Researchers Making Progress in Development of Solid-State Electric-Vehicle Batteries

Although significant hurdles remain, two U.S. research firms are reportedly making progress toward the development of a solid-state battery that can be used in electric and hybrid vehicles.

Solid-state batteries, often referred to as thin-film batteries, offer a number of advantages over the lithium-ion batteries currently being used in the majority of all-electric and hybrid vehicles. Instead of storing energy in liquid electrolytes, solid-state batteries use a thin, solid film. Solid-state batteries are also lighter and have the potential to provide a greater range between recharges. Lithium-ion batteries currently offer a range of about 70 miles before needing to be recharged.

Another advantage to solid-state battery technology is the fact that, unlike lithium-ion cells, they will not catch fire in the event they are ever ruptured.

One of the research firms making progress on solid-state battery technology has gained the backing of General Motors Company and Itochu Corporation of Japan. The two companies have invested $4.2 million in Sakti3 of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sakti3 CEO Ann Marie Sastry says, “Without the need to manage liquids in electrochemical cells, it is possible to improve energy density while reducing complexity.”

General Motors Company’s director of global battery systems engineering Bill Wallace said, “Though risky, we do believe that solid-state lithium ion batteries have merit and we are working on their development. We see them on a potential five-year time horizon, assuming certain significant shortcomings can be resolved.”

Planar Energy Devices Corporation of Orlando, Florida, claims to have identified a class of solid-state electrolytes that are capable of very high energy density. The company recently subjected its solid-state battery technology to testing by researchers at the University of South Florida. In those tests, the company’s battery technology demonstrated conductivity on par with that of current lithium-ion liquid cell batteries.

According to Planar Energy CEO Scott Faris, “This fundamental materials breakthrough, coupled with our proprietary low-cost manufacturing process, will render traditional chemical batteries obsolete. It will allow solid-state battery fabrication that will enable manufacturers to increase their capacity by 200 to 300 percent, while reducing costs more than 50 percent.”

A number of industry experts predict that solid-state batteries could be on the market between 2020 and 2035.

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