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[Herald Interview] Factorial Energy, Hyundai Motor step forward in EV battery development

Alex Yu, CTO of US battery developer, says competition encourages advancement of solid-state battery technology

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : March 10, 2024 - 16:38

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Alex Yu, founder and chief technology officer of Factorial Energy (Factorial Energy) Alex Yu, founder and chief technology officer of Factorial Energy (Factorial Energy)

Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s third-largest carmaker, is getting closer to testing the production of electric vehicles equipped with solid-state batteries in collaboration with Factorial Energy, a US-based solid-state battery developer.

Factorial Energy announced in October last year that it delivered the first A-samples of its 100+ amp-hours Factorial Electrolyte System Technology solid-state battery cells to one of its auto partners without disclosing the name of the original equipment manufacturer. Besides Hyundai Motor, the battery developer is working with Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis.

“We delivered (the solid-state battery cells) to more than one (OEM) already,” said Alex Yu, founder and chief technology officer of Factorial Energy, without mentioning brands, in an interview with The Korea Herald on the sidelines of the InterBattery 2024 at Coex in Seoul on Thursday.

The CTO highlighted that the automakers have been very pleased with the solid-state battery cells’ fast charging and high energy densities as well as the safety matrix.

“We demonstrated to automotive companies that we can charge the battery from 10 percent to 90 percent in just 18 minutes and that’s 80 percent of 400 miles, which is like 300 miles or roughly 500 kilometers,” he said.

Noting that the automotive sample batteries need at least 800 cycles, Yu confidently said the company will be able to achieve another milestone before the end of this year by accomplishing the goal of demonstrating 1,000 cycles on the 100 Ah batteries.

Hyundai Motor Group announced a partnership with Factorial Energy in Oct. 2021 and made an undisclosed investment in the US battery developer. The Korean automaker targets 2025 for test production of EVs equipped with solid-state batteries and looks to begin mass production in 2030.

“The EV testing is such a long process,” said Yu. “There are many goals to achieve with A-samples, B-samples, C-samples and D-samples.”

He explained that A-samples are automotive format cells that are tested in an environmental chamber while B-samples are the cells tested on the actual EV, adding that C- and D-samples are more oriented toward mass production.

“After A-sample, it’s very naturally B-sample,” said Yu. “We have such tremendous demand and interest from the OEMs who already validated the A-samples. Now they are passing on the B-samples. I think we will announce very soon.”

Regarding the automakers worldwide revising their EV transition plans amid the slowing growth of the EV sector, the CTO underlined that the development of solid-state batteries, which have more efficiency, safety and better performance for EVs, can help the EV market’s expansion.

“I’ve heard (that Samsung SDI is) committed to delivering (solid-state batteries) by 2027,” he said.

“I think it’s only good news for Factorial because I think it’s less important to compare solid-state (battery) A versus solid-state (battery) B, but more important to compare solid-state (batteries) together with conventional lithium-ion batteries.”

As there is essentially zero market penetration of solid-state batteries now, Yu said if any company can be successful, it would only benefit the entire solid-state battery community.

Outside the US, Factorial Energy operates in Germany, Japan and South Korea. According to Yu, the company’s Korean battery facility in Cheonan, South Chungchung Province, produces A-samples and validates equipment.

“We are much integrated into the Korean battery ecosystem as we have more than a dozen suppliers from Korea,” he said.