Nissan unveiled Friday a prototype production facility for solid-state batteries, a critical step in the automaker’s bid to develop and deliver an EV powered by the next-generation battery technology by 2028.
The materials, design and manufacturing processes developed while producing the prototype at the Nissan Research Center will be used in a pilot production line at Nissan’s plant in Yokohama in 2024. Ultimately, Nissan is aiming to incorporate all-solid-state batteries in pickup trucks and other vehicles as part of Nissan Ambition 2030, its long-term plan for EVs to comprise half its global sales by the end of the decade.
Battery technology is seen by Nissan — and many others — as the key to unlocking cheaper, longer-range EVs for the masses. It’s prompted a growing list of automakers, startups and investors to bet on solid-state batteries, a technology that uses a solid electrolyte and not a liquid or gel-based electrolyte found in lithium-ion batteries.
“To further democratize EVs, the key innovation is the battery,” Kazuhiro Doi, head of Nissan Research Center, said in a briefing.
Nissan said that refining solid-state battery technology can make EVs as affordable as gasoline-powered vehicles by the end of the decade. Specifically, Nissan said all-solid-state batteries can be reduced to $75 per kWh in fiscal 2028 and to $65 per kWh thereafter, placing EVs at the same cost level as gasoline-powered vehicles.
Solid-state batteries have double the energy density of a conventional lithium-ion battery, which theoretically translates to longer range and faster charge times, all while using cheaper materials than other EVs on the road today. In addition to higher energy density, these batteries last longer and are considered safer than a lithium-ion battery. That’s why several automakers, including General Motors, Stellantis, Mercedes-Benz and Ford, have invested in solid-state batteries startups as they race to electrify their portfolios. Volkswagen-backed QuantumScape aims to begin selling them in 2024, followed by a production model from Toyota in 2025.
However, commercializing solid-state batteries for electric vehicles has proved challenging. Currently, the batteries are expensive to manufacture and difficult to scale.
And while the benefits are plentiful, even Nissan acknowledges that even batteries with a solid electrolyte are not without risk. A liquid electrolyte, which is found in today’s lithium-ion batteries, can be a fire risk. But doubling the energy density into a battery also could be dangerous.