SES Holdings shows off new battery technology for electric vehicles

When it comes to EVs, every automotive manufacturer wants to build one with the longest driving range possible. The decision tree for which electric vehicle to purchase for a shopper often comes down to a mixture of cost and how far it will drive per charge. SES Holdings, a battery manufacturer startup with a significant investment from GM, has shown off a new battery technology that could give future electric vehicles a significantly longer driving range.

SES is based in Singapore, and last week it showed off a lithium-metal battery cell with over 100 amp-hours of charge. By comparison, the typical modern lithium-ion battery has between 50 and 120 amp-hours. Significant research is being put into alternative technologies for batteries with the push worldwide to get drivers into electric vehicles to reduce pollution. As GM has found with its Chevy Bolt, the problem with modern lithium-ion batteries is that they can short-circuit and catch fire.

The new battery technology uses a lithium metal anode that could make the battery lighter while being more energy-dense. Less weight and higher energy density means a longer driving range per charge for the vehicles utilizing the battery. SES' battery tech is seen as a sort of bridge between current lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries. A solid-state battery is a type of battery that uses solid material rather than liquid electrolytes. The problem with liquid electrolytes is that they are flammable.

While there are companies out there working on solid-state lithium-metal batteries, the SCS battery is a hybrid that does use liquid in the cathode with a dry coating on the lithium-metal anode to help suppress the risk of fire. SCS will deliver battery cells to GM, Hyundai, and other automotive manufacturers for testing by the end of the year.

The company is also building a factory in Shanghai, China, that should be complete by 2023 with the capacity to produce tens of thousands of battery cells. The battery cell SES is showing off with 107 amp-hour is reportedly a marked improvement over technology shown by rivals. One of the biggest investors in SES is GM, and it knows from experience that traditional lithium-ion batteries can catch fire if the manufacturing process isn't perfect.

Currently, GM is involved in a massive recall of every Chevy Bolt that was built, and production has been stopped. GM says that production won't resume until the battery recall is complete and owners of Bolt EVs have received replacement battery packs. In addition, GM had previously warned owners of the vehicles against parking their cars inside of a structure or near other property due to the risk of fire.

At least a dozen battery fires were recorded due to battery short-circuits. GM and battery manufacture LG traced the cause of the short-circuits to miscalibrated robots on the assembly line. The robots placed battery components to close together, allowing a short-circuit causing overheating leading to a fire. So far, the recall cost is estimated to be around $2 billion, and LG is reimbursing GM for the costs. GM and LG are continuing to work together.