First I need to define what I consider a second generation battery. For me a second generation battery is one made by cells with an energy density of at least 700 Wh/L. In an electric car with limited space for a battery, weight is important, but volume is even more.
Tesla Motors already reached this value with the introduction of silicon to the graphite anode of their NCA cells, now used in Model S 90D.
Amprius, a battery maker for tablets and smartphones also has reached this value. Unlike Tesla Motors, Amprius uses NMC as cathode instead of the NCA. NMC has safety advantage over NCA.
Amprius is a Nissan’s partner, so we can expect their technology to be used by Nissan battery factory for the second generation Leaf.
Considering that current Nissan Leaf’s 24 kWh battery uses AESC cells with an energy density of 317 Wh/L, we can expect that second generation batteries more than double the current range of electric cars. Better aerodynamic and lighter materials like aluminium and carbon fiber will also help to improve electric cars range.
Now that I explained what I consider to be a second generation battery let’s move forward.
Which will be the first electric cars to use them?
The Chevrolet Bolt has production confirmed for October 2016. It will use second generation batteries made with new NMC LG Chem cells. It will have at least 200 miles EPA range, or 322 km.
Nissan Leaf 2.0
Carlos Ghosn already said that the second generation Nissan Leaf will be cheaper and will have at least the same range of the Chevy Bolt. Nissan will try to bring this car sooner than GM, its competitor in order to not lose the leadership in electric mobility. Rumours say we will get to see the concept version in 44th Tokyo Motor Show 2015, it’s just a month away.
Mitsubishi CA-MiEV concept
Mitsubishi said that by 2020, at least 20 % of their cars will be plug-ins. They still seem overwhelmed by Outlander’s PHEV sales success, but the little MiEV really needs an upgrade and I think it will happen sooner than later.
Tesla Model III will be unveiled in March 2016, and when that happens Tesla will start accepting money for the reserves, the clock is ticking for big automakers that don’t want to be left behind.
Electric cars with just battery upgrades
BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf for now will keep the same look but will have battery upgrades soon. Following the example of Nissan Leaf’s MY2016 with the upgraded 30 kWh battery.
Will plug-in hybrids cars survive second generation batteries?
My guess is no, an hybrid car by having two drivetrains is more costly and prone to failure due to its complexity. An electric car with real 300 km range and a working fast charger network will make hybrids, plug-ins or not, obsolete. They will be cheaper to buy, operate and maintain.
Plug-in hybrids only make sense now because current generation electric cars are using old battery tech that limits their range.