With the Advance of Electric Vehicles, Solid-State Batteries Are a Hot Market
The rapidly growing electric vehicle market is driving the development of next-generation solid-state lithium batteries.
Solid-state batteries (SSB) will have a massive impact on the electric vehicle (EV) market because they store more energy, charge faster, and are safer than the standard liquid lithium-ion batteries. With all the major automotive and battery manufacturers competing to mass-produce SSBs for EVs, the SSB market is expected to grow to $8 billion by 2031, according to IDTechEx’s report “Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2021-2031: Technology, Forecasts, Players.”
A lithium-ion battery is composed of a cathode, anode, separator, and electrolyte. The liquid electrolyte solution is volatile and flammable at high temperatures. These batteries are considered a safety risk because they can leak chemicals or catch fire if there is a short circuit or physical damage, like from a collision. There is also little potential to expand energy density with existing designs—currently, the only way to boost power in an EV is to add more batteries, which takes up valuable space, adds weight, and drives up costs.
Solid-state batteries, however, use a solid electrolyte, which is more stable, less flammable, and safer. Improved safety also means fewer safety monitoring electronics are needed in the battery packs. Increased stability means faster charging and greater energy capacity than in liquid lithium-ion batteries. This allows EVs to travel further before needing to recharge, reducing “range anxiety” among drivers.
According to JDPower.com, “solid-state batteries can reach an 80% charge within 15 minutes and incur less strain after multiple charging cycles. A lithium-ion battery will begin to degrade and lose power capacity after 1,000 cycles. A solid-state battery will maintain 90% of its capacity after 5,000 cycles. This allows solid-state batteries to be lighter, have more energy density, offer more range, and recharge faster.”
Serving the EV Market
The biggest investments in solid-state battery research and development are in the huge EV market. A boost for the EV market will come from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill, which calls for various EV investments, including $7.5 billion for grants to build charging stations. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives, date undetermined.
“With most companies’ mass production plans, like Japan (2025-2030), Europe (2025-2026), and mainland China and Taiwan (2022-2023), the solid-state battery market will likely take off after 2025, although small-scale production may happen even earlier,” states IDTechEx.
Toyota plans to spend $13.5 billion to develop electric vehicle battery technology by 2030. Volkswagen has invested in U.S. battery firm QuantumScape, which plans to introduce its SSB in 2024. The Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology recently announced it has developed a SSB that can be charged/discharged over 1,000 times with 800 km of mileage on a single charge. Hyundai plans to invest $100 million into SolidEnergy Systems, which utilizes a process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ford and BMW are investing $130 million in Solid Power, an SSB start-up company in Colorado. According to Car and Driver, Solid Power will produce SSB automotive batteries in 2022 and use them for testing and development of upcoming Ford and BMW EVs, which should be on the road by 2030.
More Development Needed
There is, however, plenty of R&D that needs to be done before mass commercialization of SSB can be realized—most realistically between 2025-2030. For example, serious issues such as material behavior, battery microstructure, short service life, and cracking upon thermal expansion and contraction must be resolved. Using a new design and multiple cathode materials, Harvard researchers have recently designed a stable SSB that can be charged and discharged at least 10,000 times—almost twice as many as have been previously demonstrated—and still maintain a high energy density.
Development costs are high for SSBs, which are difficult to manufacture at scale with current technologies and materials. One way to reduce manufacturing costs is through additive manufacturing/3D printing. Blackstone Technology has developed a 3D-printing platform for making a solid-state battery cell. Another technology company, Sakuu, has 3D-printed a SSB using additive manufacturing technology based on a binder jet printing process developed by MIT.
From both the technology and business point of view, “the development of solid-state batteries has become part of the next-generation battery strategy,” says IDTechEx. “It has become a global game with regional interests and governmental supports. Opportunities will be available with new materials, components, systems, manufacturing methods, and know-how. Energy storage systems and consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops are also target markets, and they may come true earlier than believed.”
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.