The Chinese automobile manufacturer Nio has a new trick up its sleeve. And it’s one that could swiftly change the landscape of batteries in electric vehicles.
While solid-state batteries are often regarded as the unicorn of battery technology and are very much seen as the “game-changer for EVs”, it’s known that it might be a couple of years until the tech becomes widely available and affordable. In the meantime, Nio trying to break through semi-solid state battery engineering territory might reap some valuable rewards for the company and drivers alike.
On Sunday, the Shanghai-based company’s founder and CEO William Li marked a new milestone by driving a Nio ET7 for 1,044km, or about 650 miles, on a single battery charge.
And the really impressive factor here is that instead of fitting a massive battery pack in the car, it was just equipped with the 150kW battery. Instead, the magic was all thanks to the semi-solid tech, what Nio is calling Ultra Long Range battery.
The 1000km+ journey
The 14-hour journey began in Shanghai with sights set on Xiamen, a city on the southeast coast of China. William Li was joined by Dr. Fei Shen, Senior Vice President of NIO Power, and Chenxia Huang, General Manager of Tencent News.
After a short stopover and driver swap, the NIO ET7 reached Xiamen having used 97% of its battery life during the 1,044-km trip, despite the particularly cold temperatures – a factor usually associated with reduced electric vehicle battery performance and range.
Previously, three users in the Netherlands had driven an ET7 in a non-stop relay, covering 6,000 kilometres in 72 hours from the northernmost point to the southernmost point of the European continent, setting a record for the shortest time for an EV over the same mileage.
Li said: “Inspired by them, I decided to drive myself to test the highway range performance of the 150-kWh battery. The completion of this range test marks the range of smart EVs going beyond 1,000 kilometres, which will further promote the transformation of the automotive industry from the consumption of gasoline to electricity.”
The test was run in relatively cool temperatures and livestreamed. Driving was done mainly in semi-autonomous (or Navigate-on-Pilot+, as Nio calls it), and speed-limited to 56 mph (90km/hr). The average speed was a respectable 52.4 mph (84km/hr), with a travel time of 12.4 hours excluding stops, reports Car News China.
What is the semi-solid battery from Nio?
Nio unveiled the 150-kWh semi-solid-state battery pack when it unveiled its flagship sedan, the Nio ET7, in January 2021 at the Nio Day event.
Nio’s 150kWh Ultra Long Range battery is compatible with its entire range of smart EVs, and is currently available for Chinese users of its Battery as a Service subscription model. It’s also the world’s first pouch format cell with no thermal propagation design.
Manufactured by WeLion New Energy Technology, the battery has a single-cell energy density of 360 Wh/kg or 260 Wh/kg for the entire pack (Tesla’s latest cells are under 300 Wh/kg). It marks the highest capacity and energy density for mass produced production car battery packs in China.
Semi-solid state batteries use gel, clay or resin electrolytes, offering greater energy density and fire-resistance than current batteries. However, they’re still far from the promised land of full solid-state batteries, which could feasibly double energy density.
After the test, Li wrote in a Weibo post: “The completion of this endurance challenge proves the product power of the 150kWh ultra-long endurance battery pack. More importantly, all models on sale can be flexibly upgraded to 150kWh batteries through the Nio battery swap system.”