Honda and GM issued a press release stating they are ending their partnership aimed at co-developing core technologies required for inexpensive battery electric vehicles.
The partnership was announced in April 2022 and was expected to yield products for both makers by 2027 using a battery technology created by GM and LG Chem. It isn’t clear what contributed to the cancellation more… Lack of progress in lowering the price per KwH of the batteries, supply of the batteries or demand for the products they were currently used in within GM’s lineup (Blazers, Silverados, Hummer and Lyriq).
If you’ve ever watched a video of someone performing a battery pack swap in a vehicle, these packs are surprisingly complex. There are several subcomponents within them that monitor heat, power drain, charge rate, etc. Conceptually, it would seem like the task of creating a giant 400v battery out of individual cells is just a simple application of Ohms law and parallel / series addition of voltages and current. For example,
Tesla uses cells storing 4.167 volts that can deliver 3.1 amps or 3.28 amps each
6 cells connect in series to yield 25 volts
74 sets of of these 25v series are connected IN PARALLEL in a single battery module yielding about 229 amps of current
each module has monitoring circuitry to monitor drain, charging, temperature and is individually liquid cooled
16 of these modules are managed together as the full pack yielding 400v
The problems makers are encountering is that the charging performance, drain performance and internal temperature behaviors are all affected by battery chemistry, physical layout and proximity, ambient temperatures and internal heating / cooling approaches used. None of the analysis is easy and any change in design can trigger BILLIONS in re-investment in either the battery design itself, the battery manufacturing or the design of the chassis of the vehicles accepting the battery packs.
I hope someone is working inside some of these firms to create a documentary of the “BEV wars”. It would be a fascinating look inside both the engineering problems and the business management problems.
Elon Musk summarized it brilliantly, “Prototypes are easy. Production is hard.”
First they scoffed at Tesla. Seeing Tesla’s progress they decided to get on the bandwagon and made grandiose pronouncements. Then reality set it, delivering is hard. Clayton Christensen wrote a brilliant book about it back in 1997. One example was mechanical excavators being displaced by hydraulic ones. Not much different from ICE being displaced by EVs. Legacy manufacturers are too tied to their successful technologies to see the writing on the wall. Lockheed did and does it with Skunk Works, well removed from their main lines of business where they could live and work without interference.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
VW and Ford agreed to share EV platforms a few years ago. Along the way, I read that the two companies were not seeing eye to eye. VW wanted vehicles of a size relevant in Europe. Ford wanted huge USian size barges. Ford will be introducing two VW based SUVs in Europe, but then going it’s own way with an in-house platform.
Can’t help but wonder if the Honda/GM deal came apart over the same size/price issues, given the US automaker’s obsession with ramping size and price to the moon.
And it appears there are too many batteries being made. From earlier this week:
In its earnings report released Monday, Panasonic confirmed that it had slowed down automotive battery manufacturing over the last quarter to reach “an appropriate inventory level, in response to rapidly-reduced demand.” The company also reduced its full-year profit guidance by 15% for the battery segment despite noting that it would continue to prioritize its electric vehicle operations.