Two major obstacles to widespread EV adoption — limited range and long charging times — could be solved sooner than you think.
By the end of the decade, Honda plans to launch an all-electric vehicle with a solid-state battery, a power source with a higher energy density than the lithium-ion batteries currently used in electric vehicles, Ars Technica reports(Opens in a new window). Many people in the auto industry believe that solid-state batteries could double range, reduce charging time, and eliminate the already small risk of battery fires.
“We will start a pilot line in spring 2024 [for manufacturing]’ Shinji Aoyama, Honda’s global head of electrification, told Ars during a roundtable at the Tokyo headquarters 2020s – 2029, 2028.”
Honda’s first electric SUV — the 2024 Prolog SUV — will launch with General Motors’ Ultium battery platform, a stopgap as the brand quietly cooks up a next-generation battery under its own name.
2024 Honda Prologue, all-electric SUV. (Source: Honda)
“The alliance with GM is a great weapon for us,” said Toshihiro Mibe, CEO and President of Honda Global. “We must take all possible measures to establish the EV businesses in the future.”
Honda hasn’t confirmed which models will have a solid-state battery or which markets they’ll be sold in, other than that they will be in motorcycles. All of this, of course, depends on manufacturers being able to successfully commercialize a solid-state battery for electric vehicles that has been “just around the corner” for almost a decade.
Honda recently announced this as well(Opens in a new window) a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions for a $4.4 billion battery plant in the US that can manufacture lithium-ion batteries before going to the solid state. Another partnership with Honda and Sony Entertainment will bring a wide range of content – including the Metaverse – to future drivers.
“We are very pleased that Honda is making such a strong commitment to electrification over the next decade,” said Grant Ray, vice president of global market strategy at Group14(Opens in a new window)which produces materials for use in silicon batteries – another promising technology in the pipeline (see below).
As forward-thinking as Honda appears, it’s one of many brands investing in battery technology, and solid-state in particular. Toyota leads with over 1,300 patents(Opens in a new window) and plans to start (Opens in a new window)a solid state battery in a hybrid by 2025. Samsung(Opens in a new window)Hyundai, BMW, Ford, GM, Volkswagen and others have also made significant investments in solid-state battery development, reports JD Power(Opens in a new window).
As EV adoption grows exponentially around the world, whichever brand finds out first has an opportunity to capture new customers and big wins.
What is a solid state battery?
Solid state batteries work just like any other battery. They absorb energy, store it, and deliver the energy to devices ranging from walkmen to watches to car engines.
The difference lies in the materials inside. Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles today have a liquid electrolytic solution sandwiched between their cathodes and anodes; see the middle gap in the picture above. Alternatively, use solid-state batteries Celebration electrolytes.
The increased density means solid-state batteries can last between two and 10 times the capacity of a lithium-ion battery, reports AutoWeek(Opens in a new window).
Why don’t electric vehicles already use solid state batteries?
Solid-state batteries already exist, only in much smaller devices like smartwatches, pacemakers, and RFID tags. The primary obstacle to their use in electric vehicles is that they are expensive and difficult to manufacture on a larger scale, explains Vox(Opens in a new window). Since battery-powered vehicles are already more expensive than gasoline-powered ones, consumers have little appetite for even more expensive vehicles.
Longevity is another issue, but Honda says it has a solution. The solid electrolytes (the middle third in the images above) can degrade over time, so Honda plans to protect them by wrapping them in a new polymer fabric, Ars Technica reports(Opens in a new window).
The batteries must also be extensively tested for their durability on the road and their lifespan in everyday driving. Remember, we’re talking about taking something by the wrist and using it en masse as a gigantic car battery for the first time.
Do Solid State Batteries Increase Range?
With a solid-state battery, electric vehicles should be able to travel as far as a gas-powered car before refueling. Take for example a 15 gallon gas tank that goes 30 miles per gallon. This car can drive 450 miles before a full tank (15*30).
Most EVs today have ranges of 200 to 300 miles, although the 2024 GMC Sierra Denali pickup will have a 400-mile range, and the super-luxe Lucid(Opens in a new window) The sedan that is already on the road today has a range of 520 miles.
Multiply those ranges by about 50% (or up to 80%, reports CarBuzz(Opens in a new window)) and solid-state batteries are ready to play along on road trips. An electric vehicle with a range of 300 miles now has 450 miles. Also, solid-state batteries charge faster than lithium-ion batteries with less degradation of the battery itself.
Fires Put Out: Solid State Improves EV Safety
(Image credit: SpyroTheDragon/Getty Images)
With chilling reports of battery fires following flooding from Hurricane Ian, electric vehicles have a bad reputation for rolling matches. But in reality, that honor should go to the lithium-ion battery. Swap it out for a solid and the EV has a very low risk of fire.
The liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries are flammable, but since solid-state batteries do not contain this liquid, they do not face the same fire hazard.
Lithium-ion battery fires are rare, and automakers provide enclosures and protections to avoid them, but when they do happen, they are powerful and difficult to put out, sometimes consuming thousands of gallons of water. Building electric vehicles that are non-flammable is a huge win for drivers, citizens, and firefighters.
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How do you recycle solid state batteries?
Both lithium-ion and solid-state batteries can be recycled at one of the many new facilities dedicated to rejuvenating scrap material. For example redwood materials(Opens in a new window), started by former Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, is a large-scale battery recycling project in Nevada. Redwood has $792 million(Opens in a new window) in financing from investors, including Ford(Opens in a new window).
“Solid-state batteries are poised to take advantage of the growing lithium-ion battery recycling infrastructure,” Will McKenna, marketing manager for Solid Power, which is backed by BMW and VW(Opens in a new window)tells CarBuzz.
“As [lithium ion] Batteries Solid Power batteries typically contain nickel, manganese, lithium and small amounts of cobalt. The same methods of recycling lithium-ion batteries by extracting these metals also work for solid-state batteries. Therefore, we do not anticipate that additional infrastructure investment processes will be required.”
Nightmare scenarios of stacks of dead EV batteries spilling into the ground can also be dismissed as no liquid could leak inside. Not to mention that solid-state batteries potentially have a 39% smaller carbon footprint than lithium-ion batteries, Electrek reports(Opens in a new window).
Silicon vs Solid State Batteries
The race for an energy-dense electric vehicle battery involves multiple technologies, and solid-state batteries are just one solution. Silicon batteries are another leading contender and Tesla(Opens in a new window)Porsche(Opens in a new window), and others have already invested there. It promises similar benefits to Solid State by using a slightly different recipe of ingredients in the battery.
“We increase battery energy density by up to 50% or more, enabling battery manufacturers to reduce charging times to the point where charging your car is closer to filling up your tank,” says Group14’s Grant Ray.
Group14 silicon battery raw materials website. (Image credit: Group14)
Group14 has developed a new manufacturing method for silicon ions, an abundant but unstable material that battery makers and automakers can use in batteries to improve their performance. Ray says that Porsche’s 2024 electric vehicles will have batteries that use Group14’s material. They won’t be the last as Group14 has received a $100 million grant(Opens in a new window) by the Biden administration in October for further development.
Silicon and solid-state batteries are not mutually exclusive, and one cannot prevail over the other. Rather, they can work together as one of many technologies needed to bring cheaper and better electric vehicles to market.
“With automakers pursuing both silicon batteries and solid-state batteries, the reality is that these two technologies are not mutually exclusive,” says Ray. “Our partners are using our silicon battery technology within solid-state batteries to push the boundaries of energy density and enable a vehicle to go the distance consumers expect.”
For more information on EV batteries, visit EV Batteries 101: Degradation, Lifespan, Warranties and More.
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