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INDICS > Press Center > Industry Trends

Inside the race for next-generation EV battery supremacy

By  : INDICS Operator Updated  :   2019-01-09 10:48:49

Source: EworkGlobal

Scientists in Japan, China and the U.S. are among those struggling to crack the code of how to significantly boost the amount of energy a battery cell can store and bring an EV's driving range into line with a full tank of gasoline. That quest has zeroed in on solid-state technology, an overhaul of a battery's internal architecture to use solid materials instead of flammable liquids to enable charging and discharging. The technology promises major improvements on existing lithium ion packs, which automakers say are hitting the limits of their storage capabilities and may never hold enough power for long-distance models.




If it can be mastered, solid-state technology could help speed the demise of the gasoline combustion engine and potentially slash EV charging times to about 10 minutes from as much as several hours. The supercharger network built by Tesla Inc., now offering some of the fastest charge times, needs approximately 30 minutes to bring a depleted car to 80 percent.

“We don’t see another way to get there without solid-state technology,” said Ted Miller, senior manager of energy storage strategy and research at Ford Motor Co., which has studied various technologies aimed at delivering a more powerful EV battery. “What I can't predict right now is who is going to commercialize it.”

Currently, the best prototype with solid-state batteries is only powerful enough to propel a one-person vehicle across a Toyota Motor Corp. parking lot near Japan’s Mount Fuji. Car companies such as Daimler AG and Fisker Inc. are working on the task, as are a Chinese lithium giant, the French oil company Total SA, and spinoffs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Fisker may conduct vehicle tests as early as this year, while Toyota and Daimler timelines extend into the 2020s.

The stakes are enormous. Adoption of EVs is already expected to fuel an exponential increase in lithium ion batteries, the reigning replacement for the internal combustion engine. The latest report from BloombergNEF found that electric busses and passenger cars accounted for 44 gigawatt hours of lithium ion battery demand in 2017— and by 2030 that demand is forecast to surge to over 1,500 gigawatt hours per year. Anyone with a viable solid-state battery that can outperform lithium ion technology could gain the upper hand in a market for all EV batteries that will be worth about $84 billion by 2025, compared with about $23 billion now, according to UBS Group AG.

What solid-state success takes
Lithium ion technology, the standard for decades in mobile phones and personal electronics before moving into EVs and utility-scale energy storage, uses a liquid electrolyte to shuttle ions between the anode and cathode to charge or discharge a battery. A solid-state battery, as the name suggests, replaces this liquid with a solid material such as ceramic, glass or a polymer.

That should reduce the risks of batteries bursting into flames and allow for thinner cells and smaller packs that fit under a car seat. Researchers also want to pair the solid electrolyte with a lithium metal anode to improve energy density and enable EVs to travel longer distances without stopping. That could help stoke sales by erasing consumer worries about running out of juice midtrip.

To achieve all that, there's a list of puzzles to solve. Prototypes currently have battery life that's too short for a vehicle and suffer from poor conductivity, uncompetitive costs and a sometimes violent swelling and shrinking of materials when charged or discharged. When scientists solve one problem, that typically exacerbates another, said Yasuo Ishiguro, managing director of Japan’s Consortium for Lithium Ion Battery Technology and Evaluation Center, or LIBTEC. The group of more than 25 companies — including Toyota, Panasonic Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. — is backed by about $90 million in government funding to speed up progress.

“Among all the players out there, it seems like everyone has solved one or two or three of five of the most important things, but nobody has really solved everything,” said Henrik Fisker, chairman and CEO of his namesake Los Angeles-based EV maker.

China's Qingtao New Energy Research Institute will experiment with cars within two years and considers a commercial product possible by 2025. Contemporary Amperex Technology, China's biggest cell-producer, includes solid-state in its advanced-battery research. South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co., SK Innovation Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. said they're also studying the technology, as is Dyson Ltd., the U.K.-based home-appliance maker now targeting EVs.

“For passenger cars, we should see prototypes in the early 2020s,” said Andreas Hintennach, head of battery research at Daimler. The automaker agreed last month on orders for $23 billion of current generation lithium ion battery cells through 2030.

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