In a Surprising Binge of Transparency, Battery Companies Tell Us What They Really Have
Tesla, GM, and QuantumScape have begun divulging more and more data, but one battery maker just made perhaps the biggest reveal of all
For the whole of the 140-year history of automotive batteries, researchers and their bosses have tended to secrecy. Even when forced to say something as a requirement of government or private funding, the default has been half-truths, and sometimes less. The main reason for all the hiding has been sincere: Batteries are hard and victories over the physics rare; usually you have nothing great to tell, and when you do, you want to hold it close.
Which explains the surprise in recent weeks as some of the most important actors in advanced batteries have unleashed a torrent of transparency. Not comprehensive openness, but enough data to satisfy battery researchers who have since been busily debating the releases on Twitter and elsewhere.
The news is that numerous companies appear to have broken through hurdles that have hobbled prior efforts to create super-batteries. If they can resolve their substantial remaining challenges, including on chemistry and manufacturing, they seem likely to give electric cars cost parity with combustion, a milestone that would finally put the price tag of EVs and gasoline cars on an even playing field. All the companies say they are aiming at deploying their breakthrough batteries in commercial EVs somewhere in the middle of the decade.
Forget the Oil Wars. We’re Now in an EV and Battery War.
What makes the rivalry among the U.S., China, and Europe so intense
The data releases have been important because they involve the two most prized, yet-unreached battery compositions: anodes made largely of silicon, and those of pure metallic lithium. Being able to use either would substantially increase a battery’s energy density — and thus lower its cost and extend how far it could propel an EV on a single charge.
A question now is whether these top-tier companies have set a new standard for openness to…