Porsche is setting up a new battery cell factory, called Cellforce, in Tübingen, Germany. The plant will be managed as a subsidiary of Porsche as part of a joint venture with Customcells and will develop cells using silicon rather than graphite for the anode material.
“We have already started in research and pre-development to acquire know-how and knowledge on cell chemistry, and the Cellforce Group company will have around 60 engineers in development and around 20 in production; the main focus, at least initially, is to deal with cell development and cell chemistry, ”said Michael Steiner, Board Member, R&D at Porsche.
But unlike other recent announcements from battery factories, Cellforce’s goal is high performance, not high volume.
“In terms of production, [it] will be small compared to all the gigausines you know, so we hope to have a generation capacity of around 100 MWh per year – that could be slightly more, ”Steiner told Ars. “In terms of cars, that should be fine, let me say, 1,000 cars a year. The type of airframe we are looking for is designed for motorsports and for high performance derivatives of existing cars, so it is a very suitable cell technology for high performance solutions, ”he said.
“If that works and we see the potential to reduce costs if we increase scale – and cost of sales doesn’t just have to do with chemistry but also with scaling – there could be a chance for a higher volume, but it is not. a task that I have entrusted to the team that has to start this new installation, ”said Steiner.
Porsche is looking for gains in gravity and volumetric energy density, but also wants cells that can run hotter than current lithium-ion, like the cells found in Porsche’s Taycan. These currently use a “low single digit percentage” of silicon in the anodes, but Cellforce wants to increase that percentage to 50% if possible.
“Cellular chemistry today is capable of [operate at] 50˚ C, maybe slightly higher, and we’re looking for temperatures above 70˚ C that support super-fast charging but also super-fast driving, ”Steiner said. (One downside to the new chemistry is that it doesn’t perform well below zero, which is a problem for road cars but not for race cars.)
Porsche was not ready to discuss exactly which race car could use these new Cellforce cells first, which is expected to happen around 2024. At that point, Porsche’s hybrid endurance racing program will be up and running. alongside his Formula E team. But in both of these cases, regulations don’t allow competitors to develop their own batteries, instead requiring everyone to use a specific battery. Which leaves me very curious …