Hyundai Bets Big on the White Whale of EVs: Solid-State Batteries

They're safer, more efficient, and can recharge in a fraction of the time. Thing is, they haven't been scaled up for EVs yet.

Hyundai

Hyundai has announced the latest in a series of investments it's making in the United States that'll add up to a massive $7.4 billion on EV manufacturing and infrastructure by 2025. This new round is a specific partnership with battery specialist Factorial to push forward solid-state tech in electric vehicles.

Solid-state isn't an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, it's just a different way of constructing them. The benefits are longer-lasting batteries with much higher energy density and better thermal resilience. When you're building car batteries, those are all things you want—a battery that can withstand a large number of charge cycles, regular usage, and near-constant partial-charging (via regenerative braking) at the same time as operating. 

Because solid-state offers a more stable cell, it's been the white whale of automotive for years. Fisker announced it was going entirely solid-state for a supercar back in 2017, to be delivered in 2024, only to drop the idea completely earlier this year. 

But it's not just a startup buzzword. BMW has also made an investment in U.S.-based Solid Power to advance its own solid-state developments. Toyota is arguably at the forefront of the whole thing, despite having only just announced a production battery-electric car, having given its e-Palette vehicles solid-state batteries for the Tokyo Olympics and now testing a road car that uses a solid-state pack

Hyundai is teaming up with Factorial specifically to test its technology in vehicles, so this isn't a complete development partnership but one where they're essentially taking Factorial's already-developed battery product and getting it on the road. According to the release, "the companies will integrate Factorial technology at the cell, module, and system levels, perform vehicle-level integration, and co-develop specifications for manufacturing Factorial’s batteries."

Factorial says its technology is based on the FEST (Factorial Electrolyte System Technology) battery architecture, which has been scaled up to a 40-amp-hour cell that performs well at room temperature. EV batteries tend to produce far more amp-hours than that but it does show Factorial actually has a product. 

Hyundai and Factorial haven't given a timeline for when they see prototypes hitting the road but it's interesting to see a Korean manufacturer invest in the U.S. for battery technology. Korea is the dominant force in global battery making, especially for electric vehicles, and the government has made $35 billion of funding available to push the technology. 

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