Right now, Nissan is taking only its first steps toward that goal, with a feasibility study laboratory where it is experimenting with the batteries in handmade, limited-run batches. But if all goes to plan, the small-scale, secretive workshop will lead to a pilot plant launch in 2024 and to mass-scale manufacturing in 2028.
Nissan is grappling with this important new technology as a host of startups and virtually every old-school rival, from Toyota and Volkswagen to General Motors, race to find the right road to success.
A peek inside Nissan’s laboratory shows just how long and arduous the road to solid state will be.
The 1,400-square-foot workshop is a walled-off dry room housed inside an old warehouse at Nissan’s Oppama factory complex where engineers once worked on prototyping new catalysts.
There, a group of 10 workers painstakingly mix an electrolyte slurry, scooping cathode powder from a plastic cup with a long spoon, by hand. They mix it into an inky black goop, which is spread like pancake mix onto thin aluminum sheets – only two cells at time.
After drying, the sheets go through a stamping machine reminiscent of a telephone booth that compresses them with three times the pressure used for standard lithium ion cells.
Workers then cut the electrolyte sheets to an appropriate size and carefully stack them with anode sheets. Finally, they vacuum-seal four-layer sets of cells into aluminum foil pouches.
The work is fastidious and time consuming. The bulk of the processes are done through plexiglass glove boxes to maintain ultralow humidity and cleanliness. Because the rooms are so dry, technicians are required to take hydration breaks every two hours.