Research and development of batteries carries on apace around the world, despite lockdowns and low, yet recovering, vehicle sales. While not fast enough for some automotive associations, charging infrastructure is also growing.
Asia: The world’s number-one battery maker, LG Chem, is in talks with an undisclosed number of car companies to form battery production joint ventures, according to reports by Reuters. The South Korean company also announced recently that it is upping production of its cylindrical battery cells, used by a number of OEMs including Tesla, and is chewing over expanding operations in Europe and North America. However, along with compatriot industrial giant Hyundai, the company is hot water over a number of fires in its batteries fitted to the automaker’s Kona car. Hopefully, Hyundai’s innovation center in Singapore, which it began building recently, will pre-empt problems such as these in future.
Another Korean company, SK Innovation, claims its new battery can propel an EV for 800 kilometers with two 10-minute charge stops, yet is tight-lipped about what chemistry can is being used. The company has struggled to make a profit on its battery business, unlike LG Chem, and this new technology could turn around its fortunes. The ongoing legal spat between LG Chem and SK Innovation over patent infringement could be more decisive in which Korean battery maker ultimately wins the cell war.
Across the Yellow Sea, CATL will establish an international lithium battery industry cluster in Sichuan Province, in cooperation with the local government. China is dotted with such clusters, which concentrate industrial activities in one place.
China’s BYD opened its third battery factory in Brazil, with capacity for 18,000 units per year. It is the company’s first plant in Latin America to produce lithium iron phosphate batteries for electric buses, which it started to assemble at its original plant built in 2014 in Campinas.
Battery exchange is all the rage in China. Nio, which has bounced back from the abyss, and Xpeng Motors both now offer battery rental. In Xpeng’s case, units can be leased for seven years, over which time users make regular payments. Part of a broader scheme, battery leasing is being piloted across the country by several other companies, including EV maker Kandi and the Zhejiang State Grid Electric Vehicle Service Company, which will also start a battery exchange service.
Indonesia Battery Holding, a JV formed by a handful of Indonesian state companies, is a new EV battery outfit that will take a cradle-to-grave approach to manufacturing batteries, from minerals extraction and chemicals production to cell manufacture and recycling.
Europe: Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced the construction of a factory to refine lithium, potentially for batteries used in the country’s snazzy EV called TOGG, according to Turkish media.
Northvolt, a Swedish battery cell maker, passed the funding hat round and collected a cool U.S. $600 million that the company says the money allows it to grow production and recycling capacity and to ramp up research and development. The cash comes from a group of new and existing investors and shareholders.
In neighboring Norway, battery startup Freyr signed a memorandum of understanding with Siemens Energy and Elkem, a Norwegian supplier of silicon-based advanced materials, for cells and anode-active materials for a planned 32 gigawatt hour cell factory. The company had already secured $13.6 million for a 2 GWh fast-track pilot battery production line at its plant in Mo i Rana. It was a lucrative month for Elkem. The company scored $1.5 million from the Enova, a government environmental agency, to fund the initial planning of Northern Recharge, a large battery materials plant.
Hydra, a European Union research project to develop next-generation lithium batteries, was launched by 12 partners including the Norwegian research Institute Sintef, Corvus Energy, Johnson Matthey and the German Aerospace Center, and will run until August 2024.
While it’s not making cars, BMW is adding battery module production capacity by investing in excess of €100 million between now and 2022 in its Leipzig plant, where the i3 is put together. Existing battery production occurs at Dingolfing in Bavaria, Spartanburg, U.S., and Shenyang, China. It will also start coating high-voltage batteries for the iX3 and iNext in 2021 then a year later switching to complete assembly at its plant in Regensburg.
Also in Leipzig, German automotive supply Draxlmaier is nearly done building a plant to make high-voltage battery systems for the Porsche Macan. The German sports car company is also developing a new thermal management system for its cars to optimize charging.
Research institute Fraunhofer IKTS kicked off its BattLife battery research project at the newly founded Battery Innovation and Technology Center in Erfurter Kreuz, Germany. The project’s industrial partner CATL, is building up production at its unit next door.
A French battery company Nawa Technologies claims its new carbon-based electrode can improve power output tenfold, energy storage threefold, lifecycle fivefold and reduce charging to minutes.
Spanish VW offshoot Seat is setting up a battery lab in Martorell, Spain, to test and develop battery systems for EVs and hybrids.
Americas: Iconic U.S. motorcycle company Harley-Davidson recalled its LiveWire e-motorcycles produced between Sep. 23, 2019, and Mar. 16, 2020, due to battery problems related to the charging circuitry in around 1% of the vehicles.
Romeo Power, a battery company based in California, announced it will go public on the stock exchange after a merger with an investment company. At the same time, it is launching battery packs for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles.
Europe: The continent is abuzz with charge infrastructure development. Despite the lockdowns and depressed sales, charging company Fastned and the world’s favorite EV maker Tesla opened Ladepark Kreuz Hilden, a charging park in Germany that features 20 superchargers and eight Fastned stations. The development, which took eight months, is one of the single largest charge point developments for both companies.
Mobile charging, part of what’s known as “infrastructure as service,” is gaining traction as FEV Group, a German powertrain company unveiled a mobile rapid charging station for Dusseldorf-based energy supplier Uniper. The equipment can charge two cars at once up to 75 kW.
In Scotland, the Police splurged £21 million on a contract with BP’s charge point subsidiary BP Chargemaster and Korean carmaker Hyundai for 1,000 charging points at 265 locations and a fleet of electric cop cars.
Way down south in London town, U.S. charge tech company Allego will install 80 public AC fast charge points in the borough of Newham, one of the poorer London boroughs.
Across the Channel in France, the auto giant PSA is treating its workers to 500 charge points at 49 company sites in 12 countries across Europe. French supermajor Total became the new ninth member of the charging infrastructure association called ChargeUp Europe. It joins charge point operators Allego, Fastned and EvBox from the Netherlands, another American firm ChargePoint, Italy’s Evway and Slovakia’s Greenway, Autro-German charging software developer has.to.be and Portuguese utility company EDP. Again in France, IES Synergy, a developer of fast-charging stations and industrial onboard chargers, introduced its Keywatt 50 kWh charge station for urban locations.
Wallbox, a Spanish charging equipment maker and subsidiary of utility company Iberdrola, will supply Volvo’s Spanish unit will supply charging solutions for the Volvo Recharge. Wallbox also launched the Supernova 65 kW rapid public charging column.
Also on the Iberian Peninsula, i-charging, a Portuguese charge point company, launched its Blueberry charging stations, which can supply 50k to 600 kW .
The municipality in Ghent, the medieval Flemish city in Belgium, gave the thumbs up to installing another 100 public charge points by 2022, with a longer-term target of one point at least every 500 meters after 2022.
The European division of the luxury Japanese carmaker Lexus and Digital Charging Solutions, a German company charging solutions company, are joining forces to offer Lexus drivers their own charging network in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and the U.K.
Next-E, a European Union project to improve the bloc’s charging network, will hook up 252 fast-charging stations using Hubject’s eRoaming platform interchange technology in Croatia, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Romania, allowing easy access to charging from Czechia to the Black Sea and the Adriatic.
Americas: As part of its penance for cheating on diesel car emissions figures, VW subsidiary Electrify America is splashing out $2 million on eight solar-powered, off-grid charging stations in Fresno County, rural California, in collaboration with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency. At a measly 3 kW, they won’t knock your socks off, but better than nothing. Closer to home, several hundred ID wall boxes have a software bug and had to be recalled.
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality also used some more VW dollars and contracted EVgo to expand the public fast-charge network across the across the state. The company has been setting up five new chargers per month since late 2019.
Canadian charging network FLO and Electrada are installing a string of DC Level 2 charging stations in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Also in the Midwest of the country, Electrify America and regional XX retailer Meijer will install 36 150 to 350 kW charging stations at nine stores in Illinois and Michigan.
Swiss company ABB and Canadian electric commercial vehicle maker Lion Electric will team up to offer ABB’s charging solutions available in North America. In Europe, ABB and French company Dreev, a joint venture between French utility company EDF and Nuvve, a vehicle-to-grid specialist, have developed an 11 kW bidirectional vehicle-to-grid charging station to be marketed in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the U.K. Vehicle-to-grid chargers can draw power out of batteries and back into the supply system.
Enel X, an Italian energy company, installed 220 of its JuiceBox charge points to create a so-called charging corridor through 11 countries in Central and South America. There are estimated to be fewer than 10,000 passenger EVs in the region.
Asia: Japanese carmaker Honda picked Austrian tech firm Keba to supply wall box charging stations for the Honda e BEV. And in India, EV drivers will have access to 10,000 charging stations if e-mobility rental company eMatrixmile India and Magenta EV Solutions’ memorandum of understanding goes into full swing. Mumbai and the Maharashtra region will be the first regions to get hooked up.
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