June 7, 2023


Automotive and technology

VW, Stellantis, Renault enter new battlefields in EV race


Removing cost from the battery pack is central to European automakers’ drive to push down battery prices.

VW, for example, says it will standardize its cell starting in 2023 to a prismatic design for what it calls the “unified cell.”

This cell will be designed to contain the different chemistries VW plans and will cover 80 percent of VW’s batteries by 2030, Schmall said in March.

Stellantis is also working on a unified design, in which its cobalt-free, longer-range, high-nickel formulas would use the same cell production process, separator, electrolyte and metal foils, electrified powertrain engineering boss Jean Personnaz said last month.

Stellantis is developing a so-called “cell-to-pack” design that does away with modules common to today’s battery packs with the aim of reducing pack costs by 40 percent by 2024.

That’s the date when the company will debut its cell-to-pack low-cost battery chemistry, while higher-range nickel-rich batteries will drop modules by 2026.

Renault also wants to use cell-to-pack solutions, which it believes will reduce pack cost by 60 percent by 2030 and help it hit a battery cost of $80 per kilowatt hour by the same date, down from $170 kWh in 2019.

Daimler also plans “highly standardized batteries” with only chemistry and cell height differences between packs, Daimler research boss Markus Schafer said last month.

The step beyond cell-to-pack is called cell-to-car, which VW has promised. The solution integrates the pack into the structure of the car.

Tesla has also said it will do this starting with the Model Y build near Berlin.

“The battery for the first time will have dual use … as an energy device and as structure,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the company’s battery day event last September.

High hopes for solid state

“Solid state will be the game changer” VW’s Schmall said last month. “It cuts charging time in half and improves range by 30 percent.”

VW is planning a pilot line to make solid-state batteries in Germany with its partner, Quantum Scape, as it tries to industrialize a technology that all European automakers see as their ultimate goal for e-mobility.

The battery uses a solid electrolyte that improves on the performance provided by lithium ion batteries across almost every parameter. The technology remains experimental, but Europe’s big players have announced definite timelines (see box, below).

Early versions will be luxury applications, but Bloomberg NEF expects the cost to be closer to that of lithium ion batteries by 2030.

Once that level of energy density is possible Daimler “would have the opportunity to rethink the design of the battery system” CTO Khan said.