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Solid state batteries, the big bet of the automotive industry

  • Solid state batteries will be the turning point in electric mobility. The first manufacturer to launch them on the market will have a significant competitive advantage.

The automotive industry is investing heavily in the development of what they call solid state batteries . The also known as new generation of batteries could, on paper, offer greater autonomy for electric vehicles, more safety in the event of an accident and a lower charging speed. All, thanks to a higher battery density, which would also allow to reduce the size of the component without losing range by offering, according to several car companies, between a 30% and 70% more capacity in the same space.

Currently, automobile manufacturers depend on the lithium ion batteries for electricity storage. These batteries are made of energy storage cells filled with electrolyte, a liquid that efficiently conducts ions between the positive and negative poles of the battery. This is the most widespread solution today, but the electrolyte is highly flammable and poses a risk both in an accident or during a rapid charge, since the batteries become extremely hot at high charging powers. Solid-state batteries, with solid electrolyte, eliminate risk and are therefore a more suitable component for mobility.

Samsung SDI, one of the main battery producing companies in the world, ensures that solid state batteries, in addition, they are key to the automotive objective of reducing the price of electric cars. “For electric cars to be able to replace combustion cars, they should offer similar autonomies and it is important to improve the capacity of the batteries to do so.” The South Korean firm affirms that, with lithium-ion batteries, “to increase their capacity, first, you have to install more battery cells.” “In this case,” says Samsung SDI, “the price goes up and the batteries take up a lot more space in the vehicle.”

The Asian company points out that solid state batteries “have no risk of explosion or fire, so there is no need to use so many safety components, so they save even more space.” This fact, added to the fact that due to its higher density it can offer more autonomy in less space “gives us the opportunity to include more active materials that increase their capacity in this saved space.” However, according to battery manufacturers, solid state batteries would also be more efficient and have a longer useful life, reducing maintenance and hazards in a fast charge.

When will they arrive?

Samsung SDI is just one of the companies that is working on the development of this type of battery, CATL and Panasonic also They seek to be the first to get the component, just like, in the automotive sector, Toyota, Volkswagen, Stellantis, BMW, Daimler, the Alliance Re nault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Hyundai-Kia . The first estimates speak that Volkswagen, which will build six battery plants in Europe by 2030, and Toyota, which recently announced that it would increase its investment in its own production of the component, will have them ready for 2025 .

Both automakers believe that solid state batteries would be the A turning point that would allow them to reduce the price of their electricity and democratize plug-in mobility. According to agency data Bloomberg , the cost of producing a new generation battery would be one 40% lower to assemble a lithium ion. Along these lines, Volkswagen, which is developing the component together with QuantumSpace , aims to create a single type of battery that is at the center of all production processes, serving by 2030 as a power source for the 80% of their cars.

CATL and Panasonic, which works with Toyota and Tesla , they have also set the year 2025 as its target, while BMW , next to SolidPower , which also works with Ford , point to 2026 , Samsung SDI to 2027 , Nissan, together with Renault e Ionic Materials , a 2028 , SK Innovation to 2029 and Hyundai-Kia to the next decade.

The ideal material

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The main challenges faced during the development of solid state batteries is finding the perfect material for the electrolyte. According to the first information, the current solutions do not reach the standards of conductivity, capacity, safety or useful life desired by the manufacturers. That's why so many manufacturers are knowingly involved in development that whoever finds the formula first will have a significant competitive advantage over a period of time.

Toyota is, at the moment, the only brand that has tested solid state batteries in the prototype LQ , presented at the Tokyo Motor Show 2019 and ready to work with this component. In this case, the electrolyte is based on the sulfide , one of the most promising solutions according to a report on the development of solid state batteries signed by Yole Développement.

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