Press Release
Power Day: Volkswagen plans standard battery cell 2021-03-19

Volkswagen has just presented its technology roadmap for the battery and charging sectors up to 2030 at its Power Day presentation. The aim of the roadmap is to significantly reduce the complexity and costs of batteries. At the core of the plan are six “Gigafactories” throughout Europe.

With Volkswagen’s battery plans, complexity and costs are to be achieved primarily through a new, uniform battery cell, as the German carmaker explained at its Power Day event that lasted several hours. Although this cell has a uniform format, it can contain different cell chemistries that are adapted to the respective vehicle. Here, VW is relying on a prismatic cell.

This standardised battery cell is to be installed in up to 80 per cent of all the group’s electric vehicles by 2030. “For the remaining 20 per cent, a large manufacturer like Volkswagen needs specially adapted cells from suppliers,” says VW technical director Thomas Schmall at the Power Day. “But it is important that we use the same cell for 80 per cent. With this 80 per cent, we will then succeed in achieving the cost targets.”

The costs are to be reduced by 30 per cent on average, and even by up to 50 per cent for smaller vehicles. There is a simple reason why the savings are greater for entry-level BEVs: similar to Tesla’s announcement at Battery Day in September 2020, Volkswagen also wants to rely on LFP cells for its volume models in future. “These cells are cheap and robust, they can withstand many charging cycles,” says Frank Blome, head of the Center of Excellence Battery Cell. “This makes them very promising for vehicles with short ranges.” LFP for entry-level BEVs, solid-state as the “ultimate goal”

Volkswagen figures that in terms of cost reductions, up to 15 per cent is to be saved in the cell design itself, up to ten per cent in production, five per cent in the battery system and up to 20 per cent in material costs for the anode and cathode – adding up to the targeted 50 per cent savings in comparison to the current cell generation. The “consistent recycling”, starting from the pilot plant opened in Salzgitter in January, should also contribute to the cost savings in the long term – 95 per cent of the materials should be able to be reused.

“We will also use our economies of scale for the benefit of customers in the battery,” says Schmall. “On average, we will thus reduce the cost of battery systems to well below 100 euros per kilowatt-hour. This will finally make e-mobility affordable.”

Cells with a high manganese or nickel content are to be used for the larger and more powerful series of the Group brands, but the nickel-rich cathodes are likely to be used for premium brands because of the higher material costs. Battery expert Blome described solid-state batteries as the “ultimate goal”, which should then enable charging to 80 per cent in 12 minutes.

According to Blome, the solid-state batteries should not only enable shorter charging times for customers (on the 450 kilometres from Leipzig to Munich only 12 minutes charging should be required), but with their simpler construction they should also contribute to cost reduction – and also to a lower weight of the vehicles. The cathode alone in the 77-kWh battery of the ID.3 weighs around 100 kilograms. “We can then do without this weight,” says Blome. The proof-of-concept of the technology from partner Quantum Scape is there, but there are still some hurdles on the way to industrialisation – the battery expert did not go into detail here.

Porsche wants to take a special path with battery cells. The Porsche Taycan and the recently presented sister model Audi e-tron GT already have cells with a silicon-based anode instead of the usual graphite. As Porsche CEO Oliver Blume explained in his appearance at the Power Day, the brand will continue to build up expertise in high-performance cells, both for road sports cars and motorsport. According to Blume, Porsche will work on new materials, but also on more efficient cooling solutions.

According to Schmall, the board member responsible for technology, a new paradigm will apply to development across all brands: “Until now, we designed the vehicles and then developed the battery for them,” says Schmall. “Now the battery will be defined upfront and the car will be developed around it.” A common approach for a technology startup, but a big change for a previously vehicle-focused group like Volkswagen.

Since the company recently significantly increased its electric targets for 2030, with 70 per cent of sales to be purely electric cars this year, the demand for battery cells will naturally also see an enormous increase. Until now, the Group was aiming for about 150 GWh by 2030. Schmall now corrected this figure upwards: The VW Group alone will need 240 GWh of cells by 2030 – and wants to cover this demand with six European gigafactories, each with an annual output of 40 GWh. “By 2030, we want to start up a total of six cell factories in Europe together with partners and thus guarantee security of supply,” says Schmall.


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