Poised to take over the roads over the next few decades, battery electric vehicles (“BEVs”) run on clean energy and produce zero emissions at the tailpipe. The vehicles are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery packs, similar to the batteries you see in electric appliances such as torches. EV makers and automakers are working round the clock to improve current li-ion designs to make them cheaper and more energy-dense. Although the technology is still quite young, some battery makers are looking to achieve something even more advanced, the solid-state battery.
Traditional Li-ion batteries consist of solid anodes within a liquid electrolyte. Companies such as QuantumScape Corp. are trying to design a battery that completely eliminates the liquid electrolyte and, by doing so, unlocks a wide variety of benefits. According to proponents for solid-state batteries, these batteries would deliver more affordable EVs, faster charging times, and longer range.
An electric vehicle solid-state battery has an entirely different structure than a conventional lithium-ion battery. As such, it requires fewer layers during the construction phase, resulting in a lighter, more compact battery that delivers a ton of benefits. For instance, solid-state batteries are more energy dense, giving drivers either two or more times of range than current EVs have or similar range with a smaller, lighter and cheaper battery pack.
A solid-state battery also has the benefit of super-fast charging, with estimates of providing up to 80% charge in only 15 minutes. Although this is still slower than it takes to refuel a gas-powered car, it is still much faster than it currently takes to charge an electric vehicle. The batteries also have a longer lifespan, making them more affordable in the long term and reducing the amount of toxic waste material that needs to be recycled every 100,000–150,000 miles.
Solid-state battery tech is also safer than lithium-ion batteries thanks to designs that reduce the probability of thermal runaway. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board has warned first responders that EV fires are much more stubborn and difficult to put out than to normal fires thanks to thermal runaway in their lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries do not come with this risk.
However, auto makers and battery makers will have to deal with a few issues before solid-state batteries can hit the mass market. For starters, they are susceptible to expansion and contraction which can mess with the precise arrangement of materials in the battery, causing it to fail. They will also have to account for dendrites, or root-like structures that can grow in the batteries and corrupt the arrangement of material layers.
Finally, solid-state batteries are too expensive. Once companies find creative ways to deal with these issues, solid-state batteries can help boost EV adoption.
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