Challenges facing solid-state battery development for EVs

Written by: Jane Marsh

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Black background with a blue animation of a car with a green solid state battery graphic inside the car. Car is transparent.

Electrification is remedying concerns over questionable raw material extraction and disjointed national legislation by offering long-term solutions with solid-state batteries. As a novel technology in its infancy, what must it overcome to be the new standard for electrification?

Pros and Cons of Solid-State Batteries

Solid-state batteries differ from the lithium-ion batteries commonly associated with EVs. Lithium ions have liquid or polymer-based electrolytes alongside an anode and cathode, while solid-state batteries have a solid electrolyte to act as a separator.

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Solid-state batteries are normally made from glass and sulfites, among other materials. There are a few pros to this setup:

  • Provides greater power density to extend EV life per charge without adding extra weight
  • Has higher resistance to corrosion, which extends the battery’s life span
  • Solves combustion and other safety concerns with liquid electrolyte solution
  • Diversifies material options outside of lithium for market resilience and price regulation

However, solid-state batteries are expensive, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s why experts are investing in research and development in the field — a complex manufacturing process justifies the price tag.

The reality motivates progress — especially as international deals have led to a global movement toward solid-state EV batteries. Taiwan’s ProLogium will break ground in France to advance solid-state batteries using a ceramic separator. This makes the industry question if standardization is the key for spreading — especially when it has a recycling solution.

Creating a commercially viable solid-state battery requires innovation. Most makers have yet to find a way to harness the most potential power from a solid-state battery because of poor product optimization, which is the root of most of its other challenges.

Inconsistency Despite Its Promising Outlook

Misconceptions about fire frequency impact EV adoption, but internal combustion engines are far more likely to present fire hazards to drivers. Fires do happen rarely in EVs, and solid-state batteries can address this. The solid-state battery responds with an even more potent energy density to make it more viable and remove the minuscule fire potential. Still, there isn’t a consistent enough model for solid-state batteries for scalable, inexpensive manufacturing.

Makers must convince citizens to advocate for federal investments, and they can collaborate with companies to meld expertise to create better designs. For example, Volkswagen is putting a $300 million stake into QuantumScape, which promises to accelerate solid-state development and research.

One design promises safety, rapid charging and heat management, though it may need to be more energy-efficient. The opposite is also true – the variances show a solid state’s capabilities. Still, nobody has discovered the perfect combination of science and technology to bring out all its best facets simultaneously. Looking at the big picture proves any iteration of the solid-state battery would improve the automotive industry and the planet when analyzing transportation’s massive carbon footprint.

Supply Chains and Materials Acquisition Are Struggling

Manufacturers and suppliers reiterate the stresses supply chains have when accessing materials and meeting deliverables since the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislative pushes to adopt EVs made lithium skyrocket in price as demand and global goals pushed intensive mining efforts. It’s a necessary cycle with budding technologies, as demand will eventually level out prices, eliminating these concerns.

Solid-state batteries have different properties and compositions than lithium-ion but still require lithium. Forging metal-based anodes and cathodes with sparse cobalt and lithium will not be the best suggestion for long-term solid-state battery success. Alternatives include more abundant lithium iron phosphates, but they don’t provide as much power as the materials that are harder to find and more expensive. Experimentation with these alternative fuels is valuable for continued exploration and advancement.

What they do offer is longer life cycles and less expensive production. Reducing costs of material procurement and battery production is one of the best ways to overcome more challenges facing solid-state batteries. Available budgets can go to research and development for other efficiency issues.

Sustainability and Recyclability Efforts Need Improving

The minimal materials exacerbate another challenge facing solid-state batteries — recycling infrastructure. Nations need mandated, standardized solutions for practical, widespread lithium-ion recycling, and infrastructure is required for the more novel solid-state battery. These efforts will instigate collaboration between the industry and regulatory bodies to positively impact progress for the rest of solid-state batteries’ development.

The individual components of batteries aren’t hard to recycle. Metals like nickel and manganese have been recycled for years. However, electrolytes need novel scientific recycling methods that are only recently becoming more prominent.

However, combining and disassembling these metals from the battery complicates processes. It’s just like the repeated efforts of the industry to construct the best battery. It’s equally as demanding to design the perfect recycling system that tackles all its components without being cost-prohibitive and hard to make. The ideal route for executing this is finding the optimal path for one aspect of the recycling process and building from there, finding subsequent methods that meld with the initial design.

Challenges Stopping Solid-State Batteries for EVs

Solid-state batteries deserve continued attention and development because they could change the EV industry. Batteries could become safer and cheaper to produce while improving their sustainability efforts and the reputation of electrification. With collaboration and funding, solid-state might usurp traditional lithium-ion batteries for the future of all vehicles.

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