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May 16, 2024, 1:16pm EDT
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China’s lead on EV battery innovation has not slipped an inch

Insights from Nikkei Asia, TechCrunch, CNN

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REUTERS/Nick Carey
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The News

The world is lagging behind China on EV battery innovation to the extent that global manufacturers are barely able to compete.

Japanese auto giant Nissan, for instance, last month announced a “breakthrough” in the development of solid-state batteries — light alternatives with longer range compared to traditional lithium-ion EV batteries.

But China beat them to the punch. In April, EV maker Nio became the first manufacturer to commercially roll out solid-state batteries in their cars, complete with the promise that they are fully replaceable. Meanwhile, China also opened its first large-scale sodium-ion battery energy storage station, which could pave the way for next-gen EV batteries that do not rely on scarce, pricey lithium.

The race underscores the concern in Europe and the US that China faces little real competition when it comes to EVs.

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Japan needs solid-state batteries to make its EV sector run

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Source:  
Nikkei Asia

Japan’s need for lots of solid-state EV batteries, fast, is “particularly urgent,” Nikkei Asia wrote, as the country — a large auto exporter — struggles to emerge as a key player in the EV market. Multiple Japanese companies are pumping millions of dollars (some of it from the government) into research and development to accelerate their production — but it might not be enough. One Japanese engineer said there is “no chance” solid-state batteries will replace more than 10% of lithium-ion batteries by 2030.

Sodium-ion batteries could replace lead-acid for gas-powered cars

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Source:  
TechCrunch

While sodium-ion batteries hold the potential to significantly reduce the price of EVs, some battery makers see a more immediate use for their technology under the hood of traditional gas-powered vehicles, according to TechCrunch. US companies like Bedrock Materials see the value in a “disrupt from the bottom” approach: Sodium-ion batteries aren’t quite good enough to replace lithium in EVs, but they can replace the lead-acid in typical cars’ batteries. The strategy enables the company to improve the tech and make money while doing it. But again, Chinese battery manufacturers are already years-ahead in the development process.

Solid-state batteries offer more efficiency for EVs, but they aren’t the only way

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Sources:  
CNN, Harvard University

Solid-state batteries are “not the only way automakers could achieve lighter, cheaper and faster charging electric vehicles,” CNN automarket journalist Peter Valdes-Dapena reported. The current designs for solid-state EV batteries tend to conduct electricity slowly, meaning they take longer to charge and don’t allow for fast vehicle acceleration (although Harvard University researchers said they are on the cusp of a new design framework that charges in minutes). Solid-state appeals because they can be made with fewer rare earth minerals, including lithium, but right now, they tend to use more lithium than other EV batteries, according to Valdes-Dapena. In turn, some automakers like GM see more promise in making lithium-ion batteries more efficient instead, he wrote.

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