With EV adoption rapidly increasing, automakers are doubling down on their efforts to accelerate the development of battery technology. Take for example BMW, which will begin the transition to sixth-generation batteries in 2025 with the launch of the first models on the Neue Klasse platform. The round cells promise to deliver 30% quicker charging, 30% longer range, 20% better energy density, 60% lower CO2 emissions during production, and 50% lower manufacturing costs.
However, a top engineer at BMW argues we might have already reached a threshold for lithium-ion batteries. Speaking with InsideEVs, Simon Erhard believes that unless a game-changing development emerges, the current technology has been pretty much maxed out: “From an energy density point of view, I would say that we’re facing the optimum lithium-ion cell chemistry in an industrialized application. I think it’s peaked.”
The head of energy, performance, and lifetime for the company’s sixth-gen batteries went on to say the next EV revolution will come from solid-state batteries. Toyota has pledged to be the first to launch a production model with a solid-state battery, but not in a purely electric car. Instead, a hybrid model has been officially confirmed to be an early adopter by the middle of the decade.
What is BMW doing in the meantime? It’s investing in a Colorado-based battery startup Solid Power, which is also receiving funding from Ford. As the company’s name implies, it’s developing solid-state batteries that will one day be installed in a production EV. Simon Erhard believes one of the reasons solid-state batteries are not available yet has to do with engineers being busy extracting every last drop of performance from conventional lithium-ion batteries.
The engineer estimates lithium-ion will remain the norm until at least the end of the decade, with solid-state batteries to gain more and more traction beginning in 2030. The hurdles a company must face are not limited to the development of the technology itself, but also to finding ways how to industrialize it for the automotive industry.
BMW has said it will have a prototype with solid-state batteries ready by 2025. In addition, the Neue Klasse architecture is being engineered to accommodate solid-state batteries.