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Daimler R&D chief: We're ahead in battery tech

Automotive News interviews Daimler R&D chief, Thomas Weber.

Automotive News

Automotive News

STUTTGART -- Daimler AG is positioning itself as a leader in electric-vehicle technology through a partnership with chemicals and energy conglomerate Evonik Industries, of Duesseldorf, Germany.

Daimler plans to produce lithium ion cells and whole batteries with Evonik, while cells from Evonik subsidiary Li-Tec soon will be installed in Mercedes-Benz cars.

The deal makes Daimler the only automaker with r&d and production of lithium ion cells and batteries under one umbrella, says Daimler R&D chief Thomas Weber.

But Daimler and Evonik want to find a third partner to provide expertise in electrical and electronic systems integration, he says.

Weber discussed Daimler's plans with Matthias Krust, staff reporter at Automobilwoche, the German sister publication of Automotive News.

What role will lithium ion batteries play at Daimler in the future?

Batteries are the key technology on the way to emissions-free driving. Since lithium ion batteries offer significant advantages, we decided to introduce them in hybrid vehicles across the board at Mercedes-Benz Cars and in our commercial vehicles. Moreover, the lithium ion battery will have applications in our fuel cell and battery vehicles in the future.

What is involved in your partnership with Evonik?

We have a 49.9 percent stake in the Evonik subsidiary Li-Tec -- which, in our opinion, is the world's leading company in the field of lithium ion cells. Through it, we can introduce our know-how into the research, development and production of cells and contribute decisively to bringing the next generation of technology into regular production. In addition, we will establish a joint venture where we will have corporate control, with a 90 percent stake. This company will develop and produce complete battery systems for use in vehicles. Still, in a couple of respects, we are open.

In what respects would that be?

We are looking for yet another partner that could bring know-how in the electrical/electronics area. On the other hand, we are opening up an enormous upstream potential for ourselves, since third parties certainly have ample interest in this technology. With this step, we have assured ourselves quick and proprietary access to limited resources. Later purchasers profit from a tested, high-tech application, and we profit from economies of scale.

How much are you investing in the Evonik venture?

We are deploying an amount in the low three-figure millions of euros.

Does this venture put Daimler in a leading position as far as lithium ion technologies and alternative drives are concerned?

In the past, people often derided us because of our tenacity on fuel cells. But without those years of experience, what we are doing now would not even be possible.

Everyone else who displays concept cars on this theme in the near future will learn that there is still a distance to go before series application is practical.

With our stake in Li-Tec and our joint venture with Evonik, we have set additional important milestones on the way to production readiness for emissions-free vehicles.

As a result, we are the only automaker with the research, development and production of lithium ion cells and batteries under one umbrella. We'll profit from this head start.

(Source: Automotive News)