In the market for high-end electric cars, we see prices that rival those of their combustion engine counterparts. For example, the all-electric Porsche Taycan is cheaper than a less powerful Porsche Panamera. However, on the mass market, electric cars mostly struggle to display attractive prices. Thus, a simple VW ID.3 is much more expensive than a Golf, while the Fiat 500e and Twingo Electric are displayed at much higher prices than their thermal range sisters. The electrified versions are certainly more powerful, but much less versatile with tiny autonomy.
This aspect, coupled with a high price, is undoubtedly what explains the reasons for the commercial failure of the Honda e with 3,750 units sold in 2022 against 10,000 anticipated sales. If its style, handling and high-tech equipment were praised by the press, its low versatility finally got the better of its qualities.
Questioned on the subject by our colleagues from The DriveDave Gardner, vice president of business and sales for Honda US, said: “We don’t really believe that current lithium-ion battery technology is the long-term solution. Solid-state batteries, a technology still in development that has only been used in a handful of electric vehicle prototypes, will be a game-changer because they will make it possible to offer EVs at lower prices, around what costs a good internal combustion engine vehicle.”
Dave Gardner admits that solid state batteries (also called solid state batteries) are not for tomorrow. He says, however, that Honda is actively working on their development, having increased R&D efforts in the area and now attempting small-scale testing. Honda announced on September 19 that it was investing $310 million in an experimental line project to test mass production of solid-state batteries.
As a reminder, current batteries use a liquid lithium salt electrolyte. The electrolyte is a conductive substance that connects the two internal terminals of the battery. By using a solid electrolyte, energy density is increased, as is charging speed, life and safety. The stacking of the layers (anode, electrolyte, cathode) also saves significant space.
As lithium-ion batteries have gone from a price of $1,200/kWh of stored energy to $132/kWh over the past decade, the raw materials needed to manufacture them have been subject to chain issues. procurement and questionable mining practices that could hamper further cost reduction. Likewise, the price of lithium has exploded, going from €5/kg in 2021 to more than €35/kg in May 2022 – and the trend is the same for cobalt and nickel. In other words, the price of batteries could increase by 15% if the situation were to continue.
For some manufacturers, as long as the price of energy storage is not below $50/kWh, parity will be impossible. However, such a cost seems difficult to achieve with current lithium-ion technology. Solid-state batteries are also very expensive to manufacture, but the economies of scale do not yet exist. In addition, the use of less expensive materials would make it possible to divide their cost by two.
Toyota and Nissan are also working on the issue. Toyota even has a rolling LQ prototype that works with a solid battery, but the lifespan of the latter is not conclusive at the moment. Some will remember the BlueCar Boloré which offered a battery of this type, but the need to maintain an operating temperature of around 60°C meant that the car had to be kept plugged in almost permanently… There is still a long way to go before finding the miracle recipe. which will allow the electric car to be as cheap and versatile as its thermal version.