Can Japan and Toyota win the solid-state battery race?

Nikkei -- May 28
In the race to produce the next generation of advanced batteries for electric vehicles, Japan Inc.'s rivals are gathering.

Toyota Motor, the world's biggest car producer in 2020, has long been considered a front-runner to produce a commercially viable solid-state battery -- which would be more stable and faster to charge than the lithium-ion batteries used today by carmakers from Tesla of the U.S. to China's BYD. Toyota plans to announce a prototype of a car powered by a solid-state battery by the end of the year, seeking to launch a vehicle in the early 2020s.

But Germany's Volkswagen, whose sales narrowly trailed Toyota's in 2020, is at its heels. This year the German carmaker increased its investment in QuantumScape, a U.S. startup aiming to produce a solid-state battery. QuantumScape -- backed by Bill Gates and with a market capitalization of almost $11 billion -- said on May 14 that it and VW would decide this year where to build a pilot line for their joint venture to produce batteries. The aim is to establish a production line by 2024, allowing VW to launch EVs with the batteries the following year.

With electric vehicles established as a key part of global efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions, other automakers are raising their bets on advanced battery technology.

Ford Motor this month added to its investment in solid-state battery startup Solid Power. BMW is also joining the U.S. carmaker in the latest $130 million funding round, as the startup plans to supply these automakers with large-format cells for vehicle testing in 2022.

Toyota Motor's BZ4X Concept electric vehicle at the Auto Shanghai show in China in April. Toyota is aiming to launch 15 EVs by 2025. Reuters

In January, Chinese automaker Nio said its new sedan in 2022 will have solid-state batteries able to hit a 1,000-km range -- though many believe that Nio's planned battery may be half-solid and half-liquid rather than all solid-state. And South Korea's Hyundai Motor said in a conference call last month that it would mass-produce EVs powered by solid-state batteries by 2030.

- Nikkei