SES Holdings, a US startup with plans to open a Shanghai factory next year, is teaming up with Honda to boost the development of its novel lithium-metal batteries, with the Japanese automaker announcing investment in the battery company.

Why it matters: Honda is the third automaker to partner with SES on electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The deal is the latest in a string of moves by global auto majors to develop battery technologies that they hope will accelerate their shifts to electrification.

Details: SES signed a joint agreement with Honda to work with early stage prototypes of its lithium-metal battery, or “A-samples.” In addition, Honda plans to buy 2% of SES AI Corporation, a new entity that will be created by an SES partnership with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to list in the US, according to an announcement by SES published Wednesday.

  • Boston-based SES expects to raise $275 million from the deal with the SPAC, Ivanhoe Capital Acquisition Corp, and a proposed listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The merger is subject to a shareholder vote on Feb. 1. 
  • Honda is joining a list of global auto majors already backing the 10-year-old battery startup. They include General Motors, Hyundai, Geely, SAIC, and Foxconn, according to the statement. SES was initially formed as a spin-off from a research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • “Through the support of Honda and all of our strategic and financial investors, we are well positioned to execute our development and production plans to bring next generation battery technology to global EV manufacturers,” said CEO Hu Qichao, SES’s founder and an MIT graduate.

Context: Conventional lithium-ion batteries contain heavy liquid electrolytes, while solid lithium-metal batteries are lighter and therefore could offer increased range and faster charging than their lithium-ion counterparts, according to J.D. Power, a data and analytics company focused on the auto industry.

  • SES in November showcased a lithium-metal battery cell with over 100 amp-hours of charge, while most lithium-ion battery cells run between 50 and 120 amp hours, Bloomberg reported. The company plans to mass produce its battery cells at a factory in Shanghai which is scheduled for completion in 2023.
  • Auto and battery companies are beginning to experiment with new battery types as the EV market matures. Chinese EV maker Nio plans to deliver a version of its electric sedan model ET7 in the fourth quarter of this year. It will be equipped with a 150-kWh semi-solid state battery pack, which the automaker claims will mean a 50% increase in energy density from current offerings.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen