I hate to burst your bubble, but the chances of solid-state batteries powering EVs is looking bleak

The biggest challenge that EVs are facing today has to do with batteries. To be more specific, extracting maximum range from the batteries and reduce the charging times. There are a lot of technologies being developed that would be the solution to these problems, but the brightest one as of now is the solid-state battery. These are much safer, but cost a lot more than lithium-ion packs, and its application in EVs is not mainstream yet. How long would it take for it to feature in EVs, you ask? BMW says at least seven years.

Why Are Solid-State Batteries So Far Away?

BMW Believes That Solid State Batteries Are Still At Least 7 Years Out
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The Bavarian automaker believes that solid-state batteries are still at least seven years away from becoming mainstream. BMWBlog spoke to a few people in Munich who are closely working with battery development, and they believe it’ll take seven years for solid-state batteries. One of the members said, “Solid-state batteries have created very high expectations, I would say, the technology itself over the years,”. He further added, “We don’t see that kind of technology [maturing] before 2027. We’re not saying we’ll have it ready by then, but it definitely won’t be ready in any way until 2027. Right now, this kind of technology is in its incipient stage and there’s a lot more work to be done before it could be used in the automotive sector.”

Is It Better Than Lithium-Ion Batteries?

BMW Believes That Solid State Batteries Are Still At Least 7 Years Out
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The two main drawbacks to solid state batteries at this point are the operating temperature and energy density.

At this point, solid-state batteries don’t hold an advantage over lithium-ion batteries neither in terms of performance nor cost. Even the fast-charging hasn’t drawn positive conclusions. As for the operational temperature, the batteries are heating up beyond the ambient temperature. Thanks to all these drawbacks, BMW has said it could take at least seven years.

What Is A Solid-State Battery, Though?

A solid-state battery has solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte, instead of the liquid or polymer gel electrolytes found in lithium-ion or lithium polymer batteries.

Materials proposed for use as solid polymers and solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries include ceramics like oxides, sulfides, phosphates. The biggest advantage is that the chances of an explosion in solid-state batteries are significantly lower than the lithium-ion batteries. For now, the applications are limited to pacemakers, RFID, and wearable devices. Back in 2012, a 20 Ah solid-state battery cell would cost around $100,000. And, a high-range EV would require at least 80-100 of these. Costs may have come down now, but it still isn’t financially viable.

What Other Battery Technologies Can We Expect In The Future?

At CES 2020 held earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz showcased an electric concept called the Vision Avtr. Although the concept in itself showcased a futuristic design and features, there was one thing that caught everyone’s attention – the organic batteries. Mercedes revealed a 110-kWh battery with graphene-based organic-cell chemistry with a water-based electrolyte that is free of any toxic materials or metals. It doesn’t make use of any rare and expensive minerals, thus saving the fossil resources. The battery’s materials are compostable and completely recyclable. When the company revealed the Avtr, it said that the battery has a high-energy density and an extraordinary fast charging capability. The battery can be fully replenished in less than 15 minutes. However, the company said that it is around 15-20 years away.

Tesla currently sources batteries for its cars from Panasonic, but is working on developing its own battery cells and we could see them put to use in the near future.

Musk has mentioned on previous occasions that the present battery modules last between 300,000 and 500,000 miles. However, the new Tesla battery pack, that’s still in development, could last almost a million miles. The new battery is a Lithium-ion battery cell with a next-generation “single crystal” NMC cathode and a new advanced electrolyte. After testing these cells extensively, they think that the battery could power an electric car “for over 1.6 million kilometers [1 million miles].” You can expect this battery to see a significant improvement in the range as well.

Final Thoughts

BMW Believes That Solid State Batteries Are Still At Least 7 Years Out
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Since EVs are still in their infancy stages, a lot of such technologies will be developed. Some might be successful and some not, but in the end, the battery range will keep getting better, the charging times will get faster, and the battery size will keep reducing consistently over time as scientists and automakers develop new technologies. What do you think is the future of batteries? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: BMW Blog

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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