CES 2023: Battery Electric Highlights, Solid State, Solar

January 27, 2023

CES 2023: Battery Electric Highlights, Solid State, Solar

Real Innovation or Hypes and Promises? 

In January, I visited CES for the first time. Known as the largest consumer electronics show in the world, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the automotive space. Latest electric car and battery innovations or hype themes and marketing promises? Industry get together or just another auto show?

I was surprised to see so much “electrification content” spread throughout CES – from electric cars to boats to planes to battery and charging technology and solar. In fact, 31% of the automotive announcements at CES were dedicated to the “Electric Vehicle” space, followed by “Autonomous Vehicle”, “Infotainment”, “Connectivity”, “Component” and “Map”.

 

Don and I walk through CES with our critical “EV/battery industry expert” eyes. We are intrigued, but try our best to distinguish hypes from real and meaningful product launches and innovations.

These are our 2023 BATTERY ELECTRIC CES HIGHLIGHTS:

 

1) John Deere Electric Excavator with Kreisel Battery

My personal highlight of the entire show was the all-electric, battery-powered excavator presented by John Deere.

 

Electrification of Heavy Machinery

I am very excited about the electrification of heavy machinery, e.g. in agriculture, for construction equipment and especially in the mining area. The latter will help to make the process of mining raw materials for the production of lithium-ion batteries cleaner and thus improve the entire life cycle of batteries in electric cars by reducing the overall CO2 footprint.

No technical specifications were given for the excavator itself, which is still a prototype, but the high-voltage battery that powers the machine was on display. The battery pack is a commercial product of the Austrian company Kreisel, which John Deere recently acquired a majority stake in. Kreisel is also known for their impressive EV conversions! Arnold Schwarzenegger uses a Kreisel battery in his custom all-electric Hummer.

One of these 400V battery packs has an energy content of 63kWh (similar capacity as a Tesla Model 3) and consists of cylindrical 21700 lithium-ion battery technology with NCM cathode chemistry. Follow this link for battery nomenclature in case you want to learn more.

Individual packs can be connected in parallel or series to achieve an overall system of 400V or 800V respectively.

 

 

This is how the battery packs are installed in the John Deere prototype excavator in the area behind the passenger seat – they can be stacked vertically or horizontally which makes the setup very flexible and modular.

 

Immersive Cooling of Batteries

A very unique part of the Kreisel battery is the patented active immersive cooling and heating technology.

 

In the pictures, you can see that each cylindrical cell is surrounded by a black “Hollowblock” that allows a direct interface between the cell circumference and a non-conductive fluid that either cools or heats the batteries.

This is NOT the state of the art. In most cases, thermal management in today’s electric cars is an active liquid cooling and heating system, with the cells placed on cold plates, or as in Tesla’s case, with a flexible hose that cools from the sides. I have yet to see immersion cooling, i.e., a coolant in direct contact with the cell surfaces, in any commercially available electric car. It is usually developed for high-performance applications such as motorsports.

I am impressed with this solution – it allows extremely efficient and fast heat dissipation – and the design: direct contact with the cell environment without leakage, intrigues me.

An efficient thermal management solution like this enables

  • Longer BATTERY LIFE: With a temperature spread of only 1 degree Celsius across the entire battery, you get an extremely homogeneous temperature distribution – this is especially important for battery aging and longevity.
  • Faster BATTERY CHARGING: Obviously the more heat you can remove the faster you can charge your batteries. More efficient thermal management of batteries is just one way to make EV charging faster. Watch this video for more information.
  • Higher PERFORMANCE

If you want to learn more about Kreise’s battery definitely check out their website. They have lots of public information about their technology:

 

2) Stellantis Electric Truck with Factorial Solid State Battery

Stellantis finally demonstrated their commitment to the EV revolution by revealing their first all electric truck: the RAM 1500 BEV concept truck.

 

Electric Trucks

In addition to Ford’s F150 Lightning, Rivian’s all-electric truck, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado EV, the GMC Hummer EV or Tesla’s Cybertruck, we now have another option to choose from.

 

Powertrain Specs Electric RAM Truck

The platform was kept secret for the first two days of the show, but it was finally revealed after Stellantis’ keynote. My favorite part of EV trade shows is when the technology is shown, so of course we had to get a detailed look.

Here some technical specifications according to our visual analysis:

  • Dual Electric Drive

Two electric motors/inverters, one in the front, one in the back – for a full 4-wheel experience.

  • 800V Battery Pack

Skateboard design, no range information but the pack looks quite small – it seems to be one layer. Remember the higher the battery voltage, the lower the current at same power – this means reduced thermal losses and the capability to charge faster.

 

  • DC Fast Charging up to 350kW

This is higher charging power than many public DC fast charging stations can offer today, but it is the future trend and obviously leads to faster charging – Stellantis claims 100 miles in 10 minutes.

  • AC Wireless Home Charging up to 7kW

Stellantis is the first automotive manufacturer to offer a wireless charging robot that drives under the vehicle and charges the truck inductively, i.e. without connecting a charging cable.

 

Don’t be misled by the word “wireless” though. As the picture shows, the self-driving robot is connected to a stationary wallbox base with a cable: so when the robot drives, it drags a cable along.

 

The robot can provide up to 7kW of power and can be programmed to charge on off-peak hours when the price of electricity is lower.

They claim that with this technology they want to make it easier for their customers to charge at home. I can see how inductive charging could benefit public parking/charging as well as charging in an apartment complex, but from my personal experience, I can say that this is not a selling point for me for home charging.

Our electric vehicle is parked outside in front of our garage – on rough terrain – in snow and dirt. Plugging the charging cable into our EV takes a few seconds and has become a habit – it is very flexible for us to park the truck wherever we want – with the only limiting factor being the length of the charging cable – and allows easy charging for our guests with different EV brands. However, I admit that for some reason we very often forget to close the cover of the charge port when we start driving – a minor inconvenience!

  • Solid State Batteries by Factorial

The concept showed Factorial solid state pouch cells – what a surprise  – I definitely did not expect that!

 

We think they are very long pouch cells arranged into two columns next to each other. Each cell is separated by a compression pad to the neighboring cell.  The overall look and feel of the shown pack is extremely early concept phase! I am skeptical about their solid state battery announcement  – read more in a following article.

  • Thermal Management

From our visual inspection it looks like active liquid cooling and heating with a thermal plate underneath the pack. This is a picture from underneath:

 

I don’t know how Stellantis transfers heating and cooling to the cells themselves –  I could not see fins or plates between the battery cells like we can for example see in the Ford Mustang Mach-E LG modules.

3) Lightyear Electric Car with Solar Roof

Second time I saw a solar electric solar vehicle in person, and my first Lightyear 0. The dutch startup had the Lightyear 0 on display and we could get little glimpse – through a wooden fence – of the latest model, Lightyear 2 for which you can join the waiting list now.

In January 2023, after CES, Lightyear announced that it was halting production of the 0 model and that their manufacturer, Atlas Technologies B.V, was declared bankrupt. The startup would now focus solely on the production of Lightyear 2.

  • Solar Electric Lightyear 0 Specs

According to the website and displays at CES, following information for the Lightyear 0 was given

  • Aerodynamic design: drag coefficient of only 0.175 (for comparison Mercedes EQXX claims to be at 0.17), lightweight 1575 kg

  • Range: 388 miles (625 km) with a 60kWh battery pack and a solar roof
  • SOLAR ROOF: 54 sq ft (5 m2) solar area with ca 800 solar cells that can deliver 43.5 miles per day during perfect conditions. You can see that the entire roof, frunk and trunk are covered with solar arrays.

 

  • I really liked their way of explaining how solar charging works. In the graphics below you can see the comparison of EV conventional EV charging when you plug your EV in at home or public chargers (left) vs. solar charging (right).

  • The idea and goal of solar charging is not to charge your EV from 10-100% in a short time. It is also not meant to replace charging your EV at home or at public chargers. It is more meant to give you a little extra charge whenever the sun shines. As you can see this can add up to quite significant numbers throughout a couple weeks.
  • According to Lightyear their solar roof would lead to an additional 8245 mi (13270km) per year – with a solar charging speed of 1.05kW
  • DC Fast charging is limited to a charging power only 50kWh
  • All wheel drive with 4 IN-WHEEL MOTORS

 

 

4) Electrification of Boats and Aviation

  • “Flying Cars”

RYSE Aero Technology unveiled their prototype for a battery powered electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle called RECON. It is powered by 40kW V 52 electric motors and six independent waterproof, removable and rechargeable batteries which would provide a 20 min flight time. It has a top speed of about 63mph (100km/h) and an altitude of up to 400 feet (120m). It has a weight of 290lbs and a payload of 250lbs.

 

  • “Flying Boats”

CANDELA . Lifts out of the water. The battery pack is made of cylindrical cells with NMC chemistry and has a capacity of only 40kWh. It is located underneath the boat in the rear third of the boat and uses a chill plate to cool the batteries. With only 40kWh it can power the boat for 2.5 hours.

 

We will be back next year!

We really enjoyed the show, the technology and especially the people!