Henrik Fisker's latest creation, the EMotion, will go on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Fisker)
Fisker at CES: A $130,000 electric sedan and a radical new battery technology
By RUSS MITCHELL
Los Angeles Times
Henrik Fisker, the Los Angeles car designer and automobile entrepreneur, is best known for his long, flowing, smoothly muscular creations, from the BMW Z8 to the Aston-Martin V8 Vantage to the Fisker Karma.
His own companies have achieved less success than he'd like. His previous electric-car company, Fisker Automotive, went bust in 2013.
Now he's trying again, under the name Fisker Inc., with a sexy new car to go on sale in in 2019 and an advanced battery technology he claims will accelerate displacement of the internal combustion engine with all-electric cars.
"We're very close to maxing out what is possible" with existing electric-car battery technology, Fisker told The Times.
A prototype of his all-electric EMotion supercar was on display this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Gawkers were immediately attracted to the $130,000 sport-sculpted sedan with doors that rise like butterfly wings.
Those who care about the future of electric cars, though, turned their gaze to something else at the Fisker display: a tiny working prototype of Fisker's new "solid-state" battery — which, if it works at scale, could deliver dramatic increases in range and performance.
For more than 25 years, batteries that power laptops, smartphones and electric cars and trucks have been based on lithium-ion technology. Those batteries contain liquid chemicals that connect positive and negative electrodes. Like gasoline, the liquids are prone to overheating, explosion and fire if not properly contained.
Solid-state batteries replace the volatile liquid with thin, solid material that won't catch fire. That would allow denser packaging, and far more power and range. The technology works in theory. But scaling it up for industrial use and making it affordable to manufacture are the roadblocks.
Fisker said he expects the new battery in five years. Meantime, the EMotion and its successors, if there are any, will run on the same kind of lithium ion batteries that power almost every late-model electric car in the world.
The timetable for switching to the new technology sounds aggressive to some experts.
"People always say, it's going to be ready in five years," said Steve LeVine, a New America Foundation fellow at Georgetown University and author of "Powerhouse," a book on lithium-ion batteries. "The floor is littered with people claiming things in the battery space."
It's not just startups that are pursuing advanced batteries. In December, Toyota said it will have solid-state car batteries ready before 2023. BMW, 2026. Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen are working on solid-state batteries, and most point to the mid 2020s for their debut.
"They're all working on it," said Gerbrand Ceder, professor of materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. He said he's more positive about solid state than any other approach to improved batteries, he said. "Solid-state batteries will happen."
But, he said, "it's not going to happen as fast as people think."