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Hyundai’s been on an electric vehicle roll lately, with its Ioniq EV and Kia KV6 EV “breaking the internet” with sharp styling and attractive range and pricing. It looks like they’re about to take the whole thing a step further, with a new partnership with Factorial Energies.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What HappenedWhy It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.
What Happened

What Happened

Hyundai (and sister company Kia) have announced a partnership with Factorial Energies, a Boston-area technology company focused on creating solid-state batteries. According to a press release from Hyundai, Factorial Energies’ tech is “is safer than conventional lithium-ion technology, extends driving range by 20 to 50 percent, and is drop-in compatible for easy integration into existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing infrastructure.”

Why Hyundai Is Betting on Solid-State Batteries
Factorial Energy’s 40 Ah solid-state battery has a greater driving range per charge and is safer than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Factorial Energy

Solid-state batteries use a “solid electrolyte”, compared to a liquid or gel-filled electrolyte that current Lithium-ion batteries use. In theory, a solid electrolyte should yield more power density, allowing for a smaller, lighter battery in the same package.

Why It Matters

Historically, battery technology has been a main limiting factor in EV development. Being able to store the energy needed for long-distance driving is tough. We’ve come a long way, though, the stereotype of an old homebrew economy car chock full of car batteries slowly plodding along for maybe 45 miles just isn’t true anymore. Modern battery tech has allowed for electric cars to be quicker and go much further than before, but there are still issues with cost and weight. Drivers demand more range, which means a bigger battery, which adds weight, and hinders efficiency, as you’ll need more electrons to go the same distance. Solid-state batteries could remedy that conundrum. The technology promises a denser, more compact battery, that charges faster.

The tech sounds great, but there hasn’t been any real-world application in cars, on the market yet. Currently, the tech is only used in small-scale applications. It is hard to find a good solid electrolyte, as the solid electrolyte can crack when it expands and contracts during use. Factorial Energies claims to have sort of cracked (pun intended) the code, and they’ve got a solution that can reliably scale-up. Whatever they’ve got must have been enough to convince Hyundai to put serious money and manpower into this collaboration.

What To Expect Next

Hyundai isn’t the only one dipping its toe into the solid-state battery race. BMW and Ford threw battery startup Solid Power $130 million dollars, and have agreed to use the firm’s tech for forthcoming vehicles in 2030. Still, both firms’ products are still in development.

If Factorial Energies’ claims are indeed true, future Hyundai and Kia electric cars might end up cheaper, lighter, and with even more range. It will also be interesting to see how partnerships and collaborations between automakers and battery suppliers grow as the EV industry expands.

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