Toyota, Samsung accelerate toward better EV batteries

Korean champ promises solid state kit that makes Li-Ion look flat by 2027

Samsung's SDI battery-making unit has announced it will start mass production of solid state batteries in 2027, and that the parts it pushes will have energy density of 900 watt-hours per liter (Wh/L), a figure lithium-ion batteries struggle to match.

Solid state batteries are also more resilient than lithium-ion affairs, which become less efficient over time and can also catch fire after even slight damage.

Samsung also touted batteries with a 20-year lifespan and the ability to charge to 80 percent capacity in nine minutes.

Again, those specs leave lithium-ion batteries looking flat. If Samsung can produce its solid-state powerpacks in sufficient quantities, it could give the electric vehicle market a jolt by increasing range.

Sadly, Samsung's not offered detailed specs of what it will ship in 2027, saying only it will vary output based on demand. Auto-makers are necessarily cautious before adopting new technologies, so these batteries are unlikely to appear in 2027 model vehicles.

Toyota, however, has more immediate plans for EV batteries. The Japanese giant on Tuesday announced that it will take over its 28-year electric battery joint venture with Panasonic.

For an undisclosed sum Primearth EV Energy (PEVE) will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota beginning in late March in an effort to "strengthen its capabilities in mass-producing automotive batteries," according to the Japanese automaker.

PEVE mass produces prismatic nickel–metal hydride (Ni-MH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery packs for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), including the Toyota Prius. Plans are currently underway for the company to also tackle battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Toyota said the product expansion will allow it "to respond flexibly to growing battery demand, while also helping to further boost mass-production competitiveness."

PEVE will not be the only Toyota-backed company making BEV and PHEV batteries, as fellow Panasonic joint venture, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions (PPES) already tackles those markets.

Toyota currently sources its BEV batteries from PPES and China's CATL. The former of which Toyota is still spending money on. Itpledged $2.5 billion to expand a PPES battery factory in North Carolina in 2022

Panasonic has also been ploughing money PPES. Last summer, itliquidated its Liquid Crystal Display business and put the funds into a PPES battery factory.

Four-year-old PPES is 49 percent owned by Panasonic HD and 51 percent owned by Toyota, while PEVE is 80.5 percent owned by Toyota and 19.5 percent owned by Panasonic.

When PEVE opened for business in 1996, it was a 60-40 joint venture and Panasonic held the majority stake. Two buyouts over the years saw Toyota take a bigger chunk and then further reduce Panasonic's hold.

Toyota's positioning to have more control of battery output comes as the company charges forward toward a sales target of 1.5 million EVs by 2026.

Despite its long-term investment in PEVE and shorter-term investment in PPES, Toyota is perceived as being slow to EV adoption. In 2023, the company even changed CEOs to access more EV smarts as . Akio Toyoda was replaced by former Lexus head Koji Sato.

Toyoda remains on Toyota's board and still swears the electric car segment will only ever account for a maximum of 30 percent of the market.

Whether that's true or not, Samsung is making big bets on batteries – both with the announcement reported above and by buying a chunk of a mine that produces battery-making materials. Ford, General Motors and other car makers have made similar moves.

Which makes merely operating a battery factory look quaint. ®

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