The electric vehicle industry is filled with groundbreaking, forward-looking technologies. Many of these technologies, like in-road charging, are a bit too far off to get excited about. But nothing in the EV space looks as promising as solid-state batteries.
What’s wrong with the batteries we have?
The lithium-ion batteries you see in most electric cars today have a few major flaws. They’re limited in total capacity, they have short lifespans, and worst of all, they’re pretty dangerous. The liquid electrolyte in these batteries is very flammable. That liquid also has a very high resistance, so pushing power through the battery creates a lot of heat.
It shouldn’t surprise you that flammable liquid and lots of heat is not a great combination. EV manufacturers have to put a lot of work into safety systems to keep these batteries cool and disconnect them in an accident. And this limits their capacity. More power means more heat and if they can’t cool the battery down it can lead to a very destructive explosion. Just look up “vape explosion” if you want to see how dangerous these batteries can be in the wrong hands.
This isn’t something you as a consumer should be concerned about. Electric cars are designed very well, with safety in mind. The battery packs have cooling systems to prevent runaway reactions. And within the battery packs are several individual battery modules, ensuring that even in the worst-case scenario the reaction is contained. An EV with even a minimal chance of outright exploding would never hit the road.
What are solid-state batteries?
So if the main problem with lithium-ion batteries is safety and we’ve already solved that with cooling systems, what is the purpose of solid-state batteries? We don’t have to care too much about the battery in our car, but engineers care a lot. And solid-state batteries could make their lives a lot easier.
As their name implies, solid-state batteries ditch the flammable liquid electrolyte in favor of a solid electrolyte. In addition to not being flammable, this electrolyte has a much lower resistance than liquid electrolytes. This means that solid-state batteries heat up much less and have a much lower chance of a catastrophic reaction.
A solid-state battery could be much safer with the same capacity as a lithium-ion battery. This would require much less cooling, potentially making EVs cheaper.
But the really exciting thing is the range. EV manufacturers are limited in how much they can cool a battery. But since solid-state batteries don’t heat up as much they could pack much more power in without compromising safety. With solid-state batteries, we could see cars with range in excess of 500 or even 1000 miles.
As with all groundbreaking technologies we will have to wait a bit. There are still plenty of problems to work out, but Samsung recently unveiled their own solid-state battery technology. And with companies like Fisker betting big on solid-state batteries, it’s only a matter of time until we see solid-state batteries hit the road.
We hope you enjoyed reading! If you want to read more about battery technology you should check out the post I wrote featured over on Drive Tesla Canada to see how GM’s new Ultium batteries “stack up” against Tesla! And as always be sure to follow our social media up top for all the latest electric vehicle news!