Move over, lithium-ion batteries; solid-state technology is on the way. It looks to spur massive growth in electric vehicle acceptance.
The heavy weight and limited energy density of lithium-ion batteries contribute to the range anxiety that hampers public acceptance of electric vehicles.
But solid-state batteries will increase energy storage without adding weight or bulk. That will extend the range of electric vehicles. They also eliminate the flammability issues that are inherent in lithium-ion batteries.
Researchers say a solid-state battery pack could give electric vehicles 500 to 1,000 miles of range on a single charge. Automakers today struggle to reach 300 miles.
100 MILLION ELECTRIC VEHICLES
The technology is advancing rapidly and could be ready for commercial use within a few years. That’s the assessment of a report from ABI Research, a New York-based advanced-technologies research firm.
Solid-state technology could grow the global number of electric vehicles from 8 million last year to 100 million by 2028, the report said.
The batteries provide many benefits, the researchers said. They include greater longevity, reliability and energy density. The batteries are lighter and have less bulk than lithium-ion batteries. And they eliminate the fire risk posed by lithium-ion batteries’ flammable liquid electrolyte by replacing it with a solid material.
TESLA NOT GOING SOLID STATE
One outlier is EV pioneer Tesla.
The Fremont, Calif., company has bet heavily on lithium-ion technology. It is working on new lithium-ion chemistry with Dalhousie University in Canada. Tesla said the new technology offers the energy density of solid-state batteries while maintaining the same format as today’s lithium-ion cells.
That allows the current manufacturing equipment to make the batteries, enabling them to reach the market sooner than solid-state batteries.
Tesla operates the world’s largest lithium-ion battery factory in Reno, Nev.
Getting electron ions to flow freely through the solid electrolyte has been the major stumbling block solid-state battery developers have been working to eliminate.
Ford, Toyota, Daimler, Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Hyundai are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in solid-state battery research and development. All build commercial trucks as well as passenger cars and light trucks.
BMW and startup luxury EV maker Fisker Inc. also are working on solid-state, as are several Chinese EV companies.
Automakers are investing in several U.S.-based solid-state battery-development companies, including Kentucky-based Solid Power and Ionic Materials of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Volkswagen invested $100 million in QuantumScape, a Massachusetts-based solid-state battery developer.
Toyota has pursued solid-state battery development for years. It has a technology-sharing agreement with Suzuki, Subaru and Mazda. The automaker also has a joint-development pact with Nissan, Honda, battery maker Panasonic and the Japanese government.
Just a few years ago, the auto industry considered solid-state EV battery development a distant goal. Now commercial application is rapidly approaching.
Toyota “would like to make sure that a solid-state battery can be unveiled to the public” in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, research director Shigeki Terashi said during a June briefing about the company’s EV plans.
ABI researchers see full-scale commercialization a bit further down the road, but still well within the next decade.
Meantime, they predict that an interim technology will emerge – lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolytes and silicon, which increases energy density.
The report suggests that silicon-added batteries will dominate until 2026, at which point solid-state technology will be ready for widespread commercialization.