A new report by S&P Market Intelligence reveals that some automakers have set mid-decade goals for the deployment of solid-state batteries despite the fact that cost and design challenges have prevented their commercial application in electric vehicles to date.
According to the research firm, major electric vehicle manufacturers have actually boosted funding in the research and development of this new type of lithium-ion battery because they have witnessed gains in the development of the technology.
The interest in solid-state batteries spurs from their safety features and the promise of increased energy density and range in electric vehicles. Instead of the flammable, liquid electrolytes used in conventional lithium-ion batteries, battery cell manufacturers install solid-state batteries with electrolytes in a solid form.
S&P’s report points out that companies such as Solid Power are already producing solid-state batteries for EVs while at the same time having advanced silicon, all-solid-state battery to production lines in Colorado.
The startup, whose proposal consists of adapting conventional lithium-ion battery manufacturing lines and equipment to produce solid-state batteries, has had hundred-million-dollar investments from Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Ford Motor. The latter has said that it expects to shift a majority of its capital investment in lithium-ion battery manufacturing lines to the production of solid-state batteries.
Volkswagen has made similar moves and started working with technology company QuantumScape in 2012 to lock down solid-state battery technology, going on to launch a joint venture in 2018.
The German giant actually invested $100 million in QuantumScape in 2018 and another $200 million in 2020, and recently selected a location in Germany for a production plant devoted to piloting solid-state batteries.
For Caspar Rawles, an analyst with Benchmark Mineral Intelligence consulted by S&P Global Market Intelligence for the report, it is likely that more companies developing solid-state batteries are able to bring them to market around mid-decade or slightly after.
In his view, cost remains the main inhibitor to large-scale commercialization of the battery for electric vehicles.
“As with all new technology, I would anticipate they are going to be more expensive initially,” Rawles said. “That means the solid-state batteries will likely be used in military drones or high-end sports cars before large-scale EVs.”
Rawles and other analysts interviewed by S&P believe that solid-state batteries could be integrated into existing lithium-ion battery supply chains and would have a minimal effect on demand for battery metals if scaled up.
For one, replacing a liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte involves a limited amount of material, though solid-state batteries have the potential to require less raw material than other electric vehicle batteries.
“That’s a very small proportion of the materials anyway, so I don’t think that’s too much of a major concern for the industry,” Rawles said. “And we’re still going to be using lithium-ion, as it is today.”