Has Daimler just knocked Tesla off its pedestal?
Tesla Motors might have it sights on building the its first gigafactory, the world’s biggest lithium-ion manufacturing and reprocessing facility to date, but a brand new contract between South Korean firm LG Chem and Daimler AG means that for now, Tesla won’t be number one when it comes to manufacturing the most automotive-grade lithium-ion battery packs.
According to an official press release made on Tuesday by LG Chem, the firm has just been selected by Daimler AG as the supplier of lithium-ion battery cells for the next-generation 2017 Smart ForTwo electric car.
The current model year car — which retains the outgoing body style of the old 2014 model-year Smart ForTwo rather than the all-new body style of the 2015 gasoline-powered Smart ForTwo, offers an EPA-approved range of 68 miles per charge and an everyday ‘achievable’ range somewhere between 40 and 80 miles per charge, depending on the weather conditions and terrain.
Previous generations of the Smart ForTwo EV — previously called the Smart ForTwo ED — have been built with a variety of different battery pack technologies, ranging from 12 kilowatt-hour molten salt (sodium-nickel chloride) ‘Zebra’ batteries in the first-generation, limited production 2007 Smart ForTwo prototypes through to a 16.5 kilowatt-hour Tesla Motors lithium-ion battery pack in the second-generation 2009 Smart ForTwo and finally a more powerful, 17.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery from Daimler-owned subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotive for the current 2012-2015 model year car.
Why move away from its own wholly-owned battery supplier? Well, while it might appear that way, we’re suspecting that’s not exactly the case. While Daimler will look to LG Chem for battery cells, we’re suspecting the assembly of those cells into battery packs will still be carried out by Deutsche ACCUmotive.
Daimler, like many other automakers, has dramatically expanded its investment in lithium-ion battery manufacturing and plug-in vehicle development as a way to help it meet increasingly tough global fuel economy and emissions standards. With multiple plug-in hybrid models planned across its various brands — ranging from high-end cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class plug-in hybrid luxury sedan through to more mainstream models like the Smart For Two EV — Daimler’s demand for battery packs is skyrocketing.
But while Daimler may be able to produce its own battery packs through Deutsche ACCUmotive, developing and producing the cells themselves is a costly and expensive business. As we discovered when visiting Nissan’s own lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Sunderland, England last year, building battery packs from pre-assembled cells requires semi clean-room facilities. Producing the cells themselves requires the kind of clean-room practices and equipment normally reserved for the semiconductor industry.
LG Chem, as a leading battery manufacturer, already produces lithium-ion cells for thirteen different global automakers out of the top 20 global brands, including GM, Ford, Hyundai and Renault. It already has the expertise and the equipment to make battery cells at a far higher volume and lower cost than we’re guessing Daimler could manage at the current time.
Although we’re sure battery cost and volume was a deciding factor for the new partnership, we’re also guessing that LG Chem’s latest battery technology — which it promised last year would soon make a super energy-dense battery pack capable of providing at least 200 miles of range per charge.
Far more advanced than its previous battery technology, this wonder battery pack is likely to find itself into Chevrolet’s upcoming 2017 Bolt electric car. We’re sure it may find itself into other automaker’s cars too, and Daimler could very well be at the top of the list.
That’s because while the Smart ForTwo’s compact dimensions and tall body are best suited to an electric rather than internal-combustion engine setup, its tiny frame means that space really is limited for an on-board battery pack.
The result? To date, the Smart ForTwo ED has remained very much a city car thanks to its limited battery capacity.
A super-compact, energy-dense battery pack built on LG Chem’s next-generation technology could change that however, enabling perhaps a range in excess of 100 miles per charge.
Using such a pack could also explain why Daimler made the decision to delay the rollout of an electric model based on the all-new 2015 Smart ForTwo and Smart ForFour models as it would give LG Chem time to fully refine its next-gen battery technology ahead of mass production.
We also note too that the all-new platform on which the 2016 gasoline Smart range is built upon — and on which the 2017 Smart ForTwo EV will be based — has been jointly developed with the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.