VW invests in solid state battery technology for super long range electric cars

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Above: a VW hybrid, the XL1. New solid state technology could mean that we see electric versions of VW vehicles with 400 mile plus range

One of the disappointments of electric cars is that they need to be recharged a lot – not great when you consider the lack of car charging points around the UK. Even the new Nissan Leaf, one of the most popular electric vehicles in the UK, has a maximum range of just 124 miles.

However, now German car maker Volkswagen is looking at implementing new solid state battery technology that could extend range to over 400 miles on a single charge. Unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which have solid electrodes but a liquid or gel electrolyte, solid-state batteries have both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. They are burn resistant, do not spill, have a high energy density, and are less affected by changes in temperature than current generation liquid electrolyte batteries.

Despite only joining the modern plug-in vehicle market relatively late in 2013, German automaker Volkswagen now offers four different electric and plug-in hybrid models in various markets around the world, while sister company Audi offers a further three. By 2020, that number is expected to massively increase, with a goal to produce plug-in variants of most popular Volkswagen and Audi models in the next five years.

To achieve its aim, VW is working with QuantumScape, a company founded in 2010 by several Stanford University students, to develop a solid-state battery technology which could one day replace traditional lithium-ion battery technology which is used in most electric cars today.

Volkswagen acquired a 5 percent holding in QuantumScape in December and has been working with the firm since to expand and develop its solid state technology.

Even in its current form, QuantumScape’s battery technology is, according to Transport Evolved, believed to be capable producing a battery pack no larger or heavier than those found in current Volkswagen vehicles yet could yield a range in excess of 430 miles per charge thanks to its superior energy density.

Chris Price