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What is a Solid-State Battery?

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What is a Solid-State Battery?

Solid Power is a company working to perfect solid-state battery technology. The battery cell on the right is its latest 22-layer 20 amp-hour lithium-metal cell. On the left, its first-generation 10-layer 2 amp-hour cell. (Solid Power)

The solid-state battery is a new type of battery that could revolutionize electric vehicles (EVs). Relative to the lithium-ion batteries that are currently used to power EVs, solid-state batteries offer numerous benefits. They are smaller and lighter yet have greater energy density and are more durable. They offer longer driving range, faster recharging times, and offer notable advantages when it comes to safety.

Numerous automakers – from Audi to Volvo – have increased the number of EVs in their vehicle lineups in recent years. By expanding an electric car’s driving range, solid-state batteries have the potential to make future EVs a more practical choice for car buyers.

To appreciate the significance of the solid-state battery, it’s important to understand the role batteries play in an EV’s operation.

An EV must store the electricity that powers it. A charging cord transfers electricity from a wall socket, home charging station, or a public charging station to the EV’s battery, where it is stored for later use. When the driver uses the EV and pushes down on the accelerator pedal, the electricity flows to the electric motors that drive the wheels. Eventually, the battery depletes and you must recharge it.

A primary reason why consumers hesitate to buy electric vehicles is range anxiety. This describes the fear that the battery deplete before the driver reaches the destination, and is rooted in the fact that EV charging stations are not as readily available as a gasoline stations.

One of the first mass-produced electric vehicles, the 2011 Nissan Leaf, had a range of less than 80 miles. A decade ago, there were far fewer public charging stations. Range anxiety was a real problem.

Fast forward to today, and battery technology is far superior to the original Nissan Leaf’s. It’s pretty common for modern EVs to provide a driving range between 200 and 300 miles on a single charge, or more. Charging stations are also more common, and the infrastructure is growing by the day. In the near future, thanks to further improvements and new technology like solid-state batteries, carmakers are prognosticating even more driving range for EVs.

Automakers have relied on nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries to power their EVs. Both of these batteries use a liquid electrolyte solution to store the electricity. These batteries are inherently bulky and heavy because they must be large enough to hold enough energy to move a car. Also, they contain chemicals that could cause dangerous leaks in the event of a crash.

Solid-state batteries have greater energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries. This means they provide more energy within a smaller footprint, so they’re typically lighter and smaller than the batteries found in today’s EVs.

Furthermore, a solid-state battery utilizes a solid rather than liquid electrolyte. Thanks to this design feature, solid-state batteries aren’t at risk for hazardous chemical leaks if the car is involved in a crash. This makes them a safer choice than conventional EV batteries.

Currently, solid-state batteries are still in development mode. Several carmakers and technology manufacturers are engineering their own solid-state battery technology to meet the needs of an electrified future. Volkswagen, for example, is targeting solid-state batteries that can charge to 80% capacity in about 12 minutes while delivering 30% more range than a current battery can provide. Samsung claims that its batteries can double the range of current batteries, resulting in a driving range of 400 to 600 miles on a single charge.

Honda, Nissan, and Toyota have teamed up to share battery technology. Japanese media reports that Toyota will be ready to show a concept phase solid-state battery sometime this year; Toyota expects to have a vehicle powered by solid-state batteries on the market by 2030. Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, and Tesla are all working with outside manufacturing firms or developing their own solid-state battery technology.

While we’re still a few years away from vehicles powered by solid-state batteries, it’s reassuring to know that electric vehicles – which are all but certain to be the future of transportation – are undergoing constant improvement to address the concerns of the car-buying public.

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