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Samsung Is Supplying This Electric Car Startup With Breakthrough Battery Tech

Lucid Motors plans to produce a 1,000 horsepower electric car by 2018.Lucid Motors plans to produce a 1,000 horsepower electric car by 2018.
Lucid Motors plans to produce a 1,000 horsepower electric car by 2018.Photo by Lucid Motors

Samsung SDI has agreed to supply electric auto startup Lucid Motors with lithium-ion batteries that the two companies say outperform what’s currently available in the marketplace. The joint deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, follows Lucid Motors’s announcement that it will build a $700 million factory in Casa Grande, Ariz. employing up to 2,000 workers.

The factory will begin producing 1,000 horsepower cars in 2018 and at least one variant will be able to travel 400 miles on a single charge, Lucid Motors chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson has said.

Samsung and Lucid Motors worked together on the development of the next-generation cylindrical cells. Tesla became an early standout in the electric vehicle space in part due to its innovative battery pack that is designed around small format cylindrical lithium-ion cells. Until Tesla, the electric vehicle industry had stuck with large format prismatic cells.

There are challenges with using small cells like the ones Tesla has in its battery packs. The cells require a lot of thermal cooling, sensors and wiring.

Samsung SDI and Lucid say the batteries “exceed current performance benchmarks in areas such as energy density, power, calendar life, and safety. Significantly, this jointly developed cell achieves breakthrough tolerance to repeated fast charging.”

Neither companies provide any more details on how they achieved these breakthroughs.

Battery suppliers are working more closely with automakers that are trying to develop electric vehicles. These deep partnerships are what can lead to cheaper, more efficient, more powerful batteries, which will, in turn, help make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers.

LG Chem’s collaboration with General Motors helped the automaker develop the new Chevrolet Bolt, a mass market electric vehicle that will get 238 miles on a single charge. Pushing the battery range past 200 miles in a car that costs under $40,000, has been viewed as critical for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Meanwhile., Panasonic has worked closely with Tesla and is the main battery supplier for its Model S sedan, Model X SUV, and its upcoming mass market car, the Model 3. LG Chem did help Tesla

Tesla engineers continue to look for new ways to cram more energy into those same small cells. In August, the automaker announced a new 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack that enables its cars to drive greater distances on a single charge and accelerate more quickly. Tesla didn’t achieve this by messing with the cell chemistry. Instead, the company’s engineers create a new battery cell cooling system and rearranged the electronics and battery cell architecture.

Lucid Motors does telegraph why an energy dense battery that can be fast-charged repeatedly without damaging it is so important.

“The breakthrough battery life demonstrated by the new cell from Samsung SDI will be of tangible benefit to our customers, particularly companies with ride-sharing services operating around the clock,” Rawlinson said.