General Motors says it is planning the next generation of its Ultium batteries with lithium metal anode. For this purpose, the car company has concluded a development agreement with the lithium metal battery specialist SolidEnergy Systems.
GM characterises the next Ultium generation as a “lithium metal battery with protected anode” that offers “a combination of affordability, high performance and energy density”. In doing so, the group says it has development know-how and numerous data series: The first prototype cells are said to have already reeled off 150,000 simulated test miles in the research and development lab at the GM Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.
To accelerate the commercialisation of lithium metal batteries, GM is now working with SolidEnergy Systems, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) based in Singapore. In 2016, the MIT spin-off announced a lithium metal battery technology in which the anode is replaced by an extremely thin lithium foil, which could significantly increase the energy density to up to 500 Wh/kg.
With the higher energy density, the range could be increased for a battery pack of the same size or – depending on the model – smaller, lighter and cheaper battery packs could be installed for the same range.
General Motors had already invested in SolidEnergy Systems in 2015. Now GM and SES are planning to build a prototype production line for the cells in Woburn in the US state of Massachusetts by 2023. By the middle of the decade, the two partners aim to reduce costs by up to 60 per cent – compared to the cells used in the current Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV.
“Affordability and range are two major barriers to mass EV adoption,” GM President Mark Reuss said at a virtual conference. “With this next-generation Ultium chemistry, we believe we’re on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy density and cost. There’s even more room to improve in both categories, and we intend to innovate faster than any other company in this space.”
For the current generation of Ultium cells, GM is known to be working with LG Energy Systems. As part of their joint venture Ultium Cells, GM and LG are already building a battery cell plant in Ohio, which is expected to be completed in 2022. At the beginning of March, GM also confirmed reports that it was planning a second battery cell plant in the USA. Just today, LG is also mentioning some key points.
Whether LGES is involved in the development of the new lithium metal batteries is not mentioned in GM’s statement. Reuss also did not give any details in the interview. GM only wrote: “To accelerate Li-Metal battery commercialization, GM is working with several innovative companies and making investments that will allow the company to scale quickly.”