Car makers scramble for crucial battery breakthrough

Firms see solid state batteries as the future

Car makers are in a race against time to develop next-generation battery and electrical systems that can deliver a competitive advantage, according to BMW’s outgoing head of marketing Ian Robertson.

At present, the electric cars on sale deliver broadly the same range and performance, with pricing being affected by other aspects of the vehicle. However, Robertson believes some car makers are on the cusp of making breakthroughs that could shift the capabilities and earn them the edge over rivals. “We believe that the next few steps in development will turn batteries from a commodity into something delivering more of a technical advantage,” said Robertson.

“Ultimately, that advantage will probably even out again, but there will be a period where the battery capability will become a defining factor in choice.

“Today, car buyers will choose an engine based on different factors – its power, its economy, its refinement. Some are better than others, and there will be a period where customers will have a choice of battery performance in a similar way.”

BMW has a long-standing partnership with Toyota in developing battery and hydrogen technology, the latter having revealed its plans to sell solid state batteries by around 2025. Solid state batteries have the potential to deliver greater performance than lithium ion ones, while being smaller and potentially cheaper in time.

“I’m confident with where we are at,” Robertson said. “Solid state batteries are already working in the lab, but bringing them to production is proving incredibly difficult.”