The main factor preventing people from buying an electric vehicle (“ EV ”) today is the battery … Who wants to be stuck on the road with a dead battery?
For example, current Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) batteries have a range of just over 320 kilometers, and can take up to 40 minutes to recharge – even at the fastest charging stations on the road. It’s enough if you just use it between home and work, but what if you want to go on vacation somewhere?
The lack of charging stations is also one of the main obstacles to the adoption of the electric car.
862 118, this is the number of public recharging stations in the world. The majority of these stations (60%) are in China, where the government has been promoting the massive adoption of electric vehicles to reduce pollution for several years.
This effort aims to support the growth of the electric vehicle industry, whose sales, still constitute only a small fraction of the total number of vehicles sold. In the United States, for example, even though people are increasingly embracing the idea of EVs, only 2% of vehicles sold in 2019 were electric.
Solid-state batteries represent the next step for the electric car revolution
Currently, most modern electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries. The problem of this type of battery is not only linked to autonomy and recharging time… but also safety, lifespan, and above all cost. Until these issues are resolved, EVs won’t go mainstream.
With solid-state batteries, electric vehicles should be able to achieve an autonomy (driving range) matching—and eventually surpassing—that of cars with an internal combustion engine.
In fact solid batteries are expected to solve these problems and have a lot of benefits:
- Autonomy: solid batteries have a higher energy density, about two to ten times current rates. It means that the autonomy increases dramatically. Samsung’s recent announcement of its solid battery reported a range of 800 kilometers, twice that of lithium-ion models. And this is only their first model;
- Recharging time: Solid batteries will recharge up to six times faster than current lithium-ion batteries. This decreases the recharging time from 40 minutes to 6 minutes;
- Price: Currently, a car battery is about half the price of the car itself. Solid batteries should dramatically reduce this cost. It’s not only cheaper to produce, it’s also cost less to operate and do not need to be replaced as often. Current estimates are that solid batteries will survive five times longer than current lithium-ion models.
If all these criterion are met, electric vehicles are no longer a problem for the consumer: he doesn’t have to sacrifice all the advantages associated with a normal vehicle. Also, driving electric could become more competitive than the internal combustion engine (ICE) from as early as 2025.
What are solid-state batteries and how does it improve lithium-ion battery?
This type of battery is called “solid-state” battery, for one reason: the electrolyte has a solid form and contains no volatile components. As such, it will be safer than the current lithium-ion battery which contains a flammable liquid electrolyte solution.
Furthermore, the solid-electrolyte component allows for the integration of different active materials such as a lithium metal anode and for different cell architectures, such as bipolar arrangements. As a consequence, it provides a higher energy density at the cell and/or battery pack level.
The energy density of the Li-ion battery (LiB) cell has more than tripled since its market introduction by Sony in 1991. Continuous improvements in LiB components resulted in an average increase of 25 Wh/l per year from 1995 to 2010. With today’s materials, it is technically possible to reach a limit of 800 Wh/l.
But to break the barrier of 800Wh/l and achieve an energy density of 1000 Wh/l—and more, solid-state battery technology will be needed.
The innovation race between manufacturers
Toyota built a working solid-state battery-powered prototype vehicle that was supposed to be shown off at the Olympic Games this summer. It partnered with Panasonic to put solid-state batteries into limited production in 2025. Keiji Kaita, executive vice president of Toyota’s powertrain company, said the company has a working prototype.
Other car manufacturers are also investing heavily in this area:
- BMW has invested $20 million in Solid Power, to increase its solid batteries production. The idea is to launch its own “solid batteries vehicles” by 2025;
- Recently, Hyundai invested in Ionic Materials, a US-based start-up, and hopes to launch an electric vehicle by 2025;
- Toyota and Panasonic have formed a joint venture to produce the next generation of solid batteries for electric vehicles.
Solid-state battery technology will deliver an autonomy matching and eventually even surpassing that of the car with an internal combustion engine. A first prototype integrated into electric cars will be demonstrated this year. Production and commercialization are expected by 2025. However, one of the biggest issues with solid-state batteries today s their short life span: they tend to fail after repeated charging. The biggest car manufacturers are working to solve this issue thought partnerships and Joint ventures. Electric vehicles are not only here to stay but also holds a bright future if it can reach the same comfort level as cars with an internal combustion engine.