Nissan CEO: How Solid State Batteries Will Be a "Game Changer" for EVs

Though Nissan could be considered a modern EV pioneer, launching the original electric-powered Leaf in 2010, two years before Tesla’s first Model S hit the road, it hasn’t really been much of an EV innovator. All that’s about to change, however, with the launch of a modular component set that will allow the company to build EV and hybrid powertrains at much lower cost, and a plan to have electrified Nissans with solid state batteries on the road within five years.

The modular component powertrain strategy, dubbed ‘X-in-1’, means Nissan will build series hybrid powertrains using the same components—an e-motor, inverter, and reduction gears—as used in its forthcoming pure EV models. Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida told the Financial Times Future of the Car summit in London that the so-called X-in-1 strategy will reduce the cost of EV powertrain parts and production by 30 percent over 2019 levels by 2026, and will be key to Nissan launching 27 new electrified models—19 of them pure EVs—by 2030.

Nissan has been experimenting with series hybrid powertrains, or powertrains in which the internal combustion engine is used as a generator rather than to drive the wheels, since 2010 when it built a Leaf-based series hybrid prototype. The clever part of the X-in-1 strategy is that the internal combustion engine part of the hybrid powertrain has been designed with the EV’s e-motor components integrated into its structure, along with an additional modular generator and associated gear set, reducing weight and size as well as cost.

Uchida says the design means Nissan’s series hybrid powertrain, which will be badged e-Power, will cost no more than a regular internal combustion engine and transmission by 2026 while delivering smoother driving with precise torque control as well as greatly improved fuel efficiency. However, Nissan engineers also believe they can get make their EVs no more expensive than ICE vehicles as well, partly through the economies of scale of the X-in-1 strategy, and partly through the adoption of solid-state batteries.

“Solid-state batteries will be a game changer,” says Uchida. “They have high energy density and will increase EV range, could reduce charge times by one-third, and could be significantly cheaper to produce. They will allow a larger sized EV with more interior room.”

Uchida says Nissan has already developed its first solid-state cell and will have a solid-state battery pilot plant in operation next year, with full-scale production scheduled to begin in 2028. The four-year lead time, Uchida says, is due to the complexity of the construction of a solid-state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte between the anode and cathode rather than the liquid used in most EV batteries today.

While most pundits say the first production-ready solid-state batteries for EVs aren’t likely to appear until sometime between 2030 and 2035, Uchida is confident Nissan can get there sooner. “We have a lot of knowledge of battery behavior knowledge and expertise from the Leaf that will help with the development of the solid-state battery. We are making very good progress.”

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