It's called investing in future EV tech.
Chances are everyone has heard of solid-state batteries but not all may fully understand the technology's long-term significance. Currently, pure battery-electric vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz EQS and Tesla Model S use lithium-ion batteries, but they're not perfect. One major weakness is they utilize organic liquid electrolytes, which are flammable at extremely high temperatures. Not only is this a fire concern but it's also troubling because firefighters have experienced difficulties extinguishing the flames quickly.
In contrast, solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte to regulate the lithium ions, thereby nearly eliminating the fire risk. They're also smaller, lighter, and are supposedly capable of providing 2.5 times more energy density, resulting in greater driving distance. Automakers like Toyota are already investing heavily in the technology and now Mercedes, per Bloomberg, has done the same.
Last week, the German automaker signed a deal with Taiwanese startup ProLogium that'll see it invest a "high double-digit million euro" figure. Interestingly, this isn't the first time Mercedes has poured money into a solid-state battery tech company. Late last year, the automaker, along with Stellantis, announced a significant investment in Massachusetts-based Factorial Energy.
Fellow German carmakers BMW and the Volkswagen Group have invested in separate solid-state tech firms. Ironically, VW was the first to invest back in 2012, three years before the Dieselgate crisis was exposed. Elsewhere, Nissan and Toyota are also focusing immense time and money into getting solid-state batteries to market, the former hoping to do so by 2028. Notably absent from the solid-state battery party is Tesla. Why is that?
The company credited with bringing EVs to the mainstream and currently the world's most valuable automaker believes solid-state battery technology is not attainable in the near term and, equally important, will cost too much. This would result in higher vehicle prices. Instead, Tesla is developing what it calls 4680 batteries.
Named after their small dimensions (just 46 mm by 80 mm), this type of battery can supposedly hold over five times the capacity of the current battery Panasonic supplies to Tesla. Assuming solid-state battery tech is achievable, it's fairly likely to first debut in luxury vehicles, like a Mercedes. Until then, lithium-ion batteries will remain the go-to EV power source.