Mercedes the latest to partner with America’s Factorial on solid-state batteries

Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday announced it will partner with Woburn, Massachusetts-based Factorial Energy to develop solid-state batteries for future electric vehicles.

The announcement comes just a month after a similar partnership was announced between Hyundai Motor Group and Factorial. It also comes the same week Nissan announced it will start offering cars with solid-state batteries by 2028.

Like the Hyundai Motor Group deal, Mercedes will also make an equity investment in Factorial. The investment will be big enough that Mercedes gets to appoint a board member at Factorial.

Factorial has been developing solid-state battery technology for the past six years (previously as Lionano) and includes former Chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corporation of North America Joe Taylor as executive chairman. Former Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche and former Ford CEO Mark Fields are also on Factorial’s advisory board. The company is headed by Siyu Huang who is also a co-founder.

Most major automakers are looking to introduce solid-state batteries later this decade. The batteries, which derive their name from their solid electrolytes, promise improved range and shorter charge times compared to current liquid-type batteries, as well as improved safety and lower costs.

According to Mercedes, Factorial has developed a solid-state battery that offers up to 50% longer range per charge, increased safety, and cost parity with conventional lithium-ion batteries. Mercedes expects to start testing a prototype solid-state battery developed with Factorial as early as next year.

While solid-state batteries aren’t a new technology, hurdles remain when it comes to automotive applications, particularly manufacturing the batteries at the scale and durability required for cars.

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BAGGED NISSAN GT-R R35

With custom candy paint, wide arches and 600bhp, Adam Christie’s bagged Nissan GT-R is the complete package.

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Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Adam Rous

Stop licking your lips. You’re dribbling. Had you noticed? Yes, this bagged Nissan GT-R looks good enough to eat, but you’re just going to have to try to contain yourself. You see, while the candy raspberry exterior may appear to be so Wonka-like in its sucrose allure that you just want to bury your face in it and guzzle it down your hungry gullet, you’ll be getting yourself into serious trouble – not least because its owner, Adam Crispin, may wish to have words about just what it is exactly that you think you’re up to, but also because there’s a monster hiding inside. You won’t find a fluffy strawberry-flavoured centre in this candy treat, there’s no hazelnut or praline residing within. No, there’s a terrifying Japanese monster in there. Godzilla. And it wants, quite frankly, to claw your eyes out and tear you to bits.

Godzilla is a terrifying entity, there’s no denying that. Since the character’s inception in 1954 in Ishiro Honda’s original movie, this ‘King of Monsters’ has passed into pop culture as a vengeful horror-beast; an indiscriminate, all-pervading, all-consuming force of destruction and unstoppable ruthlessness. Is it any wonder that Nissan’s own monster, the GT-R, is so inextricably intertwined with this folkloric legend?

Bagged Nissan GT-R

It was the R32 Skyline GT-R that first enjoyed the nickname, and it’s continued with impressive persistence right through to today’s R35. We all know the factlets and titbits that make the R35 so special – the nitrogen-filled tyres on knurled rims, the PlayStation-alike interface, the plasma-coated cylinder bores – and it’s hard to believe it’s been with us as a showroom model since 2007. It’s a giant-killer, an establishment-upsetter, a stealth missile, an absurd amount of horsepower and cunning technology for what is, relatively speaking, a bargain price. It’s specifically designed to annoy Porsche 911 owners. And with such a delicious platter of rich, succulent technology, it’s pretty much the perfect everyday supercar. A gruff and jagged Godzilla, built to obliterate all in its path in a hellstorm of swishing hydrocarbons. Impossible to improve upon, right?

Bagged Nissan GT-R

Ha! No. Of course not. Nissan’s claim that they’d built an untunable car has been comprehensively disproven over the last thirteen years, as it turns out that drilling into Godzilla’s very DNA and rewiring things can unleash all sorts of fury. And don’t let Adam hear you spreading that sort of defeatist logic either – he deliberately bought a completely standard GT-R simply because he wanted to heavily modify it, and do so his way.

When it comes to this sort of thing, it’s fair to say that Adam’s a pretty safe pair of hands. He’s well known in Vauxhall circles, having built a Corsa D VXR into a 472bhp hellion; after he’d had his fun with that, he then set his sights eastward and sprinkled his unique blend of magic over a Mitsubishi Evo X, pumping up the jams to the tune of 611bhp and smacking it down on air-ride. “I’ve been doing car shows for the last eight years, and I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon,” he assures us. Good lad, that’s what we like to hear.

It has to be said that this time, however, he’s knocked things up a notch even by his own exacting standards. What we’re seeing here is the legendary Godzilla grappling in an internal struggle with the Candyman himself, hooks and bloody stumps slashing at claws in a freaky civil war within those broad purple flanks.

“I bought the car completely stock,” he reiterates. “I’d always wanted one, as it’s one of my favourite cars. This one is a 2008 Japanese import; I wanted a standard and untouched GT-R because I knew what I planned to turn it into. The condition was very clean and well-looked after, with full service history.” A strong base then, and of course that dream-come-true scenario wasn’t allowed to mellow for too long before Adam began tearing the car apart and changing things.

Bagged Nissan GT-R

Naturally, the first thing that draws the eye is the unique and astonishing exterior, but before we dive into the details of that, let’s first unpick what’s going on under the bonnet. You see, the mad scientists at Knight Racer have been having their wicked way with this one, and the results are finger-lickin’ good. That tectonically grunty VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 has been subjected to the full Stage 4.25 treatment, which essentially comprises uprated fuelling, a massive intake, beefier downpipes and a full 4-inch decat system with titanium tips. Most cleverly of all, it boasts an Ecutek RaceROM remap for both the engine and transmission ECUs; for the cog-swapping, this means the latest software derived from the supercar-baiting Nismo GT-R. For the engine, it shuffles the performance upgrades into order and results in a meaty 660bhp, with the added benefits of such toys as launch control, rolling launch, pops and bangs, shift pops, and reworked traction control parameters. In short, the ‘untunable’ has been heavily tuned to become a truly incredible version of itself.

So, it’s got all the horsepower it needs (plus a hell of a lot more) to ensure that the performance is worthy of the iconic GT-R badge. The purists are momentarily appeased. But let’s kick some sand in their faces and see what manner of lunacy Adam’s unleashed on the bodywork…

“The car was built by Kode Performance,” he explains, “and it’s fitted with the first CMST front end in the UK. The CMST front arches have been custom-fitted and smoothed in with added vents, and the rear is the only GT-R running this setup; everything was custom-made to fit. Those rear Rocket Bunny arches were smoothed in and cut so it’s possible to take the rear bumper off, while the Varis bumper has been widened to fit the arches with proper metalwork to make it factory-looking.” The effect this achieves is more than a little arresting, and the addition of the Liberty Walk diffuser, Knight Racer carbon bonnet, and ducktail bootlid add up to something way more than the sum of its already more-is-more parts. But the crowning glory, the thing that really sets this unique R35 apart, is that lip-smacking fruit-loop paint.

“It’s Candy Raspberry from Custom Paints,” Adam explains, “with a silver base coat and six layers of candy topped off with 2k show lacquer.” The raspberry is vivid enough in itself, but the silver base really makes it pop and that gleaming lacquered finish allows the colour to fulfil its juicyfruit potential; counterpointed by the white centres of the fat CMST split-rims as well as all of the carbon details across the body, it’s the perfect finish for an unapologetic and uncompromising build. Looks delicious, doesn’t it? You can almost taste it. But don’t try anything weird… Godzilla will tear your head clean off without a moment’s hesitation, and that’s before the Candyman gets his hooks into you.

Bagged Nissan GT-R

Tech Spec: Bagged Nissan GT-R

Styling:

Custom Paints Candy Raspberry paint, CMST carbon fibre front bumper, CMST front wide arches, Varis rear bumper, Rocket Bunny rear wide arches, carbon sideskirts, Liberty Walk carbon diffuser, CMST carbon splitter, Knight Racer carbon bonnet, carbon bootlid with ducktail, Depo Lightning Bolt LED headlights

Tuning:

VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, Knight Racer Stage 4.25 setup inc. Big Power intake, ASNU 1,050cc injectors, 90mm stainless Y-pipe, 3-inch high-flow cast downpipes, full 4-inch decat exhaust system with titanium tips, Ecutek RaceROM custom tune on engine and transmission, 660bhp

Chassis:

10×20-inch ET-18 (front) and 12×20-inch ET-60 (rear) CMST forged 2-piece wheels, 265/35 (f) and 305/30 (r) Nankang NS-2R tyres, Air Lift Performance struts with 3P management, Brembo calipers, Alcon discs, Ferodo DS2500 pads

Interior:

Recaro seats retrimmed in Alcantara Seatskinz with purple stitching, carbon steering wheel, carbon shift paddles, carbon interior panels

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FORD MONDEO ST220 BUYER’S GUIDE

Now that Ford has pulled the plug on the Mondeo, the 2002-to-2007 ST220 reigns supreme as the best, the fastest and the final fast Ford family saloon. Here’s how to buy a car that combines V6 grunt with perfect poise, luxury equipment and rapidly increasing rarity. Sponsored by Adrian Flux.

Guide from Fast Ford. Words: Dan Williamson

Why you want a Ford Mondeo ST220

  • Ford will never again build a machine like this: normally-aspirated V6 petrol power and sublime handling in a big, family-car package.
  • If you’re looking for practicality, the ST220 takes some beating – the saloon and hatchback have massive boots, and the estate’s load space is truly cavernous.
  • Anyone in the know appreciates the ST220 as a genuine driver’s car with a fabulous chassis – and as they’re becoming rare, their value should rise higher than the running costs.

Why you don’t want a Mondeo ST220…

  • Mondeo Man infamy still lingers from the autocracy of Tony Blair, and it’s unlikely the ST220 will ever recover from an undeserved image of mundanity.
  • Running costs can be extortionate for the performance on offer, with low-20s to the gallon being common, and jaw-dropping road tax for late-model ST220s.
  • Still lingering in banger territory means many ST220s are poorly serviced, riddled with niggles, badly modified and in the process of rotting away. Extra stickers don’t make a cure.

Ford Mondeo ST220

What to look out for on the Ford Mondeo ST220

Identity

Check the VIN number on the V5 logbook matches the sticker on the driver’s-side B-pillar, numbers stamped into the bulkhead (behind the plenum chamber) and VIN visible through the windscreen on the nearside. If possible, plug a code reader into the OBD port and confirm the chassis number is identical.

As always, an identity report is vital to ensure your ST220 isn’t recorded as stolen or written off, or subject to outstanding finance.

ST220s aren’t really faked, but it’s worth checking the spec tallies with the year: original ST220s (until June 2003) were fitted with a five-cog MTX75 gearbox, whereas facelifted versions had a six-speed MMT6; six-speed cars also feature the updated fascia layout rather than piano-black trim. Post-2003 ST220s have a remappable ECU and standard cruise control (rare on early cars).

Remember that all ST220s are expensive to run, but cars registered after March 2006 are in a higher road tax bracket, costing significantly more each year.

As always, if you see a Mondeo with cloth trim, single exhaust pipe, noisy engine, and unrefined ride/handling, it’s an ST TDCi. There’s no such thing as a Ford Mondeo ST220 diesel.

Ford Mondeo ST220

Engine & Transmission

All-alloy American-built Duratec-ST is well-made but complex and crammed a little too snugly into the Mondeo’s engine bay. Terminal failure has killed many ST220s.

Servicing is due at 12,500 miles but the V6 Duratec runs on timing chains, which last the life of the engine; if you hear a chain rattling, it often signals the end of the engine’s life.

Listen for knocking noises – which if they’re from the bottom end simply aren’t worth the risk. Ticking could come from camshaft bearing caps or belt tensioners (relatively minor fixes) but big issues may be lurking.

Exhaust smoke is a major warning sign, with white pointing to head gasket and/or cylinder head problems, or blue suggesting a worn-out engine. Head gasket failure often results in misfires, so don’t trust a seller claiming their ST220 just needs a coil pack or spark plugs (albeit the rear three are tricky to change).

The airflow meter, throttle position sensor, perished vacuum hoses, fuel system or ECU may also be to blame for misfires, rough idling, poor performance and high fuel consumption; a full diagnosis is crucial but won’t necessarily identify the cause. It could get costly.

Oil leaks are similarly awkward to solve. Most ST220s have gunge around the front exhaust manifold – usually dripped from the filler neck when being topped up – but grubby timing chain covers and sump need further investigation.

Fuel pump failure is common at around 100,000 miles, which means dropping the tank to replace it; bodgers cut a hole in the floor instead, confirmed by looking beneath the back seat.

Coolant leaks can be catastrophic, so check the condition of the hoses for splits or holes. The V6 is tight under the bonnet, causing pipes and wires to chafe. Inspect the loom around the battery, bulkhead and alternator, which can cause chaos with the smart-charging system. The alternator is especially prone to failure thanks to its proximity to the rear exhaust manifold/cat. Early signs of impending shut-down are the battery light glowing on the dashboard, followed by the air conditioning and stereo ceasing to work.

Examine the cooling fans too, which are prone to seizing. Check them by ensuring they run when the air conditioning is switched on.

Two types of gearbox were available with the Ford Mondeo ST220: until June 2003 it was Ford’s MTX75 five-speed manual, after which it was the Getrag MMT6 Durashift six-speed. The earlier car had a slicker gearshift, dual airbox intakes and quicker acceleration; the six-speed boasted better economy, higher top speed, improved ECU and a facelifted fascia.

Both ’boxes are strong, and neither should cause trouble, but the clutch is a different matter, usually requiring replacement before 100,000 miles. On the rest drive, check for slip by leaving it in fourth and ensuing the road speed increases with the engine revs; ensure all the gears engage without baulking.

Beware of vibrations felt through the clutch pedal, warning of DMF (dual mass flywheel) failure. The ST220’s DMF isn’t as prone to failing as the diesel-powered Mondeo’s, but it will wear out eventually, meaning an expensive repair.

Chassis

Even a tired Ford Mondeo ST220 should feel fine behind the wheel, but if it doesn’t feel precise, there’s something wrong.

ST220 front suspension is based on the Jaguar X-Type 3.0; vague handling could be caused by a dry steering column bush, worn anti-roll bar bushes (which are inherently weak) or poor wheel alignment – Mondeos are particularly sensitive – resulting in excessive wear to the 225/40R18 rubber.

ST220 rear suspension is shared with the regular Mondeo, so saloons and hatchbacks munch through subframe bushes, leading to clonking and sloppiness at the rear; polyurethane replacements are advisable.

ST220 estates have the Jaguar X-Type setup, which doesn’t eat bushes but needs the rear arms checking for distortion from careless jacking.

Wheel bearings are a common problem – listen for rumbling – while front wishbones, ball joints and suspension links may be worn; use X-Type replacements. Rear wheel bearings are standard Mondeo parts.

Wheels themselves are often tatty, with lacquer peeling away from the stock diamond-cut finish and corrosion taking hold. Refurbishment is a pro job, but repainting or powder-coating is a simple cure.

Don’t be surprised to feel juddering from the front brakes – it will need new discs and pads, which are cheap-and-cheerful stock Mk3 300mm vented fronts and 280mm solid rears. Many ST220s have thankfully been upgraded to Focus ST225 front 320mm discs, callipers and carriers, which make a massive improvement.

ST220 rear brakes exhibit common Mondeo complaints of seized callipers, particularly on pre-2004 models. Jack up the back to see if the wheels spin freely with and without the handbrake engaged; the cause is likely to be the handbrake mechanism on the calliper, although stretched cables and sticking pistons are sometimes to blame. Replacement callipers are cheap.

ABS sensors sometimes fail, causing the warning light to glow on the dashboard. They’re inexpensive and easy to replace.

Interior

Mondeo cabins wear pretty well, but their age means many have rattly trim and squeaky plastic. Wind noise from the rear window seals is very common.

Leather upholstery was standard, and very durable – but expect to see wear on the driver’s seat bolster. It can by dyed very easily by a DIYer. Black has tended to be the most popular shade, but Infra Red leather has become sought-after.

Early ST220s had a piano-black fascia, replaced in June 2003 by an updated dashboard; such facelifted cars were equipped with a six-speed gearbox and more standard kit, including auto wipers and lights, cruise control, multi-position electric seat adjustment and variable-position seat heaters. Desirable options also became available, including sat nav and Bluetooth.

ST220s gained red stitching on the leather from 2005, and alcantara seat inserts were offered at extra cost. Expect to pay more cash for this cabin.

Spend less if the interior is badly scuffed, especially if there’s an IRS logo on the speedometer – a telltale sign of the ST220 being an ex-cop car.

ST220s had loads of electrical goodies, so make sure they all work; heated seat pads are fiddly to fix, heated windscreens exhibit dodgy elements (costly to replace), six-disc head units become problematic, and central locking motors break – but are fortunately the same as other Mk3 Mondeos.

Ford Mondeo ST220

Exterior

Rust is the enemy. Even when relatively new, many ST220s were repaired and repainted under warranty due to bodywork corrosion.

Pre-2005 Mondeos suffer most around the door bottoms where the flanges trap moisture. Wheelarches also suffer, as do sills behind the side skirts. Inspect the bonnet edges, inner wings (inside and out), tailgate, beneath the fuel cap, around the windscreen and back lights.

Rear bumpers tend to sag on saloons and hatchbacks, but they’re easily fixed with new foam supports to replace those that are missing or broken.

Choice of bodystyle is personal preference, and makes little difference to price. Saloons are a tad stiffer, estates are immensely practical (and traditionally most expensive), and hatchbacks sit in the middle as being more common.

Colour used to affect values, but today it’s preferable to buy on condition instead of spec. Still, Performance Blue remains popular, and some owners prefer the post-2005 chrome trim. Look out for desirable options such as xenon headlamps and (rare) electric sunroof.

Reversing sensors were also available, but tend to play up or need regular cleaning; headlamp washer jets suffer the same fate. Washer covers go missing, but non-genuine replacements cost pennies to buy, if not to paint the proper colour.

Look out for white ST220s, which were usually purchased by police forces (among other colours, especially silver). Rare yes, but these Mondeos led very hard lives, and ex-police cars generally have plenty of damaged bodywork, scratches and filler.

Ford Mondeo ST220

Ford Mondeo ST220 insurance quote from Adrian Flux

Car: Ford Mondeo ST220

Value: £3500

Driver and info: 28-year-old male, with a full NCB, living in the TN14 post code, with a clean licence. The car is parked on the drive each night and has light modifications including wheels, suspension, exhaust and air filter.

Quote: £300 including insurance premium tax / £250 excess / Comprehensive cover

Tech Spec: Ford Mondeo ST220

Engine:

2967cc 24-valve V6 DOHC Duratec-ST (MEBA) with alloy cylinder block and heads, 10:1 compression ratio, chain drive, multi-point fuel injection system, Black-Oak ECU (revised in June 2003), twin stainless exhausts

Transmission:

Front-wheel drive with MTX75 five-speed manual gearbox or (from June 2003) Getrag MMT6 Durashift six-speed manual gearbox, 240mm clutch and dual-mass flywheel

Suspension:

Front: MacPherson struts, uprated dampers, 15mm lowered coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear: Quadralink independent suspension with anti-roll bar and 15mm lowered coil springs (saloon/hatchback) or independent short-long arm with anti-roll bar and lowered coil springs (estate)

Brakes:

Front: 300mm ventilated discs; rear: 280mm solid discs; ABS with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)

Wheels & tyres:

7.5x18in 16-spoke alloys and 225/40R18 tyres

Exterior:

Mondeo four-door saloon, five-door hatchback or five-door estate with bodywork extensions including honeycomb grilles, flared front wheelarches, sports front and rear bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler, body-coloured door handles and tailgate/boot lid handle. Facelift in June 2003 including rear lights (saloon and hatch), rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and puddle lights, plus (from June 2005) chrome grille surround, revised side skirts, rear lights and chrome door handles. Metallic paint in Ink Blue, State Blue, Infra Red, Machine Silver, Magnum Grey, Panther Black, Stardust Silver, Sea Grey, Performance Blue (at extra cost) or non-metallic Diamond White (police). Optional rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, xenon headlamps, electric sunroof, Technology Pack (xenon headlights and privacy glass)

Interior:

Recaro heated front seats in Ebony Black, Infra Red, Graphite or Light Flint leather with matching rear seat (leather with alcantara inserts available from mid-August 2005), leather-rimmed steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake handle (with red stitching from 2005), climate control, six-disc CD head unit. Facelift in June 2003 including revised fascia and standard cruise control. Optional heated rear seat, stereo upgrades including DVD, sat nav, Bluetooth and rear-seat audio, Family Pack (dog guard and rear-seat audio system)

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