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Henrik Fisker (left) reviews the solid-state battery technology his company believes is the future of electrified mobility. (Fisker)

Caterpillar Ventures invests in Fisker for electric future

As automotive manufacturers compete to produce lower-cost electric vehicles (EVs) with greater ranges than ever, the off-highway construction and mining equipment industry has continued to show interest in the technologies developed for automotive use. Last year, Komatsu partnered with NVIDIA to integrate its AI (artificial intelligence) technologies for safer construction equipment. Now, Caterpillar Venture Capital, the business investment arm of Caterpillar, has invested in Fisker Inc. to further its EV technology developments into the off-highway industry.

“It’s not just the automotive industry that’s going electric,” Henrik Fisker, Chairman and CEO of Fisker, told Truck and Off-Highway Engineering. “Caterpillar and Fisker are in two very different industries serving very different customers, but we’re both interested in being part of developing the next-generation, game-changing battery technologies that may power vehicles of all varieties.”

Fisker sees heavy mining equipment as a primary beneficiary of electrified powertrains. Reductions in emissions of those vehicles that go underground can reduce the ventilation requirements of those operations, saving time and money for those companies. However, the introduction of these transforming powertrains continues to rely on the advancement of its power source.

The primary research at Fisker is in solid-state batteries. The EV developer believes this is the next generation of battery technology that will offer bulk electrodes with higher energy densities, enhanced safety, faster charge times, and lower costs (<$100 per kWh) than current lithium-ion capabilities. Fisker also believes that solid-state batteries will be safer and more stable than lithium-ion ones, which is critical for construction and mining operations. However, one key engineering challenge remains in implementing solid-state technologies.

“Scaling,” Fisker explained to TOHE. “Going back to the development of solid-state battery technology: the most challenging part of the process is taking what we’ve already achieved in hand-built prototype units and conquering the potential challenges that may be faced when replicating/repeating and scaling (as we move toward commercialization), to a level necessary for automotive applications and even more demanding use cases like heavy equipment.”

Fisker elaborated on Caterpillar's investment and its significance for further developments: "We want to bring in as many strategic partners as we can to help accelerate the development and commercialization of our solid-state battery technology," he shared. "The global market will be so enormous for electric vehicles [including] electric-powered heavy equipment, that it will be the single largest consumer of batteries by far in the future. Therefore, it makes sense for companies like Caterpillar to be part of what’s happening with battery development. There are a lot of synergies to understand in this space because we are all going electric."

Automation is another technology that Fisker believes will help the heavy machinery industries; however, the company acknowledges that capability will need to rely on the implementation of electrified powertrains first.

While Fisker and Caterpillar may focus on separate vehicle segments, Caterpillar Ventures has recognized that the advancement of electrification technologies benefits all mobility industries, providing new options for consumers that will make an impact immediately. Continue reading »