Volkswagen has joined forces with printing press manufacturer Koenig & Bauer AG to develop a cutting-edge battery manufacturing process that could reduce cell production costs by millions of euros a year.

The process, dubbed ‘dry coating,’ can cut production costs by up to 50%, significantly reducing the price of EV batteries, Volkswagen’s battery chief Thomas Schmall said at a media roundtable.

“No one else can do this today,” he claimed.

The dry-coating process requires less energy as it eliminates the need for chemicals that require drying.

Tesla tried a similar process by acquiring a startup named Maxwell Technologies in 2019, although they had limited success and are still struggling with the cathode section of their cells.

Volkswagen has been quick to capitalize on its breakthrough in battery production, having produced several hundred cells at its pilot line using the new method.

The production process can be heavily scaled up, and the company expects industrial production to begin as soon as 2027.

Volkswagen said it hopes that the new method will be fruitful when combined with cheaper raw materials.

Some of the cell plants in Germany, Spain, and Canada will have drying lines, but the company can retrofit them, freeing up about 15% of factory floor spaces.

Cutting EV Battery Prices Could Supercharge EV Adoption

The reduction in battery prices implies that the average consumer will be able to afford EVs more easily.

That is because batteries are among the most expensive components of an electric car.

A battery might cost between $4,000 and $20,000, depending on the brand and model of your vehicle, according to a report by JD Power.

There are several reasons why EV batteries are costly.

For one, EV batteries are made up of several cells, each of which contains expensive materials like nickel, cobalt, and lithium.

The production and processing of these materials are expensive, and the current demand for batteries continues to put a strain on global supply chains, leading to inflated pricing.

According to a report from Statista, some 18 million EV batteries were in use globally in 2022. In comparison, there were only 11 million EV batteries in the previous year.

Image Source: Statista

Moreover, manufacturing high-quality EV batteries is a complex and technically demanding process.

Both the cathode and anode in the battery have to be made precisely to ensure they store and discharge energy effectively. This precision requires expensive equipment and specialized manufacturing processes.

Finally, the demand for EV batteries is growing rapidly as the automotive industry shifts towards electrification, which further puts pressure on battery prices.

However, advancements in battery manufacturing processes, raw materials procurement, and scalability will lead to reduced costs in the future.

This would make EVs more accessible and affordable, further contributing to the growing adoption of electric cars, which has been continually on the rise since 2015.

In fact, less than 3 million EVs were sold in 2020, while that figure surged to 10.2 million last year, data from Statista shows.

Image Source: Statista

How Volkswagen’s Dry-Coat Technique Would Work?

The current method of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries involves mixing graphite anodes and lithium-based cathodes, which are then coated onto a strip of metal foil.

The wet paste needs to be dried before moving on to the next step. This process is time-consuming, expensive, and creates a large carbon footprint.

Dry-coating eliminates the need for this drying step, which could save 30% of the energy used to make the cell and save gigafactory space by 15%.

Volkswagen said it solved the challenge of ensuring the cathode and anode powders are homogeneously mixed and stuck to the foil.

The company has tested the new process by producing hundreds of cells with the pilot line.

While Lithium-ion battery packs have been steadily declining in price for over a decade, last year marked a trend reversal, with an uptick in costs caused by supply chain delays and increased demand.

This has led BloombergNEF to predict that total pack prices may not reach the milestone of $100 per kilowatt-hour until 2026, postponing the decarbonization goals of car manufacturers and threatening large investments in new factories.

From the old-fashioned lead-acid battery to the emerging solid-state battery, there are several different battery technologies in the market, each of which comes with its own upsides and downsides.

Lithium-ion batteries, which use the reversible reduction of lithium ions to store energy, are currently the most widespread type of battery tech.

Most of today’s all-electric vehicles use Lithium-ion batteries. They are also used in most portable consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptops because of their high energy per unit mass relative to other electrical energy storage systems.

Other popular battery technology is ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, which refer to a type of capacitor that has a higher energy density compared to traditional capacitors.

These act as supplementary power sources as they can store energy in a polarized liquid between an electrode and an electrolyte, thus helping improve the performance of an EV battery.

Finally, there are solid-state batteries, which use solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte, instead of liquid or polymer gel electrolytes.

This allows this battery technology to offer solutions for many problems of liquid Li-ion batteries, such as flammability, limited voltage, unstable solid-electrolyte interphase formation, poor cycling performance, and strength.

According to recent research, solid-state batteries can hold 72 percent more energy by weight and 95 percent more energy by volume than commercial lithium-ion batteries.

While still development is at an early stage, many consider these the future of battery technology in EVs.

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