It's been quite a while since we've heard anything from Sakti3, the Ann Arbor-based battery company that has been working on next-generation solid state lithium batteries for many years. Heck, even the company's website doesn't have any news that isn't a year old. Thankfully, our friend Jim Motavalli, who blogs for Car Talk, recently talked to Sakti3's Ann Marie Sastry on the eve of her company being named an affiliate of the US Department of Energy's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR).

In 2010, Sakti3 got $4.2 million from GM Ventures and Itochu and has garnered $30 million overall for the next-gen batteries, with the big difference being that these are printed on a thin film. Sastry told Motavalli that she expects the Sakti3 cells to be "half the cost of conventional li-ion, but with double the energy density and half the weight." Oh, and she says they'll be here in two years, well before the timeline that companies like Toyota are predicting for solid state batteries.

The short timeline is one reason why Sakti3 was so appealing to the JCESR, which is working on battery breakthroughs that are a decade or so away. Something in the near term would improve the next generation of plug-in vehicles before the really big changes come in the 2020s. There are caveats, though, about power delivery and reliability and you can read the details over on Car Talk and then see a promotional Sakti3 video below.



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  • 53 Comments
      skierpage
      • 2 Days Ago
      I think people are being excessively cynical. Envia's nickel, manganese, cobalt (NMC) cathode, the silicon anode that others are researching, and Sakti3's thin-film manufacturing are all complementary technology improvements to the lithium-ion battery that do better than current batteries in lab testing. It's impossible to know if they'll work in real life without tens of millions of investment, and to produce batteries in volume using them will take $100Ms in investment. It's similar to semiconductor process and display panel breakthroughs. Lots of ideas, enormous costs, and big risks in trying something new.
      • 2 Days Ago
      Here is a problem that comes up very often regarding reporting on new batteries: let's get the efficiency comparison straight. It is generally EITHER half the cost, OR half the weight, OR half the volume: it is generally not half the cost AND half the weight AND half the volume. Obviously, the best thing to do would be to compare apples with apples, and the mark is already well understood: just tell us, for 1KWH of energy storage, the cost and weight and volume. But here is a practical and important second issue: what are the manufacturing requirements for the technology? Unfortunately, it is possible that the manufacture of thin-film solid-state batteries might be functionally very different from the present lithium chemistry batteries. As exemplified by the Tesla battery plant announcement, clearly there is a considerable capital expenditure cost in building a battery manufacturing plant, and I doubt anyone wants to commit to some huge cost when tomorrow a different form of battery manufacture may be the better way to go.
      Santini Brice
      • 2 Days Ago
      how can you take seriously the speach of a company that use a civic with a veilside body kit XD
      hahiran
      • 2 Days Ago
      I'll believe it when it's nestled in my car and giving me 500 miles of range. The 1980's graphic above does not inspire confidence, though.
      Actionable Mango
      • 2 Days Ago
      Related ponderings from Cringely: http://www.cringely.com/2014/03/19/impending-black-swan-electric-cars/ Summary: There are dozens of battery improvement technologies currently in work that may or may not pan out. The moment any one of them actually becomes viable, EVs will completely disrupt the automotive industry. And he expects one of them to succeed in two years.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        The automotive industry is already being 'disrupted'. Yes, it could stand a bit more... but even without a major battery chemistry breakthrough... the automotive industry is forever changed.
          Actionable Mango
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Market disruption is a specific business term: "A situation where markets cease to function in a regular manner, typically characterized by rapid and large market declines." Neither of these things have happened yet. We are seeing the first signs of what will lead to a disruption, and I think that is what you are referring to. Cringely is saying in two years the disruption will happen. (Disruption according to the generally accepted definition.)
          Actionable Mango
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Market disruption: "A situation where markets cease to function in a regular manner, typically characterized by rapid and large market declines." That has definitely not happened yet. It will, but I think you are ahead of the definition. "A bit more"? EVs are a tiny pinprick compared to ICE sales.
        Rotation
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        That's not enough. The depreciation of the battery pack due to wear when charging it is more than double than the actual cost of the electricity you are putting in the pack right now. Even a doubling will still only make it a 1:1 ratio. It's gonna take more than a single doubling to really disrupt the ICE cars.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Rotation
          It is all a matter of time. This is not the 'false start' of the EV-1 days. EVs are here. Even if battery tech were to follow the same 'gradual increase' in density that we have been seeing over the last 10 years... the EVs will continue to grow their share of new cars being sold. Without a breakthrough, it will just take much longer, and require more infrastructure. ICE cars are already "disrupted" and are well on their way to a niche-only status.
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Days Ago
      Like all research projects, they all seem to take forever from the ''great idea'', to commercialisation. But, it's good to see so much research into electric storage device technology. Sooner or later, the next 'breakthrough' will occur. It maybe Sakti3, or anyone of the thousands of diligent researchers from all over the world whose dedication and genius benefits mankind.
        Ziv
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Marco, I am beginning to wonder if there will be a "breakthrough" or if we will be seeing slow steady improvements for the next 7 or 8 years. You have been on this site as long as I can remember, and I have been on GM-Volt dot com since 2007, and we have seen hundreds of articles come out about disruptive technologies that would double, triple or "EEStor" the density while cutting the price by 50% or 75%. And in 6 years it seems like the prices of cells have dropped around 5% to 8% per year, which isn't chump change, but it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Add in the relatively opaque nature of pack/cell pricing/costs...
          Marco Polo
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ziv
          @ Ziv I agree 100% ! It's always been my belief that the progress of EV development will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. Still, ....it's exciting to think about (and hope for) the possibility of a radical "breakthrough" in ESD technology, isn't it ? I don't think there's any harm in speculating, as long as you don't start believing in unicorns.
          Ziv
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ziv
          I agree with you on the "hope for". Unicorns and EEStor, you just never know.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ziv
          In this case, there is harm in speculating. People like to wait, if they are told the current technology will be obsolete in just two year. So when nothing happens from this company, there will be a bunch of people left waiting, instead of adopting the tech we currently have. If we had put too much stock into unfounded speculation like this... we would have never have even started the EV evolution a few years ago. In 2008-2010... Some people were waiting for ESD breakthroughs... while others were dealing with the technology at hand. Tesla built their Roadster pack from commodity cells that were already here... not the speculators dream cells.
        purrpullberra
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Have you ever gotten closely involved with battery research companies? Seems like a real gamble.
      Technoir
      • 2 Days Ago
      Sounds like a scam.
      James
      • 2 Days Ago
      Believe it when I see it.
      Tony Belding
      • 2 Days Ago
      Not sure I understand "double the energy density and half the weight". That seems redundant. Double the energy density means half the weight, for a given amount of storage. There are so many criteria that a battery has to meet for EV usage, there are always a lot of potential gotchas. It might be half the cost and half the weight and then die after 100 charge cycles, or be prone to catching fire, or have really low power density, or self-discharge while sitting idle, or require very long-and-slow charge times, or have any number of other possible problems. This is why I'm always skeptical when I hear about the new wonder battery that some company has in the lab.
      xxricefarmerxx
      • 2 Days Ago
      hope elon musk has something up his sleeve.. these new battery tech are going to beat him badly
        Levine Levine
        • 2 Days Ago
        @xxricefarmerxx
        Not necessarily. Elon Musk will merely switch from Panasonic to Sakti3 battery. With a proven platform in the Model S, Tesla should benefit more so when there's a battery tech breakthrough.
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 2 Days Ago
        @xxricefarmerxx
        Why would he need anything up his sleeve? Tesla doesn't build battery cells, they build battery packs. He could have his engineers build a new pack around this battery cell just as easily as he had his engineers build a pack for Panasonic's cells.
          Jesse Gurr
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          Yes, but it is all Panasonic batteries. Panasonic is investing in the factory as well so it will most likely be a Tesla/Panasonic run factory. Making Panasonic cells to put into battery packs for Tesla. It may be Tesla's name on the building, but they are building Panasonic cells to Panasonic's specifications. I don't know how many other ways to say that...
          JP
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          In case you didn't hear about it Tesla is investing in building a huge battery factory.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Days Ago
        @xxricefarmerxx
        new battery scams have been around much longer... vaporware doesn't seem to slow him down.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Days Ago
        @xxricefarmerxx
        Elon has always said that he will choose whatever cell makes the most sense at the time. Panasonic cells work for right now... if some no name company could somehow leapfrog Panasonic's R&D efforts in 2 short years... that would indeed be something that could make Tesla switch. But I would NOT put my hopes in promises. Has this company ever delivered anything? Other than convincing someone at the DOE they deserve some investment?
      Electron
      • 2 Days Ago
      Even if this comes to fruition, the claims don't sound particularly disruptive. "double the energy density and half the weight" sounds impressive but really just says doubling while suggesting quadrupling. Still, doubling would be great if it were compared to the most energy dense chemistry out there (Tesla), but not so much if that's compared to the sort of chemistry Nissan for instance uses. That would just put it marginally ahead of Tesla's chemistry. The same goes for the cost claims.
        woot
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Electron
        but if is more safe effectively you get 3x instead of 2x
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Electron
        Actually, BRD's put together a battery pack for their motorcycles that has a higher energy density than Tesla's. Tesla's packs are 135wh/kg, BRD's are 160. Oh, and Tesla has nothing whatsoever to do with the chemistry in their batteries. They buy the cells (Where the chemistry is) from Panasonic, and put them into packs Tesla makes. They make a damn nice car, but there's no need to give them credit for things they have nothing to do with.
          JP
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Ricardo Gozinya
          Actually I believe Tesla's pack is closer to 150wh/kg, but that's irrelevent since she is certainly talking about cell level density, and the Tesla designed cells from Panasonic are closer to 250wh/kg. Yes Tesla actually specifies the chemistry and construction of their cells, so they do indeed have something to do with the cell parameters.
      • 2 Days Ago
      Hope to see this happen, sooner than later...plus Free Energy is most likely coming in our not too distant Future...probably in the 2020s as said above!
        Technoir
        • 2 Days Ago
        There is no such thing as free energy
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Technoir
          No, no he didn't. Nikola Tesla did not discover anything of the sort. He never worked on any experiments concerning super cooling or zero point energy or the Casimir Effect. His experiments were in electric and magnetic fields, but nothing involving theories of such a quantum nature. What is going on... is pseudoscience nut jobs are postulating fantastical attributes for zero point energy, then attaching the well known "name" of Nikola Tesla. Tesla was wrong on many things, especially in his latter years. But now, every time some quack wants to give credibility to some hypothesis... they invoke the name of Tesla. Zero Point energy is not really a source of energy. It cannot be extracted, and even if it could, it would take a volume of empty space so huge, that even the weakest solar panels could do better. ---------------- Nikola Tesla was great for his time. He certainly was misunderstood and under-appreciated in his time. But now, in our time, he is over-appreciated for every hair brained scheme that someone wants to derive some credibility for. Let's celebrate his achievements by being honest about them. He was shafted by Edison, yes. But the technology he was right about, was never suppressed for very long. We know more today, than Einstein knew, and more than Tesla knew. And just as even Einstein got some things wrong... Tesla's notions of abundant and free energy that could just be plucked out of the atmosphere... was wrong. Tesla was integral to so many innovations of today. But he also stood on the shoulders of giants. And we cannot place Tesla above people like Faraday, Hertz, Volta, Maxwell, and countless others.
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Technoir
          When people say Free they mean ambient or latent enegy from the environment. Tesla discovered this "ambient energy". only at 0 kelvin is their no energy in an environment. We have so much energy all around us.
          Marco Polo
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Technoir
          @ Joeviocoe Well said !
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