Solid-state battery technology has been introduced as an alternative to liquid lithium-ion battery electrolyte batteries and can increase vehicle safety while increasing the range of motion of an electric vehicle.
The world of internal combustion engines, unfortunately, but necessarily, ends at some point in some periods of our lives. Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming faster and more advanced, which means that batteries are replacing fossil fuels. This has also led to rapid advances in battery technology, with the main goals of improving capacity, charging time, and safety.
According to Atowick, one of the major advances in this area is the emergence of solid-state batteries, which promises to overcome the limitations of current lithium-ion batteries.
What is a lithium-ion battery?
For years, electric vehicles have been powered by lithium-ion batteries, similar to the batteries used in laptops, cell phones, and other consumer electronics. Lithium-ion batteries are made with liquid electrolytes inside their structure, which makes them heavy and prone to instability at high temperatures.
Since each battery pack cannot produce the large amount of energy required by an electric vehicle alone, several batteries must be connected in series, which adds to the overall weight of the vehicle. The cost of engineering, manufacturing, and installing battery packs is a significant part of the overall cost of electric vehicles.
Like cell phones, lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles need to be recharged.
The charging speed of electric vehicle batteries depends on the vehicle, the type of batteries used, and the charging infrastructure.
In general, public charging stations fall into two categories, Level 2 or Level 3, both of which can charge an electric vehicle much faster than a standard household outlet. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers supply AC power to the internal charger, which is converted to DC power to charge the battery.
The Level 3 charger, also known as the DC Fast Charger, removes the internal generator from the path and instead charges the battery directly and at a much faster rate. Over time, battery capacity and the ability to reach the maximum charge rate decrease.
The difference between a solid-state battery and a lithium-ion battery
The solid-state battery, as its name implies, removes the heavy liquid electrolyte contained in lithium-ion batteries. It is replaced by solid electrolytes, which can be in the form of glass, ceramics, or other materials. The overall structure of a solid-state battery is very similar to that of lithium-ion batteries, except that they do not require liquid electrolytes, and such batteries can be very dense and compact.
Solid-state batteries consume energy without deep immersion in their internal work and recharge just like traditional lithium-ion batteries.
Many types of Solid-state batteries are used in small devices.
Solid-state batteries are not new; But using them in such heavy applications as a car is very new. They have been used for many years in small devices such as pacemakers, wearables, and RFIDs. The minimum expectations regarding the ability of solid-state batteries to dramatically improve electric vehicles are high. The use of solid electrolytes should save space due to their fewer disadvantages than traditional liquids.
In the same space that a lithium-ion battery needs under the vehicle, between 2 and 10 solid-state batteries can be placed. They are built without the need for monitoring, control, and cooling systems that lithium-ion batteries need to function properly.
This means that there is more space in the car chassis to accommodate a smaller battery, and that extra space can be allocated to passengers or mechanical parts.
Highly improved energy density and weight loss due to the removal of battery liquid electrolytes should greatly improve the range of motion of electric vehicles. At least, in theory, solid-state batteries should charge faster.
Liquid electrolytes can cause problems
Solid-state batteries are safer and more durable in the long run. Lithium-ion batteries can experience a phenomenon known as heat leakage if damaged; This happens when an increase in temperature in one battery cell causes a similar reaction in other battery cells.
Sometimes, this process stops in the battery pack; But sometimes the escape reaction can cause a fire to spread to other parts of the car. The liquid electrolyte can be flammable and can make battery life extremely dangerous and toxic.
The process of extinguishing a fire in a battery takes time and sometimes requires thousands of gallons of water. Solid-state batteries can prevent this without the presence of flammable liquids inside.
Beyond the rare potential for fire, the liquid electrolytes inside lithium-ion batteries are not very good during their lifetime.
Over time, the compounds in the liquid can corrode the internal components of the battery and cause the destruction or accumulation of solids inside, both of which lead to degradation of the battery capacity and reduced overall performance.
Why aren’t solid-state batteries used a lot in cars?
Why don’t we all drive cars with solid-state batteries? Just like other emerging technologies, solid-state batteries are expensive, in part because of development costs; But it’s strongly related to the fact that they are difficult to build on a large scale. Automakers and battery manufacturers have more work to do before solid-state batteries are ready for supply in products. Solid electrolytes, despite their advantages over liquid electrolytes, have difficulty finding the right balance of materials to deliver enough power to power a car’s electric motor.
Solid-state batteries are still under construction. Toyota plans to launch its first solid-state electric car before 2030; While several other automakers are working with battery makers on their projects. Volkswagen is working with California-based QuantumScape, which hopes to move its batteries to commercial use by 2024.
Why solid-state batteries are important to a car
You may have recently seen in the newspapers and magazines news about the revolutionary technologies of electric car batteries. The worry about the electric car’s radius of motion disappears over time and these cars charge in minutes.
Will these claims ever come true? Alternatives to achieving these goals seem to be well known, and several companies say they are close to making progress.
According to Autocar, there are two major changes or factors that, if implemented, could improve the charging capacity and speed of lithium batteries. One is a change in the material used for the negative electrode of the battery or anode, and the other is a more radical change to solid-state technology.
The anodes are made mostly of graphite in the form of carbon and are where lithium ions are stored when the battery is fully charged. This material is not ideal, as other materials store more energy than graphite, but their use is still technically impossible.
Switching the anode to another option, such as silicon-based materials, can increase the charging speed and capacity of the battery, which means that the existing lithium-ion battery mold can be significantly improved; Of course, if battery developers can find a way to produce it on a large scale.
Another approach is to move to a new solid-state lithium-ion battery design.
In this case, the flammable liquid electrolyte is replaced by a thin solid electrolyte that takes up less space and is non-flammable.
This also means that the graphite anode can potentially be replaced by a metallic lithium anode, which increases battery capacity and speeds up the charging process.
Lithium metal anodes cannot be used for existing battery formwork; Because they grow branched dendrites (branches that look like nerve cells) that spread through the fluid electrolyte to the cathode, causing a short circuit and fire.
In a solid-state battery, the solid electrolyte will prevent this and no fire will occur.
Both methods can change the rules of the game, provided that solid-state batteries must be lighter and safer than the existing mold. Battery technology developers have been using these batteries for at least a decade, and Toyota and Volkswagen have recently said that they are close to producing suitable solid-state batteries; So it is likely that not just one or two companies, but many others will be close to success.
We just hope that by then, the charging infrastructure will be able to keep up with solid-state battery technology.