Fisker Hoping For Solid-State BEV in 2021

There are several concerns about battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at the moment not least that the standard lithium ion technology is anything but eco-friendly.

While these batteries rack up a sizeable carbon footprint during their manufacturing process, most do the same disfavor to the planet but being just 5% recyclable, against a lead acid battery’s 95% recycle potential. Hence a lot of research being conducted into solid-state batteries including by EV automaker Fisker Inc.

Speaking exclusively to TU-Automotive, chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker said the cost savings of the solid-state batteries his company is developing also enhances the technology’s green credentials. He explained “Our technology comes at a lower cost of the traditional lithium ion batteries. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, is our manufacturing processes are in just six-steps against lithium ion batteries which are traditionally a 18-step manufacturing process. So, from the time you get the materials to the time when the batteries are assembled and charged is less than 15 days with solid state battery technology. What we have done with the battery we are working on is that it is not a thin-film technology, which is what a lot of other organizations are working on, meaning they don’t usually have enough power to pull a car. Secondly, we are not using any organic solvents or extremely expensive materials as others researching in this area are doing.”

The big challenge Fisker has at the moment is constructing the machines necessary to produce the batteries commercially in sufficient numbers. He said: “At the moment we are building cells by hand so the next step is to scale the process up to high volume. This is taking our researchers some time because it is inherently a somewhat fragile technology where you have to work out how you are going to construct machines that are able to make these cells in the millions of units. In terms of pricing, taking into account materials and costs of manufacturing, our battery energy output would work out as being below $75 per kWh which is definitely below any current lithium ion price.”

Yet, notwithstanding the challenges ahead, Fisker is hopeful the batteries leading to a full production vehicle could come to market within a couple of years once this production line has been established. He said: “We have just had delivered a machine we have designed ourselves because none exists right now and we will probably even have to recalibrate and the change the machine to optimize it. So, it is extremely difficult to give an exact time for when it will be ready for production. In our expectation that we would be able to get some batteries into a vehicle to test it in 2020 and then, from there out to production, I would like it to be 2021 but whether we can manage that is up to whether we see any major hurdles on the way.”

Fisker’s solid-state technology also could also go some way to easing China’s stranglehold on the BEV market with it owning some 97% of the planet’s rare earth needed to manufacture lithium ion batteries. Fisker explained: “My goal is to make the most sustainable car company in the world and to do that we have to go further than just about building a car and building a battery but also to go down even to the supply chain of the battery. So, I have just gone on the board for a company called First Cobalt who have a mine in Idaho where they have found cobalt in quite a large amount.”

In fact the company’s Iron Creek mine boasts estimated mineral resources of 29.6 million tons grading 0.11% cobalt equivalent and is the only permitted cobalt refinery in North America capable of producing battery materials.

Fisker added: “Obviously, there has been a lot of talk around ethical mining and, so far, a lot of the cobalt comes from the Congo mined by children, obviously not a good thing. Also, a lot of the cobalt is controlled by China so by doing this in the US, and understanding the supply chain, this is extremely important and I don’t see the Doomsday scenario where suddenly we don’t have the materials we need because everything is in China.

“America has plenty of raw materials, it’s just a matter of going out and getting them. For us we want to engage all the way and make sure we create the most sustainable green car company in the world right from the batteries and what we offer inside, like whether we use vegan materials, etc. This is the most exciting part of this automotive revolution that it’s not only being driven by the traditional carmakers.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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