They dictate the final price of the car, as well as its maximum operating range and charging time. The last few years have allowed several companies to rise to power in the EV battery industry.
Some of the most well known are:
- Panasonic, – supplies not only Tesla and Toyota, but also Mercedes and Ford, to some degree;
- LG Chem, – supplies Chrysler, Ford, Audi, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen, and more;
- Samsung SDI – supplies BMW, Fiat, Mercedes, and Porsche;
An often asked question is what are the efforts of companies such as LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and others in terms of remaining in competition with the duo that consists of Tesla and Panasonic. Equally interesting is the prospect that a Chinese company may wait and choose the perfect moment to release a revolutionary product.
Of all the contenders, the strongest seems to be Samsung SDI. The company introduced “multifunctional battery packs” at the Frankfurt Motor Show, this week. The company claims that an electric vehicle equipped with their battery technology can have a range of up to 700 km/430 miles.
If we are to compare this with the fact that the operating range of a Tesla Model S is limited to 540 km, and that of the Tesla Model 3 to 500 km, then the technology developed by Samsung could certainly bring something new to the table. However, it is likely that the numbers offered by the Samsung representatives are based on ideal conditions, and an optimistic New European Driving Cycle. It is unlikely that their stated range would hold up in the real world.
It is important to keep in mind that while the capacity of the batteries is important, there are other factors that affect how useful they are when it comes to their use in electric vehicles. Another important characteristic of batteries is energy density. This essentially dictates how much energy can be stored in a battery, and as a result, how small or how large they have to be in order to enable a vehicle to store the optimal amount of electricity.
Energy density also affects the cost, weight and torque of a car. In this case higher is usually better. Unfortunately, Samsung did not offer details regarding these aspects of their new technology.
To put things into context, Samsung SDI has recently started selling batteries with the 21700 form factor, instead of the traditional 18650. The company also gives its clients the option to fully customize their battery packs, however, this can not be considered a new practice, as Samsung has been doing this for quite a while.
This having been said, the manufacturer has also presented the “Low Height Cell.” These new, shorter cells could prove to be extremely successful, due to the fact that carmakers would be able to use them in order to develop more spacious electric vehicles.
The energy cell manufacturer also stated that it has constructed a new EV battery plant in Hungary, in May, raising the number of Samsung SDI factories to 3. The new manufacturing plant is located 25 km north of Hungary’s capital, Budapest, production is planned to start in the second half of 2018, and it should be able to supply batteries for 50,000 all-electric cars per year.
The fact that BMW tried using Samsung SDI batteries in order to build an electric car, but scrapped the plan after one year is quite intriguing. It may be that the batteries were not efficient or cheap enough for the car manufacturer to build an affordable EV, however, it is impossible to know for sure.
There are experts who have claimed that one area in which Samsung SDI does excel is long-term cost per kWh of its energy cells. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing for sure if this is true. The batteries that have been already installed in vehicles need to get older, in order to determine their actual longevity.
The battery manufacturer is apparently also investing more money in its Chinese plant at Xian, which is a perfectly logical move, considering that the Chinese EV market is the biggest in the world
All in all, Samsung SDI will have an interesting future in the EV battery industry, especially when considering the fact that it has closed its hydrogen fuel cell division in order to focus on electric car cells. It remains to be seen if Samsung will thrive in the EV battery market or not.
The new versions of BMW i3(containing Samsung batteries) may be proof of the fact that the batteries manufactured by Samsung are getting better and better, as the vehicle’s range has increased with every yearly model. We may soon find that the manufacturer’s batteries will be on par with those produced by other companies, if not better.