GAC Group and Changan Automobile, two of China’s biggest automakers by sales volume, detailed their respective timelines to manufacture solid-state batteries on Nov. 17, entering a global competition to bring the potentially transformative technology to play in electric vehicles (EVs).
The moves resonate in an industry that has long attempted to commercialize the technology, widely seen as a next-generation energy storage device because of its superior performance and safety compared with the current batch of liquid-state electrolyte lithium-ion batteries. Several international carmakers have bet on solid-state batteries, with leading promoter Toyota reportedly projecting adoption by 2027.
The news also indicates a growing trend among automakers of developing their own batteries, parts that comprise at least 40% of overall vehicle costs, to establish a self-sufficient supply chain. “Few companies have so far profited from making new energy vehicles [mostly battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs in China],” said Changan president Wang Jun during a press conference, citing a goal of achieving “sustainable, high-quality development” (our translation).
Here’s what the two automakers said on Nov. 17 during the ongoing Auto Guangzhou show in southern China’s Guangdong province.
GAC: The Guangzhou-headquartered automaker is hoping to see an EV in production with its own in-house developed solid-state batteries as early as 2026. For now, the batteries have achieved a cell-level energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) and have proven effective under extreme conditions, according to an announcement. By comparison, the maximum energy density of CATL’s latest Qilin battery is 255 Wh/kg (per pack level).
- The state-owned manufacturer added that it is working on several other new battery types including cobalt-free and sodium-ion packs, without revealing further details.
- Meanwhile, the Chinese partner of Toyota and Honda expects its first wholly-owned battery plant to start rolling out conventional lithium-ion batteries later this month. The RMB 10.9 billion ($1.5 billion) plant, Guangzhou’s biggest ever, will produce an annual capacity of 36 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2025, enough for 600,000 EVs.
Changan: China’s fifth largest automaker’s plans include commercializing its first solid-state batteries by 2027 at a cell-level energy density of up to 500 Wh/kg, while large-scale vehicle application is scheduled for 2030 with the launch of several new battery products, said president Wang.
- As part of an RMB 10 billion investment plan, the Chongqing-based manufacturer will more than double its number of research and development employees from 1,200 to 3,000 by next year. It has also set its sights on making lithium-sulfur and other new battery types next decade.
- Ford’s manufacturing partner also projected its timeline for mass-producing lithium-ion batteries, starting as soon as next year. The product features a design in which battery cells are integrated directly with the vehicle body rather than segmented into several modules. This technology has enabled CATL’s Qilin batteries to promise a driving range of over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on a single charge.
Context: Established automakers worldwide have been rushing to get solid-state batteries commercially ready for their green energy cars, which is intended to give them an upper hand as they navigate increasing competition in the global EV market.
- In addition to Toyota, Nissan plans to launch a production EV with a solid-state battery pack by 2028 and BMW by 2030. China’s SAIC said in May that it has increased its investment in local battery startup Qingtao as part of its ambitious goal to sell 100,000 EVs with solid-state batteries in 2025.
- CATL in April unveiled a so-called condensed matter battery, a semi-solid state product using a condensed electrolyte, with plans to start mass production for aviation by year-end, Reuters has reported. The battery giant controls more than a third of the global market, according to figures compiled by South Korea’s SNE Research on Nov. 7.
- The world’s second-biggest battery maker by shipment, BYD initiated its battery efforts two decades ago and accounted for 15.8% of global EV battery sales in the first nine months of 2023. Having benefited from its vertically integrated supply chain, the EV giant recorded a net income of RMB 10.4 billion in the past quarter.
- A solid-state battery uses a solid electrolyte instead of liquid electrolytes, boasting a theoretically higher thermal stability and energy density than existing offerings. However, the batteries still suffer interface instability between electrodes and solid-state electrolytes, among other design issues.