Why solid-state batteries are a hot topic for electric cars
Cooley On Cars
We haven't perfected the current lithium ion batteries in electric cars yet, but in spite of that, or maybe because of it, we're already in the hunt to replace those.
And that's where the solid state battery comes in.
Let's find out why people are so excited about it, what the hurdles are, and who's chasing it.
Now as you probably know the lithium-ion battery kind of runs everything these days, your phone, your tablet, your laptop, just about anything you have of any sophistication that has a battery in it.
Probably it's a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.
Tesla car for example, has a giant battery pack made up of thousands of these guys.
These are what they call an 18650 cell.
Kind of a giant double A loosely correlated to that battery.
And these are great.
So far, as you know, being a lithium ion battery owner in many devices, they're not perfect.
They don't last as long as you'd like they don't charge as quickly as you'd like.
We have no point of reference yet but they're heavier and bulkier than you would like if you had a choice.
Frankly, the biggest innovation in lithium ion batteries over the last few years has not been in their performance, but in the decrease of their price per kilowatt hour that has been dramatic, but their size, weight and energy density has not increased nearly that quickly.
Enter the solid state battery
As the name solid state batteries suggests they are truly solid state unlike these guys that have kind of a wet slurry inside them packed firm, but not truly hard to ever grab one of these and squeeze that you can feel it give.
That's part of the nature of its chemistry.
A solid state battery is so hard because it's hard materials.
Packed very tightly under pressure with any liquid or give in between them.
That's why the name is what it is.
The benefits are what you care about.
Greater energy density, that could mean an electric car with two or three times the current range, or an electric car with the same rain.
With a smaller, lighter, less expensive battery that charges faster general estimates or an 80% charge in 15 minutes with a solid state Evie battery, so it's faster than today's lithium ion for sure, but still slower than a gas pump or a capacitor.
Solid State tech underpins a General Motors hope To one day produce a million mile life battery, changing the affordability equation and reducing concerns about mountains of toxic EV batteries coming up for recycling one day.
And thermal runaway solid state batteries have a lot less risk of this.
That's what lithium ion batteries do.
When they start to get too hot and burn or almost explode, it's why you've got to put that special label on some of those Amazon returns or why they asked you if you've got lithium ion in your check bag, or why you'll never forget some of those video clips of burning Tesla's.
Ironically the same company that did the most to put exploding lithium ion batteries into the headlines.
Actually had a recent breakthrough that might end that, thanks to solid state technology.
More on that in a moment.
Solid State batteries sound great, right?
They've got plenty of drawbacks.
That's why you don't have one yet.
But a solid state battery is well solid state.
Any movement in it can micro crack and corrupt the tight, precise arrangement of the particles inside it.
Then the battery fails dendrites is a sort of invasive root structures that can grow inside a solid state battery and as they cross dividing layers, The battery fails and expense.
As you can imagine, solid state batteries were still fabulously expensive, more than the car they would go into, for example.
But what was it before it was solved and put in scale manufacturing.
Okay, so who's pushing this revolution?
One of the companies that comes to mind the most is called quantum escape.
A company that has a big investment and partnership with Volkswagen for example, expectations are that duo will produce a solid state battery for use in some Volkswagen EDS as soon as 2024.
And quantum scape says they've got a layer of ceramic in their design that is able to stop those dendrites from working their way through the cell and ruining it.
They also say their design is pretty darn good at very low temperatures, not losing too much capacity, in snowy weather and such.
That's going to be good news for a lot of Evie intenders who said I lose so much mileage during the winter.
It' not worth it.
The other most exciting one i'd watch would be Toyota.
They plan to have a very limited production car.
Powered by solid state batteries on the market in some form, by 2025.
Now it's not coming to a showroom near you, but some kind of vehicle.
Even more interesting as their partner.
Panasonic, who is all in on traditional lithium ion right now, on the Gigafactory with Tesla out in Nevada, so they see something else brewing out there on the horizon.
Bollore of France has a solid state battery on the market.
In a vehicle, not a passenger car, though, they're used in some buses that have the infrastructure and usage cycle where they can be warmed up and kept hot throughout the day, which is key to their formulation working.
Now bowler Ray says they'll have a passenger car version out around 2026.
So it's like every year we get another innovation in solid state
Solid Powers of start that see solid state batteries differently.
Yes, they're developing one.
But their focus is almost more on the manufacturing of them.
Saying there's will be something you can make on existing lithium ion production lines.
They feel if you don't do that, the economics won't support the scaling of solid state batteries.
So heavy has been the investment in lithium ion production lines as well as the future investment.
They've attracted BMW and Ford as interested partners.
And I mentioned Samsung's had a recent breakthrough in solid state batteries.
They say they have also conquered the dendrite issue as quantum scape says they have.
But also if they've got a battery design that will allow it to be discharged and recharged up to 1000 times.
Now let's say you're talking about a Model S with 350 miles of range that's a 350,000 mile battery with little or no drop off in its capacity.
That means one battery pack would now be assigned to more than one car over its lifetime.
Which has very interesting effects on the overall economics of future electric cars
So some interesting technology hurdles to watch some fascinating promises and some very credible players are involved.
The solid state battery is not coming tomorrow but 24, 25, 26 are three years where a lot of companies have put their name to some deliverable promises Should they succeed, it appears to be a battery technology that could at least roughly double the palatability of electric cars.
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