Electric vehicles are new, fun, and evolving at a rapid pace. And while we’re seeing major improvements to charging speeds and mileage, there’s still a long way to go. One of the more exciting advancements is solid-state batteries, and you’ll be hearing a lot about them in the near future.
See, EVs of today get power from lithium-ion batteries, the same type of battery inside our smartphones, laptops, and tablets. There’s nothing wrong with that, but solid-state cells promise a better future.
With that in mind, here we’ll explain a bit about solid-state EV batteries and how they differ from the current lithium-ion cells in a Tesla or F-150 Lightning?
Lithium-ion batteries use a liquid electrolyte that allows the flow of energy between the cathode and anode side during charging and when a battery is in use. This liquid (or sometimes a gel) also stabilizes the surfaces, extends lifespan, and is an improvement over older battery technology.
The ions inside a battery switch from one side to the other during use and go back while charging, eventually wearing down over time. The electrolyte solution helps improve the process, slows degradation, and improves the lifespan.
However, current Lithium-ion batteries are flammable, have a limited voltage range, and start to lose performance over time. Similar to how your phone doesn’t hold a charge as well as it did when you first bought it. They’re also heavy and not very energy-dense.
Solid-state battery technology promises to fix most of those pain points. While a solid-state battery operates very similar to lithium-ion, they use a solid material instead of the liquids or gels in current products. That solid material can be anything from ceramics, polymers, or sulfites.
By removing the flammable liquid electrolyte, solid-state batteries have fewer moving parts and are more stable, compact, lightweight, and safe. They’re also expensive and hard to manufacture, which is why we’re not seeing them in vehicles already.
Solid-state batteries aren’t new and typically only used in small electric devices, like pacemakers and medical equipment, and most aren’t rechargeable. Could that be about to change?
The idea behind solid-state batteries in EVs is that they’ll be better in every aspect. There are fewer moving parts, no liquid moving around, and more compact. They also don’t require the cooling of lithium-ion, which will decrease weight while improving charging speeds.
Manufacturers hope that switching to solid-state can improve safety and reduce flammability, decrease the size of battery cells, offer greater capacities in the same space, and improve performance. This could deliver more power, longer-range cars, or more compact and lightweight vehicles.
A solid-state battery can theoretically offer greater energy density, higher voltage ranges for substantially faster charging, more range, and improved performance. Additionally, the battery cells themselves will last longer.
Lithium-ion batteries will begin to degrade and lose power capacity after 1,000 cycles. Many current solid-state batteries can retain upwards of 90% capacity after over 5,000 cycles. This means EVs will last even longer.
Imagine having a new F-150 Lightning that charges faster, goes further, weighs less, is more efficient, has a longer lifespan, and gets better performance. That’s the goal with solid-state battery technology.
Unfortunately, the technology and manufacturing just aren’t quite there yet. Solid-state batteries are expensive and complex to manufacture in the size needed for an electric vehicle. Then, manufacturers would need to scale up production facilities to meet the rising demand, which is another challenge.
As a result, many experts suggest solid-state batteries for electric vehicles won’t be anywhere near ready or mass-produced until at least 2030. According to Forbes, we still have a long way to go.
The first lithium-ion battery cells faced similar hurdles. But eventually, they became more affordable, easier to produce, and are now what millions of people, devices, and automobiles rely on today. Over time, the idea is that solid-state batteries will follow the same path and become a viable alternative.
In fact, many automotive brands are working hard to make this become a reality. Volkswagen Group is the largest shareholder in Quantumscape, a company working on solid-state battery technology, and we’ve seen reports that Porsche wants to use them in upcoming EVs. Ford and BMW have partnered with Solid Power, and many others are doing the same.
Mercedes-Benz is working on a lithium-silicon battery technology that’s safer and more energy-dense, and nearly every auto manufacturer has announced a plan for new battery technology, most of which focuses on solid-state battery cells.
And while Toyota got complacent after the Prius and lags behind much of the competition in EVs, solid-state batteries could be its saving grace. That’s because Toyota plans on releasing its first solid-state EV hybrid vehicle in 2025 and has invested billions into the technology.
Toyota could be the first company to commercialize solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, giving it a huge leg-up over the competition.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, electric vehicles are the future. They’re already matching or surpassing gas-powered vehicles in many metrics, and this is only the beginning. The switch to solid-state batteries could help reduce range anxiety, improve performance, make charging as quick as stopping for gas, and usher in a new generation of EVs.
We still have a long, slow, winding road ahead, but advancements are certainly steering in the right direction. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see.