” City cars will evidently use lithium iron phosphate battery packs to contain costs at the entry end of the market.
VW hasn’t said much about the nuts and bolts of its Unified Cell Concept technology, though it did mention that cathode (manganese) and anode (silica) advances are key to longer range, quicker charging and better durability. A new Cell2Pack production process also avoids having to build modules; cells are inserted directly into the battery pack. With this new technology, VW reckons 80 per cent fast charging times will be cut from around 25 to 17min.
The company continues to work on its ‘end-game’ solid-state battery, which it is developing in concert with QuantumScape, and hopes to have in limited production within four years. Eighty per cent fast charging times of 12min are envisaged.
VW believes that innovative production methods and recycling could halve battery costs in base EVs and in ‘volume segment’ models by up to one-third. The aim is to drive down battery costs to well below €100 per kilowatt hour.
Its first two production facilities are earmarked for Sweden and Germany, the latter producing the unified battery system from 2025. Other facilities will likely be located in Spain and Eastern Europe.
VW is investing across the electric board and, in partnership with Ionity, aims to develop “the world’s largest high-power public charging network.” It wants to have 18,000 public fast-charging points on the go by 2025, a five-fold increase on the current network, and representing roughly one-third of Europe’s demand by then. Work is underway on 3500 new fast chargers in the US, and plans are in motion for 17,000 units in China by 2025.
VW’s shift to become both technology and car company is thought to put more control and credibility over the high goals it has set itself. Both VW and Tesla are aware that shortages of lithium will impact on their production targets, another reason why both are investing heavily in their own battery production facilities. And both are aiming for simplified and cheaper battery pack production, the key to lowering EV costs.
In related news, GM is forging ahead with its partner, SolidEnergy Solutions, developing a lithium-metal battery pack (image of prototypes above). This predates lithium-ion technology but was abandoned early on because of insurmountable problems that evidently can now be overcome. Substituting lithium metal for graphite is said to improve energy density and driving range, and allows for smaller battery packs. The technology is likely to find its way into the latest Ultium packs, and will debut in the electric Hummer. GM is constructing an Ultium battery production plant in Ohio, a JV with LG Chem. It plans to launch 30 EVs within four years.