Can a Camera Film Manufacturer Create a Better Battery? Kodak Aims to Find Out
The Chevrolet Bolt’s recently solved issues with its current Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries shows that an alternative is needed for its flammable liquid electrolyte. This is why solid state batteries are being vigorously explored, but while lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4 or LFP) batteries exist, they aren’t the cheapest and easiest battery chemistry to manufacture. One other solid state solution comes from Wildcat Discovery Technologies and also solves the ethical issues with mining cobalt and the scarcity of nickel. To get their battery closer to production ready, Eastman Kodak—yes, that film and camera brand you’re familiar with—has not only invested money into Wildcat, but will also use its film coating technology to help manufacture this “Super Cell” battery.
If you’re interested in getting into the EV game, but don’t have the billions and billions of dollars to start manufacturing a vehicle—just ask Rivian and Canoo how hard that is—you have two other choices. One is to get into software development. The other is to get into manufacturing the batteries these all-electric vehicles need for power.
For Eastman Kodak, their choice was to invest in a firm that’s already developing a next generation battery that’s not only solid state, but also can use some of the film coating technology they have pioneered and still use today to make film. Yes, there are still people who use film cameras today, but even Kodak wants to expand their market beyond that and they also already produce some batteries. They were part of a $90 million investment into Wildcat Discovery Technologies along with Koch Strategic Platforms—the investment division of Koch Industries—and Fifth Wall Climate.
According to Wildcat Discovery’s claims, their “Super Cell” battery solves three major problems of current Li-Ion batteries. The first is getting rid of the liquid electrolyte found in those batteries. The main problem is due to its liquid state, the electrolyte will ooze out of its layer and short the battery when it’s damaged or punctured. Using a solid electrolyte solves the majority of this fire hazard problem and makes Lithium-based batteries much safer. The next problem is mineral scarcity; while lithium is fairly plentiful and even recoverable from used batteries, nickel is a lot harder to source. Wildcat’s Super Cell does away with nickel entirely in the cathode. It also does away with the cobalt, which solves the ethical issues with mining that mineral in countries that use child labor and other unethical practices.
However, it’s also not an LFP battery, the current solid state solution used by battery manufacturers. Wildcat claims that its Super Cell has a very high energy density “greater than 90 percent better than anything on the market.” They also claim that this new solid state battery will deliver “added range for the same battery weight (as Li-Ion),” making it better, safer, and more stable than nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) technology and “much better than LFP.” We’ve asked for more details on this Super Cell battery and will update more when they are able to give us more information. For now, only pre-production, experimental versions of the Super Cell batteries exist, but from what Wildcat was willing to tell us in time for publication, they plan to make round cell and pouch batteries to fit a variety of battery pack types.
Wildcat also stated that the need for Kodak wasn’t just for the monetary investment, but also the manufacturing that Kodak is able to provide. Specifically, the use of Kodak’s film coating technology. According to them, “Over the past several years, Kodak has been using its pilot coating facility to coat materials on substrates for EV/energy storage batteries and fuel cells for a variety of customers. Kodak is expanding the capacity and capability of this pilot facility with a new small-scale coating machine that will be fully operational in early 2023.” They also claim to be able to repurpose a full-scale production coating machine from their film coating process to coat substrates for anode and cathode assembly. “Kodak has begun providing coated material to a battery manufacturer and is in the process of ramping production levels, the maximum capacity of which is up to 80 million square meters per year.”
According to Kodak in their release, they look to produce Wildcat’s Super Cell battery into commercialization in just two years. Wildcat also granted Kodak some rights to negotiate for production or licensing with Wildcat “when and if” the Super Cell technology reaches commercial readiness. Again, once Wildcat Discovery Technologies gets back to us with more details, we’ll update this story on the Super Cell’s design and readiness.
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