Exclusive: Henrik Fisker Talks EMotion, Solid-State Batteries
Now, this is an EMotion-al interview!
The Fisker EMotion is not just a car. It’s a shot at redemption for Henrik Fisker: the man whose first attempt at automaking — see the Fisker Karma — ended in tears and a lawsuit. But more than that, it could also herald a new age of longer range, faster recharging electric vehicles. That is, if the “flexible solid-state” battery technology his company is simultaneously developing lives up to its hype.
More Henrik Here – Henrik Fisker Confirms Future $40,000 Electric Car, Discusses eMotion
With an ambitious production target of 2020 for both the car and battery not so far away, we had a number of questions we wanted to ask Mr. Fisker to help us get an idea of where the effort stands at the moment, and just how hopeful we should feel about the $130,000 all-electric luxury sedan and the solid-state batteries that could power it. Luckily for us, the designer-cum-auto-entrepreneur spared some time for our inquiries, and you can read the results for yourself below.
- The Fisker EMotion is a beautiful design. To get it successfully into production, what lessons learned from your first foray into automaking are you applying to the business this time around?
- The Fisker Emotion will be made for a lower volume, in the single-digit thousands, with low volume tooling and extensive use of carbon fiber.
- Do you plan on going the dealership route again?
- No, we will have experience centers and a unique service franchise model, with a customer concierge.
- Will the production version of the EMotion have the same swing-up doors as the prototype?
- The front doors, yes definitely. The rear doors are under production feasibility evaluation.
- Is the prototype drivable, and if so, how much of the hardware/software that motivates it will be carried over into production?
- Yes, not much, as we still have a lot of development to do.
- Despite the striking styling of the EMotion, its battery could really steal the show. Can you speak to what promising developments have happened that give you confidence the flexible solid-state battery will be ready ahead of the previous 2023 timeframe?
- Our scientists had some major breakthroughs and we are now much more confident in the technology. There are still a lot of hurdles that need to be solved – it’s not an easy task to bring this new technology to mass market. But, we are working hard at it and plan to have in-vehicle test already next year.
- Do you expect your batteries and, possibly, the licensing of that technology will create more revenue than actual automaking?
- Due to the size of batteries in automobiles, the biggest opportunity is in automotive, so we will initially have a few automotive partners that will have exclusive access to our battery technology together with Fisker. But, we are already in discussions to license the technology outside the automotive industry.
- Will the EMotion have autonomous capability at launch, or will that come later?
- It will have some, but it’s too early to predict how much, as the technology develops fast and as legislation may play a role as well.
- Do you plan to take the company public eventually?
- We have a lot of things that we need to achieve before we start thinking about that.
- How far along is the engineering of the production version of the EMotion?
- We have at least 20 more months to go, and we may delay the launch to incorporate our solid-state batteries from the start.
- Do you intend to contract the manufacturing, or will you be refurbishing an existing, but unused, plant to manufacture?
- Existing plant in the US, but no final decision yet on location and site.
- Will cars and batteries be produced in the same location?
- The battery cells and modules will be in a different location.
- How large is your team now?
- We are a small and agile team, constantly growing.
- You refer to your particular battery technology as “flexible solid state.” How does this so-called flexibility come into play? Are the cells physically flexible, or is this meant to infer a flexibility with regard to various applications for the cells? For example, one variation may have more energy density, while another, more power density.
- Both: The cells are physically flexible, which is important for resisting vibration. We will also have variations in the cells depending on the application.
- When you eventually begin producing mules, will you use an off-the-shelf battery to complete chassis development, or will battery and car development be completely integrated?
- We will already use off-the-shelf batteries this year for Mule testing.
- How much pampering in the way of temperature management do your solid-state cells need, and are they more or less combustible than, say, those produced by LG Chem?
- When you pack so much energy, you will always have to do some form of thermal management. Our solid-state batteries need less cooling than traditional lithium-ion batteries. We are currently testing our solid-state batteries and are looking into seeing if we actually need active cooling, which would reduce the cost of the battery back. The expectations of solid-state batteries are that they are non-flammable and more safe than today’s lithium-ion batteries.
So there you have it. It seems like the next couple of years will be intensely busy if Fisker is to hit his challenging 2020 target. The big things to watch for will be the acquisition of a factory, the building and testing of mules, and the performance of the flexible solid-state battery once installed in an EMotion.
One of the big questions that we didn’t ask this time (but has been addressed elsewhere) is money. For now, the undertaking is privately financed and has the capital it needs for at least the immediate future. Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to talk again once things are a bit farther along, and we’ll certainly bring that subject up at that time. Until then, godspeed and good luck.
Categories: Fisker / Karma