It’s not uncommon to hear engineers describe the current crop of battery-powered EVs as a stepping stone. Lithium-ion technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but electric cars aren’t expected to really hit the mainstream until solid state batteries are introduced - widely considered the next step in battery-powered models. Recent predictions put their arrival down for sometime this decade – but NIO has slashed the estimates with confirmation that it will introduce a 150kWh solid state battery to its range next year, starting with the new ET7 saloon, beating rival QuantumScape (a Volkswagen and Bill Gates-backed US battery-maker) by perhaps two years.
Shanghai-based NIO predicts that its 150kWh battery will be available with the ET7 from Q4 2022, giving the flagship a range of 1000km (621 miles), according to the NEDC test. Even allowing for some NEDC optimism, that’s easily more than double the range of a Model S Long Range, and right up there with the most economical petrol-powered cars on the road today. Take the EcoBoost Ford Fiesta, Britain’s best-selling car, which was found to be capable of 821 miles to a tank in a 2018 study handled by Euro Car Parts.
With its solid state technology powering two motors – a 180kW permanent magnet motor in the front and a 300kW induction motor in the rear – NIO said its sleek ET7 saloon doesn’t have to sacrifice on performance to enable its enormous range. The setup is said to produce 644hp and 627lb ft of torque, and be capable of a 0-62mph sprint time of just 3.9 seconds. It won't be an out-and-out performance car, though, with the five-metre four door more focused on comfort and autonomous driving technology. The interior has digital architecture that uses artificial intelligence to ‘learn’ its user’s preferences and the body is sculpted so it has a drag co-efficient of just 0.23.
Still, the biggest breakthrough in the ET7 – NIO's first saloon – are those batteries, which will be 50 per cent denser than current iterations. NIO claims the density of the solid state hardware is rated at 360Wh/kg. By comparison, the Tesla Model 3 lithium-ion battery pack is rated at 170 Wh/kg, and Elon Musk’s company is working on next-gen lithium-ion batteries with dry electrode-coating and a higher nickel content, that’ll be rated at 247Wh/kg.
The ET7 will also be offered with lower-spec batteries, starting with a 70kWh pack, which will give it an NEDC range of “over 500km”, which equates to 311 miles. A 100kWh pack will enable 700km/435miles by the same measures. The ground-breaking solid state tech is also expected to rapidly decrease charge times for NIO’s electric vehicles and, we’re told, extend overall battery life. The Chinese company hasn’t revealed any details on those things for its solid state batteries just yet, but industry estimates suggest the tech could cut the current high-voltage lithium-ion best charge times of around 25 minutes for 80 per cent to around 10 minutes. And that’s for a full, 100 per cent charge. Of course, this all relies on the infrastructure being in place to supply said capabilities to cars on the road – but, as ever, that’s for another story...
1 / 2