South Korean battery-maker Samsung SDI added to the recent flurry of electro-mobility news by announcing its "high-energy density battery cell of the next generation" at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan on Monday.
The car battery will carry an electric vehicle 600 kilometers (about 373 miles), the company said, and has the ability to fast-charge 80 percent of that capacity in 20 minutes. That would beat the current standard bearer for range, Tesla's top-shelf Model S P100D, which boasts 337 miles of range. It also surpasses Tesla's 120-kilowatt Supercharger, which can load up 130 miles of range in 20 minutes, or 170 miles in 30 minutes.
Three points, however, mitigate the impact of Samsung's announcement.
First, the company unveiled its 600-kilometer battery last year at the show, so that range isn't new.
Second, Samsung said last year that the 600-kilometer batteries would hit commercial production in 2020. This year, that date has been bumped to 2021.
Third, the 20-minute fast-charge claim needs additional context, said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research's director for energy storage.
"The 'fastness' of charging is as much dependent on the charging infrastructure as it is on the EV batteries," he wrote in an email Monday.
Assuming these batteries make it out into the world in five years, there will need to be serious progress in charging-station technology and deployment to take advantage of them. Right now, the expectation is to have 150-kilowatt chargers on the market in the next two years, which will provide roughly 200 miles of range in under 30 minutes, Manghani noted.
Samsung wants to put about 300 miles' worth of electricity in the battery in 20 minutes. We'll see how far along the chargers are by 2021.
This news, then, won't singlehandedly change Samsung's position on the EV battery supplier leaderboard. Panasonic has the lead, bolstered by the partnership with Tesla, and LG Chem follows, with support from more traditional carmakers like General Motors, Renault SA and Daimler AG.
"Panasonic took this really risky bet with Tesla that’s gotten them to No. 1," said Cosmin Laslau, senior analyst at Lux Research, in an interview with GTM in 2015. "But we also have a longer-term strategy that’s brewing from LG Chem, and to a lesser extent Samsung SDI, targeting the more established OEMs, that should really start to see some payoffs in five years or less.”
Samsung has deals with BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Fiat, to name a few. In December, the company revealed a supply agreement with startup Lucid Motors, which is building a $700 million factory in Arizona to produce 1,000-horsepower cars in 2018.
The company also showed off an "integrated battery module" concept Monday, which packs in twice as many cells in order to increase capacity and cut component units and weight by 10 percent compared to current models.
There isn't much more information on the module at the moment, but this sort of design can serve as a cost-cutting measure, Manghani said.
"An integrated battery module architecture can improve utility in high-capacity (or extended range) EVs by lowering battery costs due to lesser material needs, as well as by improving gravimetric and/or volumetric density, thereby making the EVs themselves lighter," he said. "Now, of course, that's countered by need for superior thermal management."
So there's no easy way for Samsung SDI to capture EV market share, but it's driving in the right direction.