A Colorado company is reporting new developments in what an industry representative calls the “holy grail” of the evolution of electric vehicles — a solid state battery.
Solid Power in Louisville said it has produced an automotive-scale battery, a step toward replacing the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles today.
Solid Power’s next-generation battery is about the size of an iPad. Doug Campbell, Solid Power co-founder and CEO, said it could be used as a building block for an electric vehicle battery pack.
“By and large, the transportation industry has concluded that solid state batteries have the highest potential to displace lithium ion as the high-performance battery of choice for electric vehicles,” Campbell said.
But while the research into solid state batteries has been positive, people want to know when they’ll be ready to run electric vehicles, Campbell said.
“When people criticize the solid state battery, they say, ‘Hey, that’s great data, but it’s a postage-stamp-sized battery. It’s tiny,’” Campbell said. “No one ever produces big cells, automotive-scale cells. Well, we are now doing that.”
Solid Power, started in 2012, uses a manufacturing process that is compatible with the standard process used in the production of lithium ion batteries.
However, a solid state battery uses solid materials, such as ceramic or polymers, instead of a liquid to carry the charge from one electrode to another. The advantages of solid state batteries include faster charging time and more power.
They also don’t have the same safety concerns as lithium ion batteries, Campbell said. “When the lithium ion short circuits, the cell has a tendency to catch on fire because of the volatile, flammable liquid.”
Vehicles with lithium ion batteries are safe, but the engineering to do that adds to the cost, Campbell said.
“If you can simplify your battery pack,” he added, “you can bring down the cost of the battery pack, which is the most expensive component of an electric vehicle.”
Besides eliminating the flammable liquid, using solid material allows the battery to be thinner, increasing the energy density and power. But the liquid makes connecting between the two electrodes easier, so the challenge is doing that with a solid material on a commercial scale, said Dan Blondal, CEO of Nano One, a technology company in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“I think the folks at Solid Power have demonstrated that in spades. They’ve taken a very practical approach to their technology and they’ve found ways to mass produce (cells) using existing methods,” said Blondal, whose company makes cathode materials that can be used in lithium ion batteries.
Blondal said a number of companies are working on commercializing solid state batteries for electric vehicles. “It’s kind of the holy grail.”
Solid Power has partnerships with BMW and Ford to jointly develop solid state batteries. The company said its investors include Samsung, Hyundai, Ford, Volta Energy Technologies and Solvay.
Solid Power plans to start the process in early 2022 to have its technology qualified for automotive use
This content was originally published here.