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Solid State Electric Car Batteries Still 10 Years Away

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2011 Chevrolet Volt

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Solid state batteries could be seen as everything we're looking for from an electric car battery, improving on all the fundamental characteristics needed for electric mobility.

Unfortunately, we probably won't be seeing them any time soon. The latest estimations reported by Automotive News (subscription required) are that solid state batteries will replace the current favorite, lithium-ion liquid batteries, between 2020 and 2025.

So what is a solid-state battery, and what makes it better?

Range, lightness and safety, in short. Energy in a solid state or "thin film" battery is stored, as the name suggests, in a thin, solid film. This is considerably lighter than a liquid electrolyte. As energy density is greater - up to 200 or 300 percent - more energy can be stored in the same space allowing a greater range without weight penalties.

Thin film is theoretically safer too. Lithium-ion cells have a risk of rupturing which could cause a fire. Carmakers are very careful to ensure their battery systems are entirely safe in current electric cars, but solid state is naturally safer.

For the manufacturers, solid state should be cheaper to produce too, as the batteries are less complex.

Though the battery technology hasn't been fully developed yet, both General Motors and Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp. have invested $4.2 million in Sakti3 Inc of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Researchers at the University of Central Florida and Planar Energy, Florida are also working on the technology.

They're currently working around problems with the technology, but Scott Faris from Planar Energy believes it will eventually reduce the cost of battery technology by more than 50 percent.

Bill Wallace, director of global battery systems engineering at GM, thinks the technology could be in use in five years time (next-gen batteries always seem to be five years away...), but an estimation from consulting firm Auto Lectrification puts a longer 10-15 year timeframe on widespread use.

Either way, solid-state battery technology seems to be one of the most realistic ways of improving electric car range in the future - if liquid flow cells don't get there first.

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Comments (7)
  1. Great article, its nice to keep up with technology in development. Though I think we may see these next gen batteries sooner then predicted. It's amazing how fast we can develop new technologies and being that there are multiple companies and universities working on next gen batteries someone is going to try to make it to market first. Look a the new wave of tablet computers, Apple releases the iPad and before you can blink nearly every other electronics company you can think of has released their own tablet. In my house hold our iPads are easily getting more use then our notebook computers, in less the two years we're already using something completely new. The same could happen with batteries, developers know that they're in a race.
     
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  2. Very cool technology.

    Looks like Infinite Power Solutions has thin-film batteries shipping today.
    http://www.infinitepowersolutions.com/products/thinergy (cool video).

    But these batteries are at the other end of the spectrum (micro-power) for embedding into credit cards.
     
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  3. Doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense - current estimates for
    more conventional batteries promise a greater than 50% price reduction before 15 years down the road. And a fair reduction in weight, although that's certainly nothing critical,
    considering how well the Model S is doing right now. And current
    data seems to have recharge times and number of recharges attaining completely acceptable values in the not distant future.
    In other words, I wouldn't buy any stock in companies
    that are travelling the solid state path.
     
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  4. the batteries will be here when they need them to be here - just like the lithium batteries for today's evs.

    why 10 years ago they were telling us that battery technology to replace the lead acid batteries was decades away.

    that was when no on wanted to sell us electrics. for some reason, the wealthy (as a whole) want to move out of oil.

    and all of a sudden we have cars that run better than ices and get us 100 miles per charge right from the onset.
     
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  5. http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/37199/
     
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  6. Thanks for the link EV, it was very interesting. It's nice to see new technologies being pioneered by growing companies like Sakti3.
     
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  7. I'd be delighted if only takes another 10 years to develop solid state car batteries. :-(
     
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