GM has released more details on its next generation Ultium batteries, including plans for lithium-metal (Li-metal) technology to improve performance and energy density. The automaker has announced that it has signed an agreement to work with SolidEnergy Systems (SES), an MIT spin-off developing prototypes of Li-metal batteries with nearly double the capacity of current lithium-ion cells.
As a reminder, Li-metal batteries replace carbon anodes with lithium metal, allowing lighter and more powerful cells. The challenge with the technology is increased resistance and “dendrite” filaments which tend to form on the anodes, causing the batteries to short and overheat.
Previous lithium metal batteries only worked when heated up to 175 degrees F, but SolidEnergy developed an electrolytic coating for a metallic lithium foil that operates at room temperature. The company also created a non-flammable liquid electrolyte with a lower resistance that will not create dendrites on contact with lithium metal. Using these advancements, he developed prototype batteries with the same storage capacity as a half-smaller lithium-ion cell. The company has also developed AI-powered battery management software designed to optimize the performance and safety of electric vehicles.
GM invested in SES in 2015 and has had a “close working relationship” with the company since then. The automaker itself has 49 Li-metal-related patents (with 45 more pending) and has shown its own lithium-metal battery cells. Last year, claiming today that it has completed 150,000 simulated test miles with the initial prototype.
Under the new development agreement, “GM and SES plan to build a prototyping line in Woburn, Mass., For a high capacity pre-production battery by 2023.” He said the increased energy density could allow for longer run time than current batteries of a similar size or comparable range in a smaller pack. This could help it reduce the weight and size of the vehicle, while freeing up space for additional technology.
“With this next-generation Ultium chemistry, we believe we are on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation increase in energy density and cost,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “There is still more room to improve in both categories. , and we intend to innovate faster than any other company in this field. “
GM’s first generation Ultium batteries do not add significant improvements to current battery technology, but with Ultium motor technology, they represent the future of GM’s electric vehicles. The company plans to introduce its first Ultium-based electric vehicles later this year, starting with the Origin of the cruise shuttle and followed by electric vehicles from Cadillac, Hummer and other brands. Next generation Ultium battery technology is still a few years away, but as we have learned with all new battery technology, many things could go wrong along the way.