Renault and LG Chem To Join Forces for Next-Gen Li-Ion Batteries

By · July 31, 2012

LG Chem

In cooperation with Renault, LG Chem aims to launch its next-generation lithium-ion batteries in 2017.

Renault, LG Chem and CEA (France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) are expected to sign a big three-way agreement in September 2012 concerning next-generation lithium-ion battery production. The top line of Renault's press release on the matter, issued on July 27, was the company restating "its ambition to be present across the entire electric vehicle value chain, from technical architecture to motors and batteries."

In addition to the research and development of next-generation traction batteries, Renault, CEA and LG Chem will work together to begin production of current generation li-ion batteries in France starting in 2015. Production of next-gen li-ion batteries is expected to get underway in 2017.

Should we expect a major breakthrough in battery energy storage, and therefore electric car driving range, in the next four or five years? I don't think so. Battery technology is more likely to move in incremental steps. Moreover, the critical factor for future adoption of electric cars is reducing the cost of the battery, by far the most expensive component in an EV.

I spoke with Prabhakar Patil, CEO of LG Chem, a few weeks ago. He told me that since 1991, when Sony introduced lithium ion batteries, the "price on a dollar per kilowatt hour basis has dropped by almost a factor of 14 or 15.” That's over a 20-year period. Patil said that LG Chem aims for a realistic cutting of costs in half between 2010’s price and what it will offer by 2015. He's confident about reaching that goal, at least at the cell level, which represents about 70 percent of the battery pack cost.

Better cheaper batteries are essential for Renault, but even with anticipated cost curves, the company faces a big challenge in reaching its over-the-top ambitions for increasing sales of electric cars. The company said that it's installing capacity to produce 150,000 units per year of its Zoe compact electric car, due out in fall 2012. The Zoe joins the Kangoo delivery van, Fluence sedan, and Twizy motorcycle-car, in the Renault line-up. But through June 2012, the total EV market in Europe achieved 11,600 sales. The level of increase is not impossible, but the depth of the consumer base for EV simply has not been tested. Perhaps France's new incentives in effect for at least the rest of the year, worth about $8,500 per vehicle, will help.

Negotiations on the battery tie-up are still underway. A final agreement is expected by the second half of 2013.

Comments

· Anonymous (not verified) · 4 years ago

I can't help but wonder if we'd be better off focusing on the "low hanging fruit" of greatly reducing vehicle weight using existing advanced composites (and making them cheaper). That would have also improve the range of existing battery packs....

· · 4 years ago

"Should we expect a major breakthrough in battery energy storage, and therefore electric car driving range, in the next four or five years? I don't think so. Battery technology is more likely to move in incremental steps. Moreover, the critical factor for future adoption of electric cars is reducing the cost of the battery, by far the most expensive component in an EV."

1) volume prdxn of A123's nanophosphate EXT Li ion batteries (smaller, more compact battery packs that don't need heating & cooling systems -- simpler, smaller, easier & cheaper to manufacture), by next July
2) Wash State U's tin anode Li ion battery tech (almost 3x the energy; faster recharges; more recharges), will be on the market in '13
3) NiMH goes off patent in '15 (therefore cheaper, generic "large format" NiMH batteries will be available, driving down the cost of Li ion too)
4) because of #3 and competition from Li ion, current NiMH patent holders will release "next gen" NiMH batteries ~2015/16, competing w/Li ion in some markets (e.g., home/utility onsite storage)
5) Envia's battery should be in cars by 2016

Increased energy storage can mean longer ranges w/battery packs of the same size (good for EVs and Plugins), OR using smaller (and thus cheaper) battery packs w/the same energy storage (good for hybrids).

#1-5 are all due *by 2016* (within 3.5 years)! As long as the US does not go the way of Greece before then (http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/david-stockman-austerity-not-discretionary), things on the battery front are looking good.

· · 4 years ago

Okay, let's assume that any one of these options come through by 2016. I have my doubts. (NiMH? Really?) But if it happens, it takes another set of years for automakers to verify, evaluate, and integrate into vehicles--so perhaps by 2018 or 2019, we could see so-called next-gen batteries in a best-case optimistic scenario. But I'll hold firm to my belief that improvements will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. I would love be wrong, but after following these trends quite closely for a decade, I've learned not to get my hopes up too much.

· · 4 years ago

Like many French, I have little enthusiasm towards this upcoming agreement. There is a very promising battery that has been invented by the CEA, which is a public agency (funded by French taxpayers) and the plan is to give LG Chem the right to build that great new battery. The Koreans will have to exploit it in France, to build batteries in a new factory, but many fear the Korean company will also take the French invention to Korea...

Yet, it's a fact that raising capital is very difficult right now in Europe, and that few people have the know-how to build lithium cells in large volume.

· EvDriver (not verified) · 4 years ago

How cheap do electric cars need to get before we have to revisit congestion issues? as I figure it the cost of lithium batteries and the cost of day time rate electricity to recharge them is already cheaper per mile then gasoline alone!
As I see it the problems we will have in 5 years is not the cost of batteries but congestion, parking spaces and all those other problems that come with a car based culture.

· · 4 years ago

@EvDriver,
I agree with your overarching concern - EVs certainly don't solve many of the problems of a car-based culture. Wouldn't it be neat, though, if train stations outside of cities supported L2 charging so you could drive your EV there and take the light rail line into the more congested areas? I know here in NYS, they're evaluating options like that. In the end, though, I would love to see the problem of too many EVs in 5 years from now. It will be an improvement over the issues of global warming, air pollution, reliance on a declining resource, national deficit due in a large part to importing foreign fuel, ... etc.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 4 years ago

The business idea sounds good...but the LG Philips story is only ten years old and I am afraid that this is the next (almost free) technology transfer to Korea. Many great European inventions have gone that way. We shoud wake up and not only invest large amouts in research but also support our own industry and harvest the results of our innovative results.

· · 4 years ago

Brad, I hear you (Eestor, anyone?).

RE. my #1: it could be hype given A123's recent battery and financial problems. BUT, they gave a date of within a year, so I'm more optimistic than if they had said in 3 years.

#2: this is the one I'm excited about. Their news release makes it sound like a low-tech improvement that can easily be introduced into the manufacturing process AND, again, they gave a short time line. Plus, WSU, unlike a private company, IMO, is less likely to over hype their invention.

#3 & 4: this WILL happen. Generics WILL spring up. NiMH prices WILL drop due to generics. Large format NiMH WILL be produced for use in cars. Li ion prices WILL drop (slightly) due to price pressure from the generic NiMH. All those are pretty much inevitable.

The only questions are re. the "next gen" NiMHs (patent protected): how much energy, how much power, when will they be released, and for how much $$$?

5: Envia I'm hopeful about, but, due to its longer time horizon, feel less confident about. But, as today's news story says, ARPA-E supports them, so I'm feeling more confident they'll come thru than I did one day ago when I made that posting.

· · 4 years ago

as I figure it the cost of lithium batteries and the cost of day time rate electricity to recharge them is already cheaper per mile then gasoline alone!

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