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Nissan’s “Unique Materials” Could Position Japanese Automaker Above Tesla in Electric Vehicle Race

Last Updated April 16, 2024 4:22 PM
James Morales
Last Updated April 16, 2024 4:22 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Nissan has announced plans to start producing solid-state battery-powered vehicles by the 2028/29 fiscal year.
  • Honda, Toyota and several Chinese automakers also intend to start rolling out the technology in the coming years.
  • However, Tesla remains committed to old-school lithium batteries for the foreseeable future.

As electric vehicles (EVs) reshape the global car market, advances in battery technology could give automakers a competitive edge.

Most EV manufacturers, including Tesla, currently rely on lithium batteries. But after Nissan became the latest car maker to announce plans for EVs equipped with solid-state batteries, is Tesla falling behind?

How Solid-State Batteries Could Shake Up the EV Market

Lighter, more efficient, and faster charging than traditional lithium cells, solid-state batteries could be a game-changer for electric vehicles. And yet, the world’s largest EV manufacturer appears to have fallen behind some of its rivals in developing the technology.

Among the world’s largest automakers, Asian firms have taken the lead in solid-state development.

The Chinese firm GAC intends  to start selling EVs powered by solid-state batteries as early as 2026. Meanwhile, Toyota could launch  its first solid-state product as early as 2027.

Now, Nissan has announced  plans to start producing EVs with the new battery technology by 2028 thanks to advances in “molecular-level” materials research.

“Our all-solid-state battery technology is a game-changer for making EV sales grow explosively,” remarked  Vice President Shunichi Inamijima.

The announcement follows on from an agreement  between Nissan and Honda that will see the 2 firms pool resources and work together on EV research and development.

“Emerging players are very aggressive and are making inroads at incredible speed,” Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida acknowledged last month. “We cannot win the competition as long as we stick to conventional wisdom and a traditional approach,” he added.

The Rise of Chinese Manufacturers

Reading between the lines, Honda and Nissan are clearly concerned about ascendant Chinese car makers, which have emerged as a major force in the EV market.

The rise of Chinese EVs has been so forceful that earlier this year, BYD overtook Tesla as the world’s top-selling electric carmaker.

Backed by Beijing, BYD and other Chinese firms have also teamed up  to build a solid-state supply chain that could further entrench the country’s EV dominance in the years ahead.

So, with so much riding on the emerging battery technology, where is Tesla in all of this?

Tesla Holds off (For Now)

Given the company’s reputation for cutting-edge innovation, it might seem odd that Tesla is letting its rivals steal the limelight when it comes to next-generation battery tech. 

But it’s worth noting that solid-state cells have been commercially available for a decade. Yet actual, market-ready implementations of the technology remain far and few between.

As Tesla CEO Elon Musk is well aware, there is a world of difference between a feasible concept and a vehicle that can be manufactured profitably at scale. “Compared to the insane pain of reaching high-volume, positive-margin production, prototypes are a piece of cake,” he commented recently.

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