Swiss watchmaker Swatch is diversifying its brand with a huge step forward in advanced battery technology, eventually destined for electric vehicles.
The Swiss watchmaker owns a 51 per cent stake in Belenos Clean Power, a company formed in 2008 that is dedicated to technologies used within the clean energy chain, with a division focussing specifically on new battery technology. The company is even backed by actor George Clooney, who owns a share in the operation.
According to a report by TwentyTwoTen, Belenos Clean Power’s battery advantage comes from a patented compound used to develop its battery cells. The patented compound uses vanadium rather than rare raw materials, which makes the batteries cheaper to mass produce.
But, the biggest advantages are weight saving and reduced charging time. In comparison to the Panasonic supplied battery packs fitted to Tesla vehicles, the vanadium powered battery pack weighs a third less than the Panasonic equivalent and also charges twice as fast.
Swatch Group AG chief executive officer Nick Hayek told the media that it was the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal that triggered the company’s interest.
“I’m not happy about what happened with VW, but it is fueling the interest in us, since diesel is not the alternative anymore,” Hayek said.
“The car industry needs electro-mobility more than ever.”
Swatch began production of the patented batteries at its Renata watch battery production facility in June 2016. While the company undertakes trials, production will be capped at 200 units per day for battery packs in various sizes.
Electric bikes, scooters and drones will be the first port of call before the battery technology is ready to be tested in cars later this year.
Swatch is on record as stating that it plans to sell over US$10 billion of batteries by 2020. A memorandum of understanding between Swatch and Geely suggests that it’s the broader Chinese market the Swiss watchmaker plans to use as a test bed for the technology.
It’s an exciting time for the electric vehicle world. While huge advances in technology have helped autonomous driving and safety, it’s battery technology that has lagged behind — hopefully this innovation by Swatch will see the game moved forward.