Apple may secure its own battery materials to avoid shortages
According to the report, Apple is seeking to lock down a long-term deal, securing several thousand metric tons a year, for a last five years. The move puts Apple in direct competition with other big players who are also looking for a similar agreement, and advantage. BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung’s own battery division are thought to be engaged in similar negotiations for their own EV projects.
It’s clear from the piece that Apple is only seeking to secure material for batteries that go inside its consumer hardware. CEO Tim Cook has been open about his company’s interest in the “autonomous systems” market, but wouldn’t be drawn on what exactly was being worked on. Rumors out of Apple’s self-driving car project, codenamed Titan, suggest that work is now underway on a plug-and-play system for third party manufacturers.
Procuring a supply of a highly-coveted resource is something that Apple has done several times in the past, often with market-altering results. Perhaps most famously, the company purchased a significant chunk of the world’s NAND Flash supply in 2009, effectively shutting out its competitors.
Dyson’s debut EV might not showcase its next-gen battery tech
Dyson has been working on solid-state batteries for a while, first investing in and then acquiring in 2015 a company specializing is such technology called Sakti3. Solid-state batteries are much safer than their liquid-based counterparts, charge faster and have a higher energy density, meaning EVs could go significantly further with no change in weight. BMW, Toyota, Fisker, Google and others are pursuing this step change in battery tech, but it’s thought Dyson could be the first to market with a solid-state EV, and the main reason it was moving into this new, competitive market in the first place.
Dyson has committed over $2 billion to its EV plans, with half of that going to solid-state battery R&D. Speaking to the FT, James Dyson would only say the company has been “investing heavily in new battery technology, solid-state battery technology… but those sorts of technologies can take some time to get there.” He added that Dyson is still on track to launch an EV in 2020/21, which is slight slip from the “by 2020” window previously announced. The FT‘s sources claim the first model could rely on lithium-ion power, however, with the second and third vehicles switching to solid-state tech.
Insiders said the first car would be a beta test of sorts, used to firm up logistics, the supply chain and to gauge public interest with a production run of just a few thousand vehicles. Later models will be manufactured as mass-market products, sources said, not that Dyson would confirm any of these rumors. Currently, the company still hasn’t settled on a manufacturing base and part suppliers, so there’s plenty still to figure out. But if the FT‘s contacts are to be believed, Dyson committing to a three-vehicle roadmap means it’s serious about creating a new side to its business. If the company ends up leaning on current-gen battery tech for its initial outing, though, it could sacrifice the splash a new entrant pulling up in possibly the first solid-state EV would make.
Boeing HorizonX invests in Berkeley aerospace battery tech startup
Boeing’s HorizonX is the aerospace company’s vehicle for making investments in promising next-generation startups and technology, and it just placed its latest bet: funding in Cuberg, a Berkeley-based battery tech startup that has a founding team including Stanford University researchers.
Battery tech is still one of the most frustrating roadblocks any company encounters when trying to build electric vehicles and other battery-powered technology and transportation. For Boeing, there are plenty of potential upsides to building out batteries that can last significantly longer than those available via today’s tech.
Cuberg’s work focuses on batteries with especially high energy density, while retaining thermal safety. That basically means they hope to be able to build a new type of battery cell that can hold a lot more power for vehicles to use, while also not catching fire.
That’s not all, however: Cuberg’s approach would result in a manufacturing process that could be used in exiting large-scale battery factories. The end result is a relatively smooth transition process from existing manufacturing to building next-gen cells, which obviously means a lot less upfront investment when it comes to taking the new manufacturing process to scale.
Cuberg was originally founded in 2015, and this market the first time Boeing HorizonX has invested in any energy storage companies since its inception last year. The funding, which is described as a “second seed” round, should help Cuberg grow its team and its facilities in preparation for fully automated manufacturing.
Tesla Employees Say Gigafactory Problems Are Worse Than Known
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla’s problems with battery production at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, are worse than the company has acknowledged and could cause further delays and quality issues for the new Model 3, according to a number of current and former Tesla employees. These problems include Tesla needing to make some of the batteries by hand and borrowing scores of employees from one of its suppliers to help with this manual assembly, said these people. Tesla’s future as a mass-market carmaker hinges on automated production of the Model 3, which more than 400,000 people have already reserved, paying $1,000 refundable fees to do so. The company has already delayed production, citing problems at the Gigafactory. On Nov. 1, 2017, CEO Elon Musk assured investors in an earnings call that Tesla was making strides to correct its manufacturing issues and get the Model 3 out. But more than a month later, in mid-December, Tesla was still making its Model 3 batteries partly by hand, according to current engineers and ex-Tesla employees who worked at the Gigafactory in recent months. They say Tesla had to "borrow" scores of employees from Panasonic, which is a partner in the Gigafactory and supplies lithium-ion battery cells, to help with this manual assembly. Tesla is still not close to mass producing batteries for the basic $35,000 model of this electric sedan, sources say.
Toyota and Panasonic explore ‘prismatic’ EV batteries together
The agreement is just a first step, but shows the increasing need for automakers and battery companies to work together. Toyota recently unveiled plans, working with Mazda and Suzuki, to launch a new lineup of EVs starting in around 2020. Until recently, the company had been focused on building hybrid, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen cars exclusively.
Panasonic is the leading EV battery manufacturer, most famously supplying batteries for Tesla’s Model S, 3 and X. It also makes the batteries for Toyota’s current plug-in hybrid Prius cars and has a 29 percent total share of the market, Reuters notes. Other leaders are LG Chem, which builds the batteries for two best-selling EVs, the Renault Zoe and Chevy Bolt, Samsung, and China’s BYD Co.
Toyota and Panasonic won’t have to deal with thorny issues like battery chemistry to make better prismatic cells, which are already used on the Bolt and other vehicles. Rather, they’ll just have to use their engineering and research chops to refine them so that they’re cheaper, safer and more reliable. The payoff could be longer-range, faster-charging and lighter or smaller EVs.
Right now, Toyota and Panasonic are just studying the feasibility of developing these types of batteries together, but there’s a decent chance this will turn into a concrete plan. Batteries are the big sticking point for EV development, so the more development, the better.
Beautiful coastal lights from Seattle down to Baja – if you live on the west coast of North America you are probably in this video! Make a wish on the shooting star, seen in the upper right at about 30 seconds. http://pic.twitter.com/knWUdYzaCS