Editors Note: The work from the major type of research groups continues to amaze. This article talks about price parity for electric vehicles comparable to today’s gas cars. We want a better performance than that, it may be the goal to shoot for at present, but when will the real idea of affordable transportation hit the minds of the developers? My gasoline vehicles cost way too much to purchase and maintain, to have electric vehicles which can do no more than equal the cost of present day gasoline cars seems to be an idea that is stuck in the minds of those that think of this as the ultimate goal. We think that better can be done, is achievable, but will it be allowed to reach the light of day for us all? – Agcat
So lid State Batteries, Game changer for EVs – Word out of Japan today is that Toyota is working on launching a new solid-state battery for electric vehicles that will put it solidly in the EV game by 2022. Which leads to a simple question: What is a solid-state battery, and why does it matter?
Back in February, John Goodenough observed, “Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted.” And risking a bad pun on his surname, he seemed to be implying that all of those characteristics weren’t currently good enough in autos using lithium-ion batteries.
This comment is relevant because Goodenough, professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin – it so happens, he turns 95 today – is the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, the type of battery that is pretty much the mainstay of current electric vehicles.
And he and a research fellow at U of T were announcing they’d developed a solid-state battery, one that has improved energy density (which means a car so equipped can drive further) and can be recharged more quickly and more often (a.k.a., “long cycle life”) than a lithium-ion battery.
(Did you ever notice that with time your iPhone keeps less of a charge than it did back when it was shiny and new? That’s because it has a limited cycle life. Which is one thing when you’re talking about a phone. And something else entirely when it involves a whole car.)
What’s more, there is reduced mass for a solid-state battery. And there isn’t the same safety concern that exists with li-ion batteries vis-à- vis conflagration (which is why at airplane boarding gates they say they’ll check your carryon as long as you remove all lithium-ion batteries).
Lithium-ion batteries may be far more advanced than the lead-acid batteries that are under the hood of essentially every car that wasn’t built in Fremont, Calif., but as is the case with those heavy black rectangles, li-ion batteries contain a liquid. In the lithium-ion battery, the liquid, the electrolyte, moves the lithium ions from the negative to the positive side (anode to cathode) of the battery.
In a solid-state design, there is no liquid sloshing around, which also means that there’s no liquid that would freeze at low operating temperatures.What Toyota is using for its solid-state battery is still unknown, as is the case for the solid-state batteries that Hyundai is reportedly working on for its EVs.
In the case of Goodenough’s solid-state battery, sodium is used to form glass that serves as the electrolyte. Consider the implications of the development of solid-state batteries for powering cars and trucks versus using lithium-ion battery packs. For one thing, it will certainly mean that those Gigafactories that are sprouting up are going to have to undergo a significant change in what they’re producing.
And for another, it will more quickly bring EVs to price parity with internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. A recent UBS study estimated that parity would occur in 2023, but that finding was based on li-ion batteries; Toyota, Hyundai, and Prof. Goodenough could provide the proverbial game-changer.