Detroit, Michigan – General Motors has begun a joint development agreement with lithium metal battery innovator SolidEnergy Systems (SES). Solid-state batteries that eliminate liquid electrolytes should theoretically be safer, more power dense, and offer a longer electric vehicle (EV) range, however the materials used to make early models are very expensive.
GM’s lithium metal battery with a protected anode will feature a combination of affordability, high performance, and energy density. The initial prototype batteries have already completed 150,000 simulated test miles at research and development labs at GM’s Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, demonstrating real-world potential.
To accelerate Li-Metal battery commercialization, GM is working with several innovative companies and making investments that will allow the company to scale quickly. GM Ventures was an early investor six years ago in SES, a research, development and manufacturing leader of lithium-metal technology and aluminum-powered battery management software to optimize performance and safety. The 2015 investment was the start of a close working relationship between SES and General Motors’ research and development organization.
The joint development agreement is the next progression of that ongoing collaboration. As part of the agreement, GM and SES plan to build a manufacturing prototyping line in Woburn, Massachusetts, for a high-capacity, pre-production battery by 2023.
“Affordability and range are two major barriers to mass EV adoption,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “With this next-generation Ultium chemistry, we believe we’re on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy density and cost. There’s even more room to improve in both categories, and we intend to innovate faster than any other company in this space.”
The expected battery energy density increase could enable higher range in a similarly sized pack or comparable range in a smaller pack. The weight and space savings from smaller battery packs could lower vehicle weight or create more room for additional technology.
Part of the foundation of GM and SES’ collaboration on prototype batteries is GM’s extensive lithium metal battery experience. The company has 49 patents granted and 45 patents pending. SES will also bring its own lithium metal intellectual property to the collaboration.