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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Are Solid State Batteries The Key To Mass EV Adoption?

There is little space for argument that the biggest problem with mass EV adoption is the high cost and insufficient reliability of lithium-ion batteries. While it’s true that costs have fallen considerably over the last decade or so, they are still uncomfortably high for most drivers, not to mention their flammability and the risk of overcharging and the resulting death of the battery. But, according to industry experts, a better alternative to Li-ion batteries could be looming on the horizon: solid-state batteries.

In a recent report from S&P Global, Platts cites a note to clients from BMO Research that said solid-state batteries for electric vehicles could hit the markets in a decade. From a certain perspective this is not very soon. This is the perspective of those eager to see EVs take over roads from ICE cars. Yet from a different, more patient perspective, a decade is nothing: until recently nobody would risk setting a timeline for the solid-state battery evolution.

Why is this so important? "Following detailed analysis of peer-reviewed papers and speaking with battery experts, we believe switching out the current liquid electrolytes for solid materials could be the key to achieving mass market EV penetration," Colin Hamilton, analyst with BMO, told S&P Global Platts. "However,” he added, “in our view we are at least 10 years away from perfecting the chemistry and there are also further developmental risks to consider."

It’s notable that a senior Panasonic executive recently, and separately, chimed in with the ten-year timeline. Tom Gebhardt, chief executive of Panasonic North America, told Business Insider this week solid-state batteries were at least ten years away and in the meantime Li-ion batteries would continue to improve in terms of cost, capacity, and reliability. Related: Latest Oil Price Slump Was ‘Made In America’

Panasonic makes batteries for Tesla, which might suggest a bias in favor of liquid-electrolyte technology but the fact is that everyone is looking for more energy-dense, cheaper, and reliable batteries. They would indeed change the game, only, according to Gebhardt, this won’t happen overnight but rather gradually over a longer period of time.

Meanwhile, news of progress in solid-state batteries abound. Ionic Materials, a polymer maker, recently announced a solid-state battery that addresses the liquid electrolyte issues of lithium ion batteries, chief among them flammability. Speaking to CNBC, the CEO of the company, Mike Zimmerman, said in addition to eliminating the flammability problem, the Ionic Materials batteries, featuring a polymer for an electrolyte, are also more durable and have a greater capacity than their chief competitor. Also, they are cheaper, Zimmerman said.

In other recent news, famous car designer Henrik Fisker, who has been working on electric cars for several years, said his startup Fisker has secured strategic funding from Caterpillar to develop a solid-state battery. That’s after last year, Electrek recalls, Fisker announced his company had developed a solid-state battery with more than double the energy density of Li-ion batteries, which would allow the Fisker car to have a range of more than 500 miles. An outrageous claim for some and a doubtful feat for most but if Caterpillar is putting money into it, there may be something to these claims.

Sadly for those of a more inquisitive nature, battery developers prefer to be mostly quiet about the specificities of what they are working on. Given the importance of a reliable and affordable battery for the mass adoption of EVs, this is only understandable. Yet given the amount of effort going into this Holy Grail of EVs, sooner or later someone will make a viable scalable solid-state battery. It may take ten years or more, but it’s bound to happen.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • JACK MA on November 15 2018 said:
    Solid state meaning solid state of the lithium battery electrolyte cells. It is actually 25 years away from mass production. Every USA war hawk guarding both the oil and the poppy fields in the ME will have long since left before the solid state battery cell becomes common place. When the oil price goes to 5 dollars a barrel. IMHO
  • Michael Hutcheson on November 15 2018 said:
    Really? "flammability and the risk of overcharging and the resulting death of the battery". I realize you're an oil/gas writer, but please do a better job of understanding the facts. The following is widely published and substantiated by a myriad of sources: Gasoline cars are 11 times more likely to burn, statistically determined by miles driven. Tesla batteries are independently determined to retain 90% capacity after 160,000 miles, with that number getting better with the newer 2170 cells. The Tesla battery charge management system is very sophisticated. Teslas already have over 1/3-million mile lifetime and will likely have a million-mile lifetime within a few years. As soon as the major manufacturers, seemingly first VW, get their volume production going, ICE vehicles will be no longer sold within a decade. Oil will always have a place, but the 40% used for transportation will go away. If you haven't, you (and everyone) should definitely read "A RethinkX Sector Disruption Report May 2017 James Arbib & Tony Seba", by far the best study of the impact of EVs and autonomous driving.
  • Rebel44 on November 16 2018 said:
    Sorry but some of the current issues you have mentioned at the start of this article are just wrong.

    * No recent battery pack had an issue with overcharging battery cells

    * Degradation has also not been a problem, except for Nissan/Renault which used a bad battery chemistry and didn't install proper cooling that would mitigate the issue.

    * Fires have not been a significant problem in current EVs (the rate of fires is actually lower than for ICE vehicles) and battery fires are generally slower - giving people in the car more time to get out safely.
  • Kay Uwe Böhm on November 16 2018 said:
    With only 16 mio. t world lithium reserves it is not possible that all drive only full e-cars and really new battery types should come always but never there like any F-battery of tax payed germany state research project.
    If not possible also some percent over tax
    or from big companies just wasted money.

    Better 700bar CNG made out of air CO2 and H2O electrolyse H2 exotherm reaction using new zero risk and cheap atomic power or solar power from glas green houses also in deserts cooled but delivering cheap energy and not needing water condensed out with CF compressor there hot cooled with CO2 for turbines efficiency near 100% doubling electricity halving costs of all steam power
    not using wrong wastimg confensor but 2. CF compressor, backflow cooling of all thermal isolated only electricity out works.

    Solar solution is unclear more expensive than already reduced with new turbines atomic power global eternal 1 Cent-€/kWh
    also not working night time etc. since sun energy collector glas green house cheap and efficient every m² and with own worth free air condition and not needng water so no waiting for rain and no drought problem.

    RBN-Th pebble bed HTR zero risk all cases whatever and cheap. RBN is white diamond cubic boron nitride isotopes B-11 & N-15 latest lucky 1/100 absorption of C-12 for only ThO2 30 years pebble runtime and end storage hard up to 2800°C unburnable and insoluble so open HTR still secure only He out just nuclear fuel powder baked in BN...

    Also secure and cheap Li-7 Th HTR first test in adapted Na-23 breeder possible holding bubbles strong slow down not radioactive an excellent moderator and coolant 180 - 1340°C 3/4 specific heat capacity/kg of water compared NaK 1/4 binding tritium etc. easy centrifuge extractable because hof 0.5g/cm² least reactive earth alkai metal, no thermal solidification expansion like bismut about 5 mio. $ for 100 000l etc.

    Supreme god of technlogy
    kayuweboehm@yahoo.de
  • Michael Reb Jackson on November 17 2018 said:
    Nuclear energy unchained! is what electric cars are waiting for.

    EV drivers today only promote dirty coal power generation, especially in Germany and China. Bad, bad, ev drivers!

    Better batteries are always nice, but better power generation would be best. Not unreliable, unpredictable, blackout-prone "energy" from unicorn beams and rainbow puffs of air. Real, full blown industrial scale energy that you can build the future on.

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