Prologium: Solid State Battery Large-Scale Installation in 2022

Entering new energy vehicle market in 2021
Solid state battery has always been considered as a definite successor to lithium batteries. In the past few years, various manufacturers started acquiring solid state battery companies and laboratories, and, on occasion, there were news on some technological breakthrough, but in the end none of them reached mass production, not to mention mass installations in new energy vehicles. Now, Prologium believes that it will soon enter new energy vehicle market.

“We are the second solid state battery in the world to reach mass production”, says Prologium’s sales manager,” The first one was French Bollore. But they had some financial issues and afterwards there were no news on their project. If they stopped investing in the project, Prologium is the only solid state battery manufacturer with mass production left.”

Prologium started mass production in 2017 when its G1 factory in Taoyuan officially started fully automated rolling production. Capacity was 40 MWh, but it was mainly producing for consumer and wearable electronics products. G2 factory, also located in Taoyuan, is the one intended for new energy vehicle market.

It was supposed to be completed by the middle of this year, but due to the pandemic its opening might be pushed to the next year. Plant’s planned capacity is 1–2 GWh. Once we finish it, we will have our entry ticket to electric vehicle market, sales manager said.

If we assume 50 kWh capacity per unit, 1 GWh equals to 20,000 units. That is why I said entry ticket. G2 produced products will essentially all be installed in prototypes of various companies, manager added

In January 2019, during EV 100 Forum, Enovate presented its model that carried solid state battery. The battery was produced by Prologium. Likewise, Weima used Prologium’s battery on its prototype during an exhibition in 2018. As sales manager said, currently there are more than five companies that have signed MOU or started discussing cooperation with Prologium. This year, there were supposed to be more prototypes with company’s battery but due to the pandemic their presentation might be postponed until next year.

So, what is the battery’s performance like? What is energy density like?
When one mentions EV batteries, the first thing that comes to mind is gravimetric energy density. Currently, the most wanted NMC811 has the highest energy density recorded at 240 Wh/kg and battery pack density over 180Wh/kg.

According to company’s plans, Prologium’s solid state battery development is from nearly solid state batteries to all solid state batteries, which cells have less than 3% of volume in a liquid state.

In the beginning, they used LCO and graphite anode formula, but since solid state battery’s resistance is higher compared to liquid one, internal resistance is rather high, so the energy density still could not be compared with liquid batteries.

As sales manager said, in 2020, Prologium started to continuously adjust the materials, so anode went from graphite to silicon oxide compounds with high SiOx content (over 14% to 100%).

Around 2025, when we reach 100% SiOx ratio, gravimetric density of our mass produced cells will have a super visible advantage over liquid batteries, sales manager said and added that volumetric density will also be higher, because around 2022 it will surpass relatively high volumetric density of 21700 cylindrical battery and in 2025 it should reach 900 Wh/L.

Judging from these numbers, in the next year or two, Prologium’s solid state batteries will not have a very significant advantage over their liquid counterparts. Prologium’s CEO, Yang Sinan, is in no hurry at all.

When we increase SiOx to 100%, we can get 330 Wh/kg density. We already succeded doing that in the laboratory. Our R&D is already capable of making 330 Wh/kg, 850–880 Wh/L cells, but we are not able to mass produce them at the moment. Because we still need to arange some lithium enriching structural techniques. At the same time cells’ price is not really commercial, so we are looking into other, cheaper methods. If we are not able to induce them, although energy density can be increased, the cost will not be reduced, so it will still be a lab product that cannot be mass produced, Yang warned.

The Cost Issue
As Yang Sinan said, the product that cannot reduce the costs, even with the highest energy density, is still nothing more than a lab product.So, what is Prologium doing to solve this issue?

We are contemplating the cost of the entire battery pack. It can be divided into two parts — cell materials and battery pack structure, Yang Sinan says.

Since solid electrolyte density is relatively high, if placed in the same volume, its energy density will be poorer compared to liquid state batteries. In order to solve this issue, some companies use cathode or anode active materials with higher densities, but this in return means increased material costs.
If you only rely on materials to increase energy density, you will end up in paradox and not in the market. So, we have come up with MAB (Multi-Axis BiPolar technique). Whether it is blade battery or CTP, everybody is trying to solve the same problem — increase configuration efficiency as to solve energy density and cost issues without changing cell materials, Prologium CEO explained.

Based on Prologium measurements, by adopting MAB, configuration efficiency of solid state battery with NMC811 and graphite anode on gravimetric and volumetric energy density level is 82%-85% and 70%-75% respectively. Hence, its pack energy densities can reach 176–183 Wh/kg and 405 Wh/L. Consequently, although on cell level it lags behind liquid battery with NMC811 and graphite anode, the advantages of solid state battery are immediately visible upon configuration since its efficiency is relatively high.

Compared to costs that Prologium published earlier, when cell production capacity reaches 20 GWh, although cell cost is still 1.1 times of liquid battery with the same energy density, battery pack cost is only 98%. Further, if MAB is used, the pack cost is only 70% of its liquid counterpart. However, during the interview Yang Sinan updated these numbers.

We did not make improvements in manufacturing costs. Manufacturing costs refer to how much electricity needs to be consumed in order to produce one kWh of battery cell, CEO says.

Currently, the leading liquid cell producers consume 35–40 kWh to produce 1 kWh of cell. During trial production, we spend 178 kWh, around 4 times more. However, after we officially start mass producing, this number will fall to around 50 kWh. We have calculated that as soon as the mass production reaches 7 GWh, we can reach the price level of a liquid cell. So, the projects we are discussing with the government are all above 7 GWh. Of course, we will first start with 2 GWh and gradually transition to 7 GWh, Prologium CEO explained and added that recycling of solid electrolyte can further decrease the costs.

Oxide solid electrolyte has a very special feature called recycling into source. In other words, solid electrolyte used in cell A can be used in cell B after its surface is being processed. There is no need to pulverize it and extract the elements. You just add the crystals directly into cell B. After 1,000 cycles in cell A, when it is placed in cell B, it is in same condition. This means that on the oxide level, solid electrolyte can be entirely recycled into source, so its recycling cost is very cheap. Of course, we processed these solid electrolytes, so recycling will not be difficult. Based on this method, as longs as market size is big enough, the cost will definitely be lower compared to liquid electrolyte and separator.

Large-scale installation in 2022
After you make a product with parameters and costs that are acceptable to the OEMs, you enter the market and the next question is when do you start with large scale installations.

We plan to start with installations in 2022. Installed product will be VDA 590 or 355. MAB will come later. We aim at mass production and installation in 2024. VDA’s current energy density is 230 Wh/kg. It can compete with current mainstream liquid NMC811, 210–220 Wh/kg cells. Also, under 5C conditions, we can achieve 80% charge in 12 minutes or 50%-60% in 8 minutes. And once you add safety, you get all of our advantages, CEO said and revealed that in the second half of this year they will decide on factory location where they should have 2 GWh capacity by 2022 and 7 GWh by 2023.

As mass production progresses, we will gradually reduce production of G2 in Taoyuan and enter market with higher gross margin. After all this line is for prototypes, CEO said.

Although, in 2022, when mass production and installation begin, the cost of the battery compared to liquid counterpart will be 1.2 times higher because the volume will be small and MAB will not be used. There are already many auto OEMs that signed framework agreements on demo operation with Prologium.

We learned that there are around 6 companies that signed framework agreement, including FAW, which participated in Prologium’s recent D-financing round.

FAW tested our products and we received a relatively positive feedback on technical parameters. At the same time, we introduced them to our entire production and product line. That is the reason why FAW invested in us. Beside FAW, there are many Chinese auto SOEs that have signed with us as well as other overseas companies and startups. A lot of companies are willing to use new technology at a relatively high price. This is also a way of support for our brand. Although these are demonstrations, these companies will actually put these batteries into operation. Each company plans to use 3,000–5,000 units. As soon as the product receives a positive feedback from consumers, we will set up joint ventures, Yang Sinan said.

Joint venture in this case means that OEM will bind itself to Prologium’s cell production line and this capacity will belong to the OEM, while Prologium will not change the price. In this manner, partnership OEMs will not get in trouble due to scarce production capacity or price volatility, and Prologium will not waste fixed asset investments due to changes in client demand. However, JVs are to occur only after 7 GWh capacity, around H2 in 2023.
Using this model, we estimate to have 35 GWh size by 2025, CEO said.

CATL is an important competitor
When the interview started, sales manager told us that Prologium was founded 14 years ago and that they only develop solid state batteries. So, it is imperative they succeed.

We have only this product, so we have to put all our energy into it, manager said.

Before the interview ended, I have asked Yang Sinan one last question — compared to Toyota or CATL that have more room for trial and error, what are Prologium’s advantages and disadvantages.

That is a difficult question that we always think about. These two companies are not the same. Toyota is an auto company. Although they produce their own cells, they will not sell it to the others. Also, limits to sulfur technology still need to be researched. We have not been thinking about Toyota as they do not share their market share. We are aiming at the rest of the market.
Compared to CATL, our disadvantages are too obvious. First, they have a lot of resources. Second, they have a lot of money. Third, they have a huge market, CEO explained and continued, Whether it is semiconductors or displays, it is almost impossible for a small company to outrun big company. However, the battery market is different. Just think about it, ten years ago, CATL was a small company compared to BYD, but now the situation has completely turned. Why is that? Big elephants move slow and besides battery industry is special, CEO said.

Take semiconductors as an example. Manufacturing equipment and materials are more or less the same. The most important thing is improving production process. But battery cells are totally different. They combine materials, formulas, structure, processing, equipment, etc. In this universe, even a small change can cause a series of changes.

CATL’s global planned capacity is at 130 GWh, and it has a big capacity in China. If one day the industry suddenly enters solid state battery era, they will be in trouble. History has seen too many big elephants that were moving slow, Yang Sinan said.

Chinese original source: https://www.d1ev.com/news/qiye/115371
Translation/edit: MoneyballR

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