Commercial-Vehicle Battery Producer Sets up in U.S. as Electrification Takes Hold

With commercial-vehicle electrification advancing, a longstanding battery specialist Akasol packs industry-leading energy density into a new battery design.

Akasol’s AKASystem OEM PRC battery pack is currently in production for commercial-vehicle applications. (Akasol)

Projecting the market for full-electric and hybrid-electric commercial vehicles will continue to expand, Germany-based lithium-ion battery specialist Akasol recently announced production-readiness of a newly-developed battery pack that sets an energy-density benchmark. The company’s president also confirmed Akasol will build a manufacturing facility in the Detroit area targeted to begin production in mid-2020.

Akasol has a 30-year history of producing battery systems for buses and other commercial vehicles, as well as railway and marine applications. President Roy Schulde (left) says the new American plant is being constructed primarily to build battery packs for buses constructed by European-brand customers doing business in the U.S. The company already claims Europe’s largest commercial-vehicle lithium-ion battery production facility.

But as regulatory and environmental interests dictate electrification alternatives to traditional internal-combustion powertrains for all manner of commercial vehicles, Schulde said Akasol sees the off-highway sector growing. He said smaller-sized construction equipment intended for use in urban and indoor areas is increasingly targeted for 48-volt electric systems, as well as higher-voltage applications of 600V or 660V for larger machines.

New standard for energy density

At the recent Battery Show North America, Akasol showcased its new AKASystem AKM CYC battery, a nickel-manganese cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion chemistry that the company said achieves an industry-leading 221 Wh/kg. Designed as a modular and scalable battery for high-power/long-range in vehicles such as city buses, the system is liquid cooled and capable of accepting high fast-charging rates required for many commercial-vehicle applications.

Schulde noted the desire for higher energy density is coming from customer feedback. Fully electric buses currently are fitted with anywhere from 600 kWh battery packs up to 1,000 kWh. The AKASystem AKM CYC battery is designed in two standard module sizes – AKAModule 64 CYC and AKAModule 150 CYC – with the larger offering integrating liquid cooling to help manage cell temperatures.

The new battery is based on specially designed 21700-format cylindrical cells that rival current solid-state battery technology. Schulde told SAE that Akasol is keeping an eye on solid-state battery developments and is trying to be “cell-agnostic,” but for now, NMC chemistry is the company’s focus.

“With this technology, AKASOL is able to outperform today’s solid-state technology in terms of price competitiveness and availability, while increasing energy density by approximately 30-40%,” Schulde said. “The solution also can be used for fast charging, which is particularly important for increasing the uptime of commercial vehicles. AKASOL plans to bring the solution to serial production in 2021 and already has customers starting sample operation by the end of this year.”