In the tradition of Tesla’s annual Battery Day, Volkswagen has just held its first Power Day. The virtual event, broadcast worldwide, laid out the company’s vision for the future of battery chemistry, pack design, manufacture and recycling as well as for the development of a charging infrastructure, the discussion of which was concluded with this vision and this guiding principle: “With the right and intelligent energy management Storage systems charge one day for free. “Here are the highlights.
Volksbatterie – a cost reduction of almost 50 percent!
In order to ensure electromobility that the masses can afford, costs must be reduced. The VW Group assumes that it can reduce the battery costs for its entry-level offers to around 100 USD / kWh. This is where this cost reduction of around 50 percent comes from when it hits the market in 2025:
20 percent – cell chemistry (anode and cathode): Replacing expensive and increasingly difficult to source nickel, manganese and cobalt cathodes with more common iron phosphate materials will drastically reduce costs and headaches in the supply chain. So is the range – something. Meanwhile, replacing Grhite with synthetic Grhite or silicon on the anode increases the range and / or the charging time.
15 percent – cell design: From 2023 the VW Group will switch to a new, uniform prismatic cell design across all applications. An adoption rate of 80 percent is expected by 2030. The cells will have different chemicals tailored to different use and cost goals, but they will bring down the cost for all of them and provide a more convenient form factor that will ease the eventual transition to the solid.
10 percent – production: VW is working to secure supply chains and take battery production on its own, with the goal of having six gigafactories operational by the end of the decade, with each cable producing 40 GWh of batteries per year. Skellefteå, Sweden, will be the first to go online in 2023.
5 percent – battery system concept: Nowadays cells are grouped into modules which are then integrated into a package. VW sees the possibility of reducing production and control costs by combining cells directly in one pack.
In the short term: three traditional battery concepts
The popular lead-phosphate battery would never satisfy the volume customer in the market for a VW ID4 or Audi E-Tron, but the VW Group is also working to reduce costs for these customers. A nickel-manganese chemistry with heavily reduced nickel, as well as some of the other savings mentioned above, promise to cut the cost of volume products at the heart of the market by 30 percent. Together, lead phosphate and NiMn unified cell batteries make up 80 percent of group batteries. The third battery type, which accounts for the remaining 20 percent, is used for special applications in vehicles such as the Porsche Taycan, the Audi E-Tron GT RS and future Bentley electric vehicles. These may not conform to the uniform cell design and may have advanced chemistry using traditional nickel-manganese-cobalt or innovative new materials that ultimately add to the cost.
Further out: solids
As we previously reported, VW is working with QuantumSce to develop solid-state batteries that have been proven to recharge from near-depleted capacity to 80 percent in 12 minutes (10 is the internal target) while offering a 30 percent greater range. two keys to making long-distance EV travel more profitable.
Expansion of the application area along the value chain
With 80 percent of the value of a battery cell currently set in mining and the chemical manufacturing currently down the supply chain, the last 20 percent of the value comes from the final manufacturing of the cell. VW is therefore examining and entering into partnerships in order to increase its share in the upstream value chain.
VW is still planning a second life for batteries whose storage capacity has fallen below the 70 percent charge capacity that covers most warranties. In such cases, these batteries could find a second life by storing excess wind, solar or tidal energy – or energy from other green sources. In the presentation it was pointed out that the VW Group will provide some production capacities for the assembly of large batteries including the processing of second-life EV batteries.
If a battery is no longer useful or damaged in a crash, recycling is essential. For this purpose, VW opened its first recycling center for industrial batteries in Salzgitter in January 2021. The car batteries obtained are first intensively discharged, then the pack is dismantled at module or cell level. These parts are passed through a shredder and various separators, then the materials undergo a hydrometallurgy process that ultimately recovers 95 percent of the recycled battery – essentially everything but the separator.
Making cathodes from recycled materials promises to eliminate more than a ton of CO2 per vehicle from the manufacturing process. The costs also decrease and benefit the customer directly.
Bidirectional DC wallbox for blackout / brownout power supply
Much of the second hour of the VW Power Day presentation was devoted to expanding the infrastructure, especially in Europe and China. The group’s new DC Wallbox was also shown after being used at a number of prototype locations across Germany. This concept is similar to a level 2.5 charger. It delivers DC power like a level 3 charger, but with a much lower output of 22kW, which is slightly higher than most level 2 chargers. Its big party trick is bidirectional. In this way, a vehicle can supply the house or the electricity grid with energy. VW notes that the 77 kWh battery in an ID4 could power a typical house for five days. (We’re not sure if German households’ daily energy usage should switch to Texas house usage, but that would have come in handy in February.)
Other charging concepts
A valuable robotic charger with digital eyes crossed the stage a few times during the presentation. It is intended as a “Mobile Charging Robot” parking deck that you conjure up and pay using a smartphone. A fleet of small “trailers” of the charger will stay connected until you summon a charge via the p. Then a smart robotic tow truck connects a charging box, brings it to your car, connects it, and lets it charge to wait for the next request (or return to a charging box). The charge rate of this prototype design has not yet been announced, but the connector shown contains DC connector pins.
Finally, a FLEXpole charging station was briefly shown. This 150 kW DC fast charger can be operated on low voltage / electricity. It stores energy in large on-board battery packs (some of which may come from off-spec EV batteries) and then outputs the power at 150 kW. These are now being used in China.