November 3rd, 2022 | 13:05 CET
Fear is spreading: Volkswagen, Varta, Altech Advanced Materials
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"[...] Nickel, therefore, benefits twice: firstly from its growing importance within batteries and secondly from the generally growing demand for such storage. [...]" Terry Lynch, CEO, Power Nickel
Volkswagen: Condemned to progress
Volkswagen is one of the world's most important automakers and has a broad brand portfolio. In addition to the core brand, the portfolio includes SEAT, Audi, Ducati and Porsche. Although the IPO of Porsche AG recently caused a stir, Volkswagen continues to hold shares in the sports car icon. In order to be fit for the future, the Wolfsburg-based group is constantly developing its technology. In September, Volkswagen unveiled the ID. An extreme, all-electric SUV that boasts a system output of 285 kW. VW achieved the increase over the ID.4 GTX with a new drive on the rear axle and software adjustments in the drive control system. This example shows that the art of engineering is no longer limited to mechanical elements but that the interaction between hardware and software counts.
Adaptations in the area of software also have the advantage that they can often be rolled out at a later date and implemented inexpensively. In addition, once developed, software can be reproduced and adapted as often as required. Software can also play a decisive role when it comes to using energy efficiently and driving longer on one battery charge. Sometimes, however, additional batteries are needed. In the future, Varta will supply one of these for the Porsche 911 and Taycan models. The V4Drive battery cell can take on the role of a booster in sports vehicles or serve as a store for recuperation energy in hybrid vehicles. Intelligent software also plays a role in this energy recovery that would otherwise be lost.
Varta: Scaring off investors
Although the cooperation between Porsche and Varta has been known since the summer, the prices of the two shares are developing in different directions. While Porsche AG is rising strongly after its stock market debut and first observers are talking about irrationality concerning the valuation gap between Porsche AG and Porsche Holding and VW, Varta experienced a share price disaster. The praise for the Company's entry into the field of electromobility was too great. In addition, V4Drive is "only" an auxiliary battery.
Altech Advanced Materials: Battery revolution
The young industrial company Altech Advanced Materials is working directly on the main battery. Altech's engineers apply a ceramic coating to the anode, thus preventing the lithium-ion battery from losing around 15% of its capacity during the first charging cycle. At the same time, the ceramic coating ensures that the anode can be enriched with silicon instead of graphite. According to Altech, silicon offers around 10 times the charging capacity. The bottom line is that Altech considers increases in performance of between 50 and 100% possible with its technology. In practice, this increase in capacity opens up the potential to downsize batteries and thus save weight. "In the end, it is about achieving practical ranges with batteries that are lighter, smaller and therefore much cheaper," said Uwe Ahrens, Director of Altech, summing up the situation as early as the beginning of 2022.
Currently, the Company is focusing on building a plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Saxony. There, the Company wants to initially produce prototypes in order to be able to convince the automotive industry. Altech Advanced Materials recently announced its entry into the solid-state battery business. To this end, it is further developing a technology from the Fraunhofer Institute together with researchers in the joint venture. "This is about flexible electricity storage systems that can be scaled almost arbitrarily in terms of capacity and that are inexpensive, durable and safe because of the materials used," Ahrens said. Ahrens also pointed out in an interview that the basic materials of the new battery do not depend on critical supply chains. Altech Advanced Materials' stock has come back after a period of hype over the summer, and because of the exciting projects, investors should keep the share in mind.
The buzzword of electrification alone hides countless technologies and great potential for optimization. If carmakers like Volkswagen still want to be global leaders a decade from now, it is essential to exploit this potential. Altech Advanced Materials' approach could fit into the portfolio of several automakers or battery companies, such as Varta. The latter Company is under pressure after a profit warning - investors expected more from the e-car strategy.
Conflict of interest
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