The Future: Solid-State Batteries for EVs May Solve the Dilemma of Charging Degradation

It is no secret that some of the public still has reservations about electric vehicles (EVs) and feel anxiety about making the switch from their dependable gas-powered car. While EVs are quickly becoming safer and more reliable, some people experience apprehension about the range and safety surrounding electric vehicle batteries. As each new iteration becomes more efficient and powerful, every day we get closer to finding new solutions and improving upon these rapidly advancing battery technologies. One of the most promising of these technologies to emerge on the EV scene is solid state batteries—you may have heard of them already, as they are often used in life-saving medical equipment and RFIDs (Radio frequency identification: like an ID scanner or computerized self-checkout lane at a grocery store). One thing is for certain: solid-state batteries are one way to the future for electric cars.

What exactly is a solid-state battery?

As of right now, lithium-ion batteries have become the standard over the years for powering most devices and consumer electronics. However, solid-state batteries are being developed for a multitude of new enterprises. A solid-state battery is a rechargeable energy storage system similar in overall structure to the commonly used lithium-ion battery. The two differ in that a lithium-ion battery contains a liquid electrolyte while a solid-state battery features a solid one. This allows solid-state batteries to be lighter, to have more energy density, more range, and the ability to recharge much faster—all advantages that are very appealing EV manufacturers.

By getting rid of the flammable liquiform electrolyte, solid-state batteries contain several thin layers of solid electrolytes. As a result, they are more compact and stable and reduce the risk of fire. Solid-state batteries have been used in smaller devices like pacemakers for many years and have proven that having fewer pieces means fewer things can go wrong. In addition to improved safety, size, and stability, solid-state batteries have greater energy density which means that a battery with the same weight as it’s lithium-ion counterpart would pack a bigger punch, allowing auto manufacturers to extend the range of an EV or deliver smaller and less expensive batteries for the same range.

On top of all of those benefits, solid state batteries in EVs would reduce a battery’s degradation over time, giving it a much longer life. A lithium-ion battery will begin to degrade and lose power capacity after approximately 1,000 charge cycles. On the other hand, a solid-state battery will maintain 90 percent of its capacity after it hits 5,000 cycles.

What are the challenges of getting solid state batteries into EVs?

Unfortunately, creating solid state batteries for EVs is not something that will be common soon—standardization of this technology is certainly a few years off. While most technologies are theoretically scalable, there are some challenges to creating a solid-state battery large enough to power an EV. The main struggle with making them viable is developing technology commonly used in small devices and applying it to large-scale systems like electric vehicles.

Another issue with solid-state batteries is cost, where market growth is restricted by complexities in the manufacturing process and access to materials. Solid-state battery manufacturing is a very involved and intricate process. They are also much more costly compared to lithium-ion batteries which makes manufacturing a cost-effective solid-state battery one of the emerging technologies biggest hurdles.

What does the future of solid-state batteries in EVs look like?

While solid-state batteries are not common on the market just yet, we can expect to see them emerge in hybrid and electric vehicle in the next couple of years. Toyota has pursued a next-generation battery for over a decade, making the largest number of patent applications for solid-state batteries according to a report by the European Patent Office and the International Energy Agency. Toyota has vowed to sell 8 million electrified vehicles in 2030, with fuel-cell vehicles and EVs accounting for a quarter. In April of 2020, Toyota established Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, a joint venture with Panasonic to create and test new vehicle batteries, with a focus on developing solid-state batteries.

While solid-state battery technology is still over the horizon so to speak, there is no doubt that this is the future direction for electric vehicles. With a myriad of benefits to offer, like higher energy density, improved range, better overall safety, and a significantly longer lifespan, it’s hard to ignore the advantages that solid-state batteries offer.