Tesla supplier LG developing Li-S battery for twice the range instead of solid-state cells
LG Energy Solutions, the supplier of 2170 battery cells for Tesla's long-range performance electric vehicles which is also looking into the cheaper to produce LFP and 4680 technologies, will be investing in lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries. Korean industry sources divulge that it is planning to start mass Li-S battery cells production by 2027. If all goes according to plans, they may go into electrified planes at launch as they would need much lighter batteries with the same energy density as current ternary packs first.
LG may have given up on investing into solid-state batteries, it turns out, at least for the time being, as their mass production may still be some way off, unlike Li-S cells that can serve as a stopgap solution in the meantime. "All-solid-state batteries have many challenges to overcome and price issues, so next-generation products such as lithium sulfur are more advantageous in terms of commercialization," tipped one industry insider.
Instead of the rare and expensive nickel, cobalt, manganese, or other metals for the cathode, the Li-S batteries use light and affordable sulfur-carbon composites which can react with more lithium ions from the anode at once, resulting in much higher energy density at the same footprint as current batteries. The typical electric car powered by a Li-S battery, for instance, which can now go 250 miles on a charge, will be able to cover almost 500 miles with the increased energy density.
LG is developing ways to overcome the sulfur battery challenges like the shorter charge-discharge cycle lifespan before degradation, or the need for more electrolyte, and expects its Li-S research to be ready for the mass production stage in the next 3 years. Another reason that sulfur batteries may go to the aviation industry first is that they can keep their performance in cold temperatures such as the air at high altitudes better.
As for Tesla, if and when LG releases a battery with twice the energy density of the current cells it uses, it's fairly certain that Elon Musk's automaker will try and make a pass at it to secure long-term supply as it has been shown to hedge its battery bets with various nascent technologies depending on the type of electric vehicle they are to go into.