Three Ways EV Battery Manufacturers Can Get an Edge Over Tesla

A new, binder-free electrode process means EV battery manufacturers can accelerate their technology without overhauling their existing operations.

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) reached 2.1 million globally in 2019, a 40% year-over-year increase in its share of total car sales. As the variety of consumers in the EV market grows, new battery technologies that make EVs as affordable as traditional cars may be the tipping point to wide scale adoption.

However, EV battery manufacturers continue to face an uphill battle against the closed-doors innovation juggernaut, Tesla Inc. Indeed, Tesla has developed core competencies around its unique batteries that place the company ahead of most competitors.

Fortunately, revolutionary developments in traditional EV battery components put quality, performance, and affordability within reach of manufacturers in the broader competitive EV battery market. Here’s a look at how the EV battery market is transforming in their favor.

Batteries Represent the EV Industry’s Most Competitive Field

As we shared previously, the battery is both the most important and most expensive component of modern EVs. More than any other vehicle component, EV batteries contribute directly to key performance indicators, and they are the best focal point for overall EV improvements. That makes EV battery innovation the most competitive field in the industry.

For years, Tesla has tipped the competitive scales in its favor. But today, battery and electric vehicle manufacturers have new opportunities to exceed its KPIs in three critical areas—energy density, cost, and operational requirements—through a new, binder-free electrode process. Heavy duty progress needn’t require fundamental changes to how EV-battery OEMs already manufacture their products, either. Here’s a look at three ways this new technology can work to their advantage.

1. Improve Energy Density at the Ion-Battery Cell Level

Energy density remains the most important metric in lithium ion batteries. Energy density represents the amount of energy found within a battery per its weight and volume—the higher the energy density, the longer the range of the vehicle compared to similarly-sized batteries. Higher energy density gives OEMs more flexibility in terms of the total weight and size of their batteries as well, allowing for improved performance.

Energy density technologies have improved at a rapid pace over recent years. Common EV models in 2019 displayed battery energy density 20% to 100% higher than their counterparts in 2012, IEA reports. Still, the cost of EV batteries are yet to drive down the overall cost of EVs to become affordable for most consumers.

But new technologies allow traditional EV battery manufacturers to achieve similar levels of energy density, without fundamentally changing the ways they make batteries. A new electrode process that excludes polymer (PVDF) binders allows OEMs to increase energy density at the cell level. Thanks to an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional solvents, manufacturers can increase energy density by as much as 20% and improve other performance metrics: faster charging, faster discharging, and better vehicle performance.

We don’t use those polymers, because we came up with a new technology that exists in a carbon matrix and acts as a binder,” says Nicolo Brambilla, CTO at Nanoramic Laboratories. “It’s very electrically conductive, which means even if we have thick electrodes, we have higher energy, higher efficiency, and faster charging,” where fast discharging remains a key trouble spot for dry cell batteries.

2. Reduce the Cost of the Battery

Battery cost contributes an enormous amount to the total cost of an electric vehicle—reaching 50% or more of the total EV cost, in some cases. In this way, the cost of the battery is as important as energy density.

Battery costs have decreased more than 85% since 2010, IEA reports. But in order for OEMs to remain competitive, the cost of their batteries must continue to go down and reach the consumer affordability threshold.

The new, binder-free electrode technology can help OEMs meet that same target, or even exceed it based on some simulations. Results suggest the new technology may reduce batteries’ energy cost to below $100 per Kilowatt hour (kWh) - a huge achievement in the industry.

First, high energy density in each single cell means more active material in each cell, reducing a battery’s cost-to-energy ratio. Also, OEMs can replace the polymer binders and primers that hold traditional EV battery electrode material together with an advanced, 3D nanoscopic carbon binding structure - a cost - effective solution made from widely available and sourceable materials.

It’s this combination of performance, value, and affordable sourcing that makes the new technology cost-effective in principle. It’s the fact that traditional EV manufacturers can adopt this technology without overhauling their existing processes that makes it achievable in a competitive way.

3. Leverage Existing Facilities and Processes, with Better, More Competitive Results

Over the next five years, automakers will release 200 new electric car models in new segments of the market—sport utility vehicles (SUVs) being among the most noteworthy—to meet growing consumer demand. Fortunately, OEMs with factories equipped with solvent-based processes can reap the benefits of advanced 3D nanoscopic carbon binding using the same equipment they use today. In other words, OEMs with existing infrastructure have the advantage. This puts the competitive threshold within reach for EV battery OEMs the day they decide to adopt this new process.

Small Changes Mean Big Progress for EV Battery OEMs

These seemingly small changes mean groundbreaking results for battery OEMs, EV manufacturers, and consumers who will one day buy EVs to replace their combustion engine ancestors. Simple improvements to existing processes and materials accelerate its competitors with minimal upfront investment.

Nanoramic® Laboratories is the creator and exclusive designer, manufacturer, and licenser of Neocarbonix™ electrodes, the advanced 3D nanoscopic carbon binding in question. Manufacturers across industries trust Neocarbonix™ technology to reduce production costs and boost battery performance for business-critical applications. Contact us and discover what Neocarbonix™ can do for your EV battery today.

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Nanoramic Interview at IDTechEx