Porsche is setting up another manufacturing plant for battery cells, called Cellforce, in Tübingen, Germany. The plant will be run as a subsidiary of Porsche in a joint venture with Customcells and will develop cells that utilization silicon instead of graphite for the anode material.
“We already started within research and pre-development to build up know how and knowledge about cell chemistry, and the company Cellforce Group will have around 60 engineers in development and about 20 in production; the main focus, at least in the beginning, is to take care about the development of the cell and cell chemistry,” said Michael Steiner, member of the executive board, R&D at Porsche.
Yet, not at all like other recent battery manufacturing plant declarations, the objective for Cellforce is elite, not high volume.
“In terms of production, [it] will be small compared to all the gigafactories you know, so we are looking forward to have around 100 MWh a year as production capacity—it could be slightly more,” Steiner told Ars. “In terms of cars it should fit for, let me say, 1,000 cars a year. The kind of cells we look for are designed for motorsports and for high-performance derivatives of existing cars, so it’s a very tailored cell technology for high-performance solutions,” he said.
“If this works, and we see potential to come down with cost if we scale up—and costs of sales have not only to do with the chemistry but also with the scaling—there might be a chance for higher volume, but this is not a task that I gave the team that has to start this new facility,” Steiner said.
Porsche is searching for gains in both gravimetric and volumetric energy density yet additionally wants cells that can run hotter than current lithium-ion, similar to the cells found in Porsche’s Taycan. These as of now use “low single-digit percentage” of silicon in the anodes, yet Cellforce wants to expand this to 50 percent if possible.
“Today’s cell chemistry is able to [operate at] 50˚ C, maybe slightly higher, and we are looking for temperatures above 70˚ C that support superfast charging but also superfast driving,” Steiner said. (A downside to the new chemistry is that it doesn’t operate well below freezing, which is a problem for road cars but not for race cars.)
Porsche wasn’t prepared to examine precisely what race car may first use these new Cellforce cells, something that ought to occur around 2024. At that point, Porsche’s hybrid endurance racing program will be fully operational close by its Formula E team. However, in both of these cases, the regulations don’t permit competitors to foster their own batteries, rather expecting everybody to use a spec battery pack.