The world is marching ever closer to an era of battery-electric commercial vehicles, and a business in Boucherville, Que. is showcasing the power to keep them on the move. Specifically, it’s been manufacturing batteries for heavy-duty electric vehicles for more than 10 years.
Blue Solutions, a former subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec, was purchased by French multinational Groupe Bollore in 2006.
“They bought all the equipment, buildings and the portfolio of patents,” said Blue Solutions general manager Alain Vallée, during an interview with our sister publication Transport Routier.
Currently, most of the production from the 180,000-square-foot Quebec plant goes to the Daimler Group, which uses them in its Mercedes eCitaro city buses.
Blue Solutions manufactures so-called “solid state” batteries, which unlike lithium-ion batteries are lithium metal polymer (LMP) designs. Their electrolytes, which circulate the ions, are made of solid matter rather than a liquid or gel.
According to Vallée, this has several advantages. “It is very resistant to external temperatures, be it very cold or very hot … and we have no cooling or temperature maintenance systems external to the battery. The battery is self-managing. “
From his Los Angeles office, Blue Solutions’s North American business development director Adrian Tylim says the company’s battery packs have an operating temperature range that runs between -30 and 60 Celsius.
The higher energy density of solid state batteries will also support longer ranges on a single charge.
In its promotional literature, Mercedes boasts similar attributes, adding that solid state batteries have a longer life.
Vallée is convinced such batteries could play a role in electrifying trucks. “Our batteries are really well suited for heavy vehicles, like buses, transport trucks.”
Adds Tylim: “This is a product that has been tested and used in more than 5,000 electric vehicles of all sizes.” Collectively they’ve accumulated more than 300 million km of service.
For example, Blue Solutions’ French factory produces batteries for electric shunt tractors manufactured by Gaussin, which are used in markets such as New Zealand. These vehicles also run around the clock thanks to a rapid battery-swapping technique that can be completed by operators in about two minutes. It can even be completed with a simple manual pallet jack.
This is the type of market that Blue Solutions wants to develop in North America.
Project with Dana-TM4
Even Dana-TM4, another business with a Hydro-Quebec heritage, is part of the Blue Solutions Boucherville landscape.
“We know them and they know us, we visit each other. We’re actually working on a project with them,” says Tylim.
“There is a start-up company in Quebec which is in the development phase of a product, and which will use our batteries and our powertrain,” he adds.
At this point, solid state batteries can’t be recharged as quickly as lithium-ion batteries. But Tylim believes the barrier will be overcome in as little as five years.
“No battery is perfect for all the applications out there,” he says.
But the company is proving that it is a fit for an ever-increasing list of applications.
- This article was originally written in French. All quotes have been translated.