Two of the world’s biggest industrial giants are battling in court over electric car lithium-ion batteries. At stake is approximately a multi-billion dollar settlement.
The fight is over a high-tech patent of battery chemistry that is not well-known to the public, but many experts believe that it holds the best chance for electric cars penetrating the mass car market.
The court case is being fought by BASF of Germany, and Umicore of Belgium. BASF is the biggest chemical company in the world, while Umicore is listed among the biggest manufacturers of battery materials.
The case was filed by BASF on February 20 in the US federal court in Delaware. BASF’s lawsuit claims that Umicore is selling an essential battery component that BASF holds an exclusive license. This case was first reported only by a number of patent blogs.
The lawsuit also contends that Umicore has threatened to sue involved companies if they gave their business to BASF. Billions of dollars in alleged damages are being sought by BASF.
Apart from the two European tech giants, the lawsuit also involves a possible collision between two giant manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries, each holding rival patents for the technology which is at the center of the heart of the battle.
They are 3M Corp. also an industrial giant, and Argonne National Laboratory, a US government lab, the co-complainant of BASF.
If the parties will not agree to settle before the trial date commences, the jurors will be required to understand the nuances of the technical terms related to mysterious atomic structure of battery electrodes.
During the trial, the jurors will be forced to hear contradicting versions of what is happening on the nano-scale level when a battery containing “NMC,” a positive electrode, or cathode is charged and discharged. These materials are the nervous system of a battery. It contains manganese, cobalt and nickel
To argue their case, it is entirely possible that both lawyers of BASF and Argonne will describe a battle that is going on among major car manufacturers in their desire to be the first to unveil the next generation EVs in the time frame from 2017 to 2020.
These include BMW, GM, and Tesla. It is probable that Virgin and Apple will join the fray, based on recent developments. The lawyers will argue that BASF was effectively locked out of the contest by the actions of Umicore.
“BASF has lost out on billions of dollars of potential revenue from selling [NMC] materials because of Umicore’s misrepresentations to major purchasers in the [NMC] materials market,” BASF and Argonne claim in the lawsuit.
“In addition, BASF has lost the ability to compete as a supplier for electric vehicle platforms expected to launch in 2016 and 2017,” the lawsuit added.
With their lawsuit, BASF and Argonne emphasized the increasing economic stakes in batteries.
According to Navigant, a clean energy research firm, although the advances in battery technology has been a bit slow, causing the loss of appeal for electric cars, lithium-ion, on the other hand, has continued to grow into a respectable $18-billion-a-year industry,
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