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Battery partnerships surge

Auto industry is buying into next-generation technology for electric vehicles

by Alex Scott
December 2, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 44


A prototype electric vehicle battery.
Credit: Factorial Energy
Factorial Energy says this prototype is the biggest solid-state electrolyte battery cell the industry has yet made.

Several partnerships to develop next-generation battery technology have been announced as the race intensifies to increase electric vehicle battery performance and reduce production costs.

Woburn, Massachusetts–based Factorial Energy, one of C&EN’s 10 Start-Ups to Watch in 2021, has formed partnerships with the automakers Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis, both of which are investing in Factorial. The start-up develops solid-electrolyte lithium-ion batteries that are highly energy dense.

“With Factorial as our new partner, we are taking research and development in the field of promising solid-state batteries to the next level,” Markus Schäfer, board member of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, says in a press release announcing the deal. “We are investing a high double-digit million dollar amount in Factorial.” Factorial claims its battery offers 20–50% greater range per charge while remaining cost competitive with conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The engine manufacturer Cummins has formed a partnership with Sion Power, a Tucson, Arizona–based developer of lithium-ion batteries featuring a lithium-metal anode, to commercialize Sion’s technology. Cummins has acquired a minority stake in Sion. At 500 W h/kg, Sion’s battery has twice the energy density of a traditional lithium-ion one, the firm claims.

And another US start-up, Battery Streak, developer of a fast-charging lithium-ion battery featuring niobium, has sold a 20% stake to the Brazilian niobium producer Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração. The firms have formed a partnership with the goal of accelerating the use of niobium in lithium-ion batteries.

Technology being developed by Battery Streak and others holds the promise of decreasing battery pack costs while increasing performance. A recent BloombergNEF report predicts that by 2024, cost reductions across the sector should push average battery prices below $100 per kW h.

BloombergNEF estimates that since 2010 lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 89% in real terms to $132 per kW h in 2021.



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