• ’Factorial Energy’ is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology

  • The Auto industry is currently undergoing a paradigm shift with more and more EV's hitting the market
  • Electric car's today are mostly powered by Lithium Ion Cells
  • These cells have certain limitations with regards to the driving range and volumetric energy density that they can pack
  • Another challenge for this technology is with charging
  • EVs today even with fast charging take close to an hour or more to charge
  • And finding these high capacity chargers remains a challenge
  • A technology that could address most of the problems of EV's today could be Solid State Batteries
  • Factorial Energy is a company working on this break though tech. It is an EV startup backed by former chairman of Mercedes Benz, Dieter Zetsche. Swipe to read more about Factorial Energy.
  • Disclaimer: All images used for illustration purposes only

We interview the company’s CEO, Siyu Huang, who gives us an insight on where the rapidly growing EV industry is headed

LISTEN 10:56

The mobility industry as we know is about to change forever and for the better. We are right now at an inflection point when the entire Auto industry is undergoing a paradigm shift with electric vehicles. The big five of the industry, are investing pretty heavily, towards industrialization and the future of battery technology. Pretty much every major automaker has plans to go electric or introduce some form of the hybrid powertrain to their current product lineup. A recent post by Wall Street Journal says that automakers plan to boost sales of new E.V.s to 40% - 50% by 2030.

Overview

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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One of the most promising technologies that are said to be groundbreaking, for the future of E.V.’s, are solid-state batteries. It tries to address some of the most critical problems of the E.V. experience that buyers face today. They include range, re-charging the battery pack, and crucially, safety. Solid-state batteries are a disruptive technology, that has the potential to transform the entire landscape of the transportation industry.

What Exactly Is Factorial Energy Doing With Their Solid-State Batteries?

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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To find out more about this upcoming technology, who better to tell us about it, than someone who is actually working on it. Ryan Williams, from Targeted Victory, recently got me in touch with, Siya Huang, the CEO & Co-founder of Factorial Energy, which is a Solid State Battery Energy startup based in Woburn, northwest of Boston in Massachusetts. She gave me an insight into the future trends and trajectory of the E.V. industry.

Ms.Huang who got her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Cornell University has previously worked at Johnson and Johnson, before starting Factorial Energy. She also met the Co-founder of Factorial, Alex Yu, during her time at Cornell. Factorial Energy realized early on, that batteries with high energy density possess an immense amount of potential in the future.

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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EVs today even with fast charging take close to an hour or more to charge

And in this pursuit of high energy density and low-cost factorial has developed a cell, that strikes the right balance between safety, cost, and energy density. The firm that employs solid-state electrolyte’s in its batteries, recently achieved an industry-leading, industry-leading capacity of 40 Ah, from just one cell, which has a 97.3% capacity retention rate after 675 cycles at 25°C. To put that into perspective, an iPhone has a battery with a 3.5 Ah. This one performance metric should help improve the range by anywhere between 20% to 50%. The battery makers in house FEST or Factorial Electrolyte System Technology is at the core of this breakthrough cell. Their proprietary solid electrolyte ensures safe and reliable cell performance when used with high energy density and high voltage electrodes.

With that, I proceeded to ask Ms.Huang a couple of questions regarding Factorial Energy’s approach to Solid State batteries and the current and future trends in the E.V. Space.

Industry Insights by Ms.Siyu Huang

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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What are some of the misconceptions that people have about Solid-State Batteries?
The perception that people today have about this new technology, is comparable to the barrelling effect, where they just have a top-down view. There are some, who tend to have unrealistic expectations from the future potential of these new technologies, while, at the other end of the spectrum there are others who say that batteries that can barely last 10 cycles or can’t even be scaled up, is the next big thing in batteries. How can one say that this would be the next generation of batteries that would facilitate the future needs of mobility? As with any new technology, Solid State Batteries are also taking time to develop. Do keep in mind that, we are talking about a technology that is in the process of disrupting an entire industry that has been based on oil and gas, for over a century.

How are solid-state batteries different, to those found in a conventional Lithium-Ion battery-powered car like say the Tesla Model S?
Comparing a solid-state battery to conventional batteries is not an Apple-to-Apple comparison. It is defined by the cell chemistry and the cell’s energy density. Tesla uses a Lithium-Ion battery which certainly has its limitations in terms of volumetric energy density. Energy density is measured in watt-hours per liters (Wh/L) and currently, Lithium-ion batteries can provide up to 800 (Wh/L). Solid-state batteries have the ability to go further and develop upwards of 1000(Wh/L).

How do solid-state batteries perform in extreme temperatures, because don’t fluctuations in temperature, significantly affect the performance and range of batteries?
The performance of solid-state batteries in extreme temperatures still remains a challenge. As far as charging is concerned, having more favorable ambient conditions would actually be beneficial for topping up the battery effectively. As the industry evolves this issue will be addressed depending on how the various charging station facility companies collaborate with battery makers. One of the advantages of Factorial’s solution in its solid-state batteries is the use of a polymer-based electrolyte (SPE). Over time, we’ll get a better understanding of how the infrastructure can adapt to charging solid-state batteries.

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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What kind of shelf life or the number of charge cycles can we expect from solid-state batteries?
That definitely depends on the kind of vehicle and the kind of application that it is being used for. Several factors like the weight of a vehicle, temperature, affect the shelf life and charge cycles over the life of the battery. Since this is a completely new technology, it has not had enough time to have been put through long testing cycles, but when compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries, what is promising, is that the accelerated aging test of Solid-State Batteries is considerably lesser.

What about the raw materials used in solid-state batteries, are they easily available? What is the environmental impact of mining these rare earth minerals?
One of the biggest drawbacks of regular Lithium-Ion batteries is with regards to safety. You can obviously pack in higher and higher energy densities, into these batteries, however, that does nothing but impede the safety aspect of the battery pack. Factorial’s solution is to use alternative materials likeNickel, rather than the controversial cobalt which is sourced from politically and economically unstable regions of the world. The adoption of materials like Nickel in batteries, moving forward, helps reduce the dependence and hedge the risk of future supplies of raw materials like Cobalt.

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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Disclaimer: All images used for illustration purposes only

Which Automakers and OEMs are you working with?
At present, it is difficult to give specific details, although Factorial is currently collaborating with the top 5 out of 10 Automakers & OEMs, based in Europe South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Factorial obviously wants to have a global reach and right now, is working on deepening relationships with these OEMs to pave the way for the future of electrification.

Do Solid-State Batteries have any other applications apart from mainstream cars, like in freight fleets, semi-trucks, or even light aircraft?
The idea of using Solid State Batteries in other applications, certainly does hold promise, but for the moment it is not strategic enough to develop this technology because of the status of the charging infrastructure and the nature of this industry. For the moment other battery types like Lithium Metal Batteries and Metal Hydride Batteries are more suited to applications in commercial vehicles. Solid-state batteries still haven’t gotten to a point where they could be used on such a large scale. For instance, commercial vehicles are not as sensitive to the range, when compared to passenger vehicles. At present, commercial vehicles with some off-the-shelf passenger vehicle batteries with Battery Management Systems or BMS are under test.

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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By when can we expect some form of prototype vehicle powered by a Factorial Energy battery pack?
Factorial Energy should have one of their Solid State batteries in a working prototype by 2023 and will be able to scale it up to mass production levels by late 2025 or 2026 at best.

By when can we see the cost of solid-state batteries coming down and widespread EV adoption?
Industrialization and widespread commercialization will take time because the supply chain needs to be optimized in order to handle the large-scale production of new technology like solid-state batteries. All of the stakeholders will have to collaborate in order to make this work.

Where do you see the EV industry in about a decade’s time?
The E.V. industry could easily become a sector with valuations running into the billions in about a decade’s time. The big five of the auto industry are investing heavily in this technology and for good reason, however, there are now also a burgeoning array of start-ups who are also focusing on the E.V. space, that stand to gain from this new boom in the mobility industry. Even small start-ups stand a chance to actually ride this wave. The industry as a whole is excited about these new developments and there is definitely room for more than one kind of technology to co-exist.

What’s next for Electric Vehicles?

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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Believe it or not, electric cars have been around for over a hundred years, although they’ve made a comeback only recently. If you would have asked someone 10 years ago, as to what they thought about E.V.’s, the answer you would have most probably got was that they were boring. Electric power was mostly used on milk floats. The choice of electric cars back then was quite abysmal, with just a handful of options from Toyota, & G.M.

That is until Tesla hit the block in 2008 with the original Roadster and changed everything. With that, a new chapter began for electric vehicles. We can most certainly credit the American automaker for showing us that E.V.’s don’t have to be boring and can be cool. While Tesla uses traditional Lithium-Ion cells in its battery pack, there are limitations to what these cells and technologies can do. In fact, addressing these key problems might just be the answer to widespread E.V. adoption.

Conclusion

'Factorial Energy' is One Of The Fore Runners In Solid State Battery Technology
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Factorial Energy is a company working on this break though tech. It is an EV startup backed by former chairman of Mercedes Benz, Dieter Zetsche. Swipe to read more about Factorial Energy.

Factorial Energy currently has a strong team with some key figures in the Automotive Industry, like Dieter Zetsche, the former Chairman of the Board of Management at Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz, Mark Fields, the former Ford Motor Company President, and CEO as well as Harry Wilson, former Senior Advisor from the Obama Administration’s Presidential Task Force on the Automotive Industry and Joe Taylor, former CEO of Panasonic, North America, backing the company

A recent survey conducted earlier this year shows how the public is actually warming up to the idea of an EV. Solid-State batteries certainly do hold a lot of promise and the technology has the potential to solve some key issues that E.V.’s face today. Different chemistries and materials for these cells are still being researched and tested as we speak and we’ll have to wait and see as to how the Automotive Industry adapts and evolves over the coming decade.

Khris Bharath
Khris Bharath
Khris is a classic car aficionado and adores his Jags and Alfas, although he keeps tabs on everything from super exotics like an old EB 110 to the latest from Lucid. Formula One is very close to his heart, and he diligently makes time to tune in for the Grand Prix on Sundays. Khris also loves his road trips and he prefers stick shift over an Auto any day.  Read full bio
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