There are two things that worry people when switching from a combustion engine to an electric car: price and autonomy. But new battery technologies show that 1,000 kilometers is no longer a utopia.
On average, each Spaniard travels by car a little over 40 kilometers a day. Consequently, all currently available electric cars would have to be plugged in at most once a week.
You don’t even need to charge the battery to 100% all the time. 80% is enough, especially since many vehicles can charge from 30% to 80% in less than half an hour. This can easily be done, for example, while shopping.
However, many fear that their electric car breaks down or have to interrupt a long trip for hours because the battery needs to be recharged.
Automakers cleverly use these fears as a selling point. They advertise their vehicles with especially long autonomy. The pioneer in the field of electric cars, Teslafor example, never tires of pointing out that its longer range models are still superior to all other electric cars.
However, competition between manufacturers leads to certain problems. The largest batteries can only be installed in equally large carsbut customers want small mid-range models that are around 30,000 euros.
Also, batteries are still very expensive. The more watts per battery, the higher the price, and customers are particularly sensitive to this: a difference of 1,000 euros is enough to opt for the competition.
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1,200 kilometers on a single charge
What is the solution? The answer lies inside the batteries of the vehicles themselves. More specifically, in the cells.
This is where the most innovative companies come into play. The automobile industry still lacks the necessary knowledge to manufacture batterieswhich is why many manufacturers have subcontracted this work to specialized companies even knowing that their research is slow and that it does not always offer the desired results.
So automakers, now pressed for time, are increasingly looking to the startup market. More and more often they find what they are looking for.
For example, Our Next Energy is one of the American companies that is attracting the most attention right now.
The developers of the battery manufacturer installed their batteries in a Tesla last year and achieved an impressive range 1,210 kilometers with a new energy storage system. According to the company, they have achieved this by doubling the energy density of the batteries compared to the original battery.
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The startup’s (naturally secret) technology impressed BMW so much that the Bavarians bought it in 2020.
One Next Energy has received $20 million, including from BMWi Ventures, the automaker’s investment arm. The first result of the investment is a battery for the BMW iX, the company’s electric SUV vehicle whose autonomy will go from the original 640 kilometers to 965 kilometers.
Better than Tesla?
There are also start-ups in Europe that want to extend the range of electric cars.
Switzerland’s Innolith, for example, is also studying the energy density of cells. The company claims to have already reached 1,000 watt hours per kilo in tests. By comparison, the energy density of a Tesla battery is currently about 250 watt-hours per kilo.
Can these energy densities also be achieved in mass production? For the moment, the Swiss company remains cautious. However, its product range already includes 300 watt-hour batteries. This would increase the autonomy of a Tesla from 630 to about 750 kilometers.
From a technological point of view, the American company SolidEnergy Systems, or SES, takes a different approach.
It is based on a solid-state battery in which energy is conducted through a solid conductive material instead of a liquid. According to the company, the energy storage system developed by SES should have a capacity of 500 watt hours per kilo, which would double the autonomy of a Tesla.
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However, the company, which was valued at $3.6 billion last year after going public, has yet to prove how well its technology performs under regular operating cycles.
However, the examples prove it: the automobile industry will not take the next technological leap alone.
It will be the startups, the same ones that are developing new batteries and designing the electric car of the future, who will ensure that the concern about the autonomy of electric cars is a thing of the past. Travel 1,000 kilometers in an electric car without stopping to charge it it will soon be a reality.