January 12th, 2022 | 10:36 CET
BYD, Altech Advanced Materials, Volkswagen: Who is as innovative as Tesla?
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"[...] We know exactly what we are doing and are implementing what we consider to be a proven technology in an industrially applicable and scalable way. [...]" Uwe Ahrens, Director, Altech Advanced Materials AG
BYD: The future has begun
Manufacturers such as BYD were quick to exploit the possibilities of technology, enabling long ranges with lithium-ion batteries, for example. In the meantime, innovation trends are increasingly moving into the areas of intelligent vehicles and autonomous driving. To this end, BYD has acquired two startups and is thus investing in sensor technology. The goal: Some BYD models are to receive "Level 2 plus" certification for autonomous driving. The vehicles would then steer, accelerate and brake autonomously. However, the driver would have to be ready to intervene in an emergency.
This development step is considered an intermediate stage to autonomous driving. The possibilities for purely autonomous driving are manifold: one need only think of autonomously driving cabs, which would enable comprehensive mobility solutions. Futurologists have long speculated about a kind of flat rate for mobility. Self-used cars would then quickly become a thing of the past. Existing vehicle fleets would be better utilized, and the price per kilometer would fall further. But that is still a long way off. The BYD share has fallen significantly since the turn of the year and is not particularly interesting at present.
Altech Advanced Materials: Making batteries better and safer
While BYD is already thinking about autonomous driving, Altech Advanced Materials focuses on the most important area for economic decisions - costs. The Company has made it its mission to cut the price per kWh of battery power in half. The specific goal: less than USD 100 per kWh. In doing so, Altech is following a trend that is already underway. Industry leader Tesla is also constantly developing its batteries further and surprises again and again with good key data. To make batteries even cheaper, Altech uses a process that covers anodes with a layer of aluminum oxide. It prevents lithium from being bound after a certain period of use and no longer being available for energy absorption.
Altech has developed a process that makes this aluminum oxide coating inexpensive and practical, significantly increasing battery life. Since part of the capacity loss without such a coating occurs during the first charge, even comparatively new batteries are more powerful thanks to the coating. Other advantages of the technology: batteries can be recharged quickly with less damage, and complete burnout in the event of mechanical damage is prevented. Specifically, Altech expects performance increases of between 8 and 10% and longer life cycles of plus 20-30%. Altech recently announced that it has signed a supply agreement with SGL Carbon for its planned battery materials plant. The stock has been running sideways around the EUR 1 mark for months and is attractive due to the exciting technology.
Volkswagen: Strength lies in the calm
Groups such as Volkswagen are probably always looking for innovations relating to electromobility. But the mills in large corporations sometimes grind slowly. Instead of purchasing promising technology early on and integrating it into the group, large corporations stick to established processes for a long time. That can be an opportunity for smaller companies at the beginning of their development and their shareholders. Currently, Volkswagen is focusing more on the industrialization of battery technology and plans to make processes usable on a large scale.
According to the young Company, Altech Advanced Materials' wet-chemical coating method is easy to scale and suitable for industrial applications. So perhaps Altech and Volkswagen will come together in the end - in whatever form. Volkswagen remains a solid stock. However, the Wolfsburg-based company has only limited future potential.
The market for electromobility is constantly developing. The big companies keep a close eye on developments but set their own priorities, such as BYD in the field of sensor technology and software and Volkswagen in the industrial production of battery components. To truly invest in technology in isolation, investors should take a closer look at stocks like Altech. As is always the case on the stock market, this entails risks in addition to great opportunities.
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