Tesla Semi's dream battery that can replace diesel as heavy-duty truck power unveiled by Northvolt and Scania
The creators of the first battery Gigafactory in Europe - Northvolt - have now unveiled an electric vehicle battery crafted specifically with long-haul electric rigs like the Tesla Semi in mind. The cell was developed in partnership with truck maker Scania, which gave input on what features it would like to see in a battery that could replace diesel as the fuel of choice for heavy-duty, long-haul applications.
First in the demand line was the cell's longevity, and Scania settled on a number that its semi buyers would be comfortable with, namely 1.5 million kilometers (about 932 thousand miles). That million-mile battery would provide what diesel does now - many years of operation plus torque in the low rpms - which big rig buyers would want to see before they pull the trigger on anything that is not a diesel engine.
Northvolt's cells that would go into such an 18-wheeler truck battery are of the prismatic "chewing gum" type, and have a capacity of 157 Ah each with nominal voltage of 3.6 V. Mum's the word on the exact technology and chemistry that Northvolt used in the development of the million-mile battery in partnership with Scania since 2017. According to Scania's CEO Christian Levin:
As the development of the battery cell started, we targeted high performance, low operating costs and long lifetime. We decided on a requirement for the cell to enable a 1.5 million kilometers long lifetime for a heavy-duty Scania vehicle. The tests show that this requirement can not only be met, but also exceeded.
The two companies also didn't specify what kinds of tests they did on the heavy-duty truck battery, as it would be interesting to see how it performs in cold weather like the one in their native Sweden. Operating an electric vehicle in freezing temps can easily half their range without preconditioning.
Scania's focus, however, seems to have been on the battery's longevity and the operating costs of a vehicle equipped with it, as its current electric rigs are mainly for "regional long-haul," like Tesla's Semi. Lifespan is what its customers would be more interested in, rather than range on a charge, since prematurely replacing a huge pack enough to power an 18-wheeler would be prohibitively expensive.
Northvolt also goes a step further, as usual, and derives the power for the production of the battery from renewable sources, lowering the carbon footprint of the cells by two thirds compared to current ternary batteries. The new cells are already being made at Northvolt's Ett Gigafactory in Sweden, while Scania is building a dedicated plant for the long-haul truck battery that will become operational later this year, manufacturing cells ready to go into its heavy-duty electric rigs.