Till date, Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have been powering the entire technology industry as well as automotive for electric vehicles. Li-ion batteries have been very successful in the tech and EV industry due to its high performance, reliability, energy density, charging ability and light-weight nature. However, it seems like Li-ion batteries have reached their horizon of performance, which essentially means it is not possible to extract more energy from Li-ion batteries.
With this thought in mind, many technologies, as well as automobile companies have now been betting big on solid-state batteries. Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen are some of the auto giants who have taken up research and development for solid-state batteries. There is no hint of when solid-state batteries would hit the market, but if things go smooth, we could see a solid-state battery-powered EV or smartphone. Nonetheless, we could see a solid-state powered EV somewhere around in the year 2023-2025.
What is the Advantage for Solid-State
As for the memory market, solid-state means, fixed, or in simple words when memory modules like hard disks do not have any internal moving parts. The moving parts are replaced with solid-state memory chips which work similarly to the independent discs inside the hard drives. With no moving parts inside, the solid-state drives tend to be much smaller and support faster read and write of data. In this way, solid-state memory devices have made in big in the tech industry just in a couple of years.
A solid-state battery is no different from a solid-state memory drive. The main difference between Li-ion and solid-state batteries is the replacement of liquid or polymer type electrode with a solid electrolyte. This solid electrolyte allows batteries to become more energy-dense and durable. While the increase in energy density is significant, it is still a challenge to make smaller capable versions of these batteries for commercial use. However, it is believed that a successful implementation of the solid-state battery tech could give longer battery life as well as a range of over 600km per charge on EVs.
Apart from the improved battery life and durability, solid-state batteries could also reduce the concerns of charging with higher charge storing capacities and concern of recycling and disposal due to its longer shelf life.
The Challenges of Solid-State
The main challenge for solid-state batteries are technical which limits its commercial applications. For instance, a uniform material which could be used for the solid-state portion of the battery that conducts electricity efficiently is yet to be identified, posing a big challenge to the developers. While lithium metal is still believed to be prime material for solid-state batteries, researchers have found ways to make thinner lithium electrolytes which would allow faster charging and higher voltages.
It is believed that solid-state batteries are not commercially viable tending to their poor performance in low temperatures. This is where solid electrolytes fail when compared to liquid electrolytes. So, the energy density of solid-state batteries will be less in the cold when compared to Li-ion batteries of a similar capacity.
The Future of Solid-State
While solid-state batteries are still a few years away from being mainstream, the arrival of the technology could drastically change the EV as well as the technology market which is hugely dependent on batteries. This could essentially mean that EVs could be priced competitively we well as see a drastic reduction in prices and could have higher range capabilities. Similarly, smartphones and other battery dependent gadgets could last for weeks before having to charge them again. Solid-state batteries could be a highly disruptive technology in the market of the technology itself.