EV technology has witnessed rapid development over the past decade. The transition from heavy and hazardous lead-acid batteries to lighter lithium-ion batteries has revolutionized the sector. This, in turn, made EVs a genuine competition for fossil fuel-powered vehicles. However, there lies an opportunity to make this battery tech even more sustainable. Lithium mining can be environmentally degrading, with 500 tons of water wasted for every ton of lithium extracted. Lithium batteries degrade over time as the liquid electrolyte inside them solidifies, hence losing their capacity.
A solid-state battery is where the electrolyte used is a solid, hence taking the problem of degradation out of the equation. These batteries are expected to be of higher capacity than conventional Lithium-ion cells. A solid-state battery can have somewhere between two and 10 times the capacity of Lithium-ion. A solid-state battery also charges faster. A typical Solid State battery has twice the energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, Solid State Batteries are said to be very safe as they have no toxic materials involved. Solid-state batteries do not use a flammable organic liquid electrolyte which has a risk of boiling, freezing, or burning and is therefore expected to operate in a wide range of temperatures with relatively high stability.
The advantages of using a solid-state battery in Electric Vehicles are therefore imperative. Charging duration, range, and battery life remain at the top of users’ priority lists when considering EVs and Solid-state batteries push the boundaries of these aspects forward. Companies like Samsung, Toyota, VW Group, and Ford have invested heavily into solid-state battery technology. Toyota has rolled out results giving us 700km on a single charge alongside 0-100% charge in 10-15 minutes. In March, the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology showed the research result of a solid-state battery that can be charged/discharged over 1,000 times with 800km of mileage on a single charge. It takes a minimum of 40 minutes to charge with current battery technology. The need to switch to solid-state becomes evident when this 40 minute time is slashed in half or even lesser.
However, there are a multitude of factors that make this transition unfeasible at the moment. Just like other emerging technologies, solid-state batteries are expensive. This is due partly to development costs but is also heavily related to the fact that they are hard to manufacture on a large scale. Automakers and battery manufacturers also have more work to do before solid-state batteries are ready for primetime. Despite their benefits over liquids, solid electrolytes present difficulties in finding the right balance of materials to deliver enough juice to power an electric motor for a car.
Solid-state batteries, for now at least, are a while away. Toyota aims to sell its first EV powered by a solid-state battery before 2030, while several other automakers are working in partnership with battery producers on their projects. Notably, Volkswagen is working with QuantumScape, a California-based company that hopes to push its batteries into commercial use by 2024. This technology would indeed dictate how the EV market would proceed in the upcoming years and would set a bar for any new technology in the foreseeable future. Most notably, though, solid-state battery technology has incredible potential to make even the harshest critics and skeptics of electric mobility sit up, take note and possibly switch over to greener forms of transportation.