The State Of Play In Solid State Batteries

Electric vehicles are slowly but surely snatching market share from their combustion-engined forbearers. However, range and charging speed remain major sticking points for customers, and are a prime selling point for any modern EV. Battery technology is front and center when it comes to improving these numbers.

Solid-state batteries could mark a step-change in performance in these areas, and the race to get them to market is starting to heat up. Let’s take a look at the current state of play.

Why Go Solid State?

The hope is that solid-state batteries could pack in higher energy densities by making it practical to use a lithium metal anode design. Credit: BMW, press site

Currently, lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries are used in the vast majority of EVs. They have higher power density and lower weight than other practical, commercialized battery technologies, making them ideal for vehicle use. However, they also have some drawbacks. They’re still heavier than we’d like for their given capacity, they take too long to recharge, and they have a nasty habit of catching on fire in a rather ferocious manner.

Solid-state batteries could change all this. They’re called “solid state” because the liquid electrolyte is replaced with a solid-state material. Solid electrolytes would be far less flammable than liquid materials used presently, and thus far less sensitive to heat, too. This could allow for greater current draw as well as faster charging, as the battery would not have to be kept in as narrow a temperature range for safety reasons.

Additionally, the solid electrolyte may allow use of different anode materials that would provide greater energy density. In particular, scientists have long wished to use lithium metal directly as an anode material in batteries. However, in current liquid electrolyte batteries, the lithium metal anode forms dendrites that short out the battery, destroying it in the process. It’s believed that a solid electrolyte would prevent this growth, and could provide up to two and a half times the energy density of existing lithium batteries.

Challenges

Solid-state battery technology has not matured to the point of mainstream use just yet. Some solid-state batteries have been arriving on the market, but they’re several orders of magnitude too small for use in electric vehicles.

Challenges remain around conductivity, particularly at lower temperatures, as well as issues of high resistance between the solid materials that make up the cathode, anode, and solid electrolyte. Many solid state battery designs require the solid electrolyte to be under great pressure to maintain good conductivity, which introduces mechanical issues around stress and fragility.

Additionally, there simply isn’t any infrastructure to produce solid-state batteries en masse. Automotive manufacturers have been rushing to build new battery plants to support EV manufacturing. However, the vast majority are to make up a perceived shortfall in producing current battery designs. It’s likely plants would have to be significantly retooled to produce solid-state batteries, which have very different internal designs.

Contenders

Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro unveiled a prototype solid-state battery earlier this year. The “lithium ceramic battery module” came with a 40% boost in capacity over the company’s existing cells. Credit: Gogoro, press site

Regardless, the tipping point at which solid-state batteries become viable commercially is nearly upon us. Several companies are investing big money in this space. Each hopes to be the first to get a competitive advantage over its rivals by having the best battery tech available.

On the small scale, we already saw last year that component manufacturer Murata had developed 25 mAh solid-state batteries last year. These are awesome to mount on a PCB, but won’t really help you drive anywhere. Stepping up a little, but still on the smaller scale, is the effort from Hitachi Zosen. The company has produced a high-performance solid-state battery of 1000 mAh capacity, however, the technology is not yet commercialized.

Electric scooter company Gogoro has cornered the Taiwanese market in electric mopeds. Their vehicles feature a handy swappable battery system, with battery-swap stations dotted around the country to keep riders on the move. Now, the company has unveiled a new solid-state battery prototype, compatible with their existing battery form factor. This means the new battery can drop into all their existing vehicles on the road. The new battery ups capacity to 2.5 kWh, up from 1.7 kWh. It’s a full 40% increase in energy density, boosting the range of any vehicle that can run on a Gogoro battery pack. However, the pack remains a demo article at this stage, and the company hasn’t announced definite plans to roll the batteries out to their network just yet.

Nissan recently unveiled a prototype production facility for solid-state batteries. Credit: Nissan, press site

Meanwhile, titans of the automotive industry are also vying for the lead in this area. Last year, BMW made it clear it would show a solid-state powered tech demonstrator by 2025, while it hopes to go into production closer to 2030.

Nissan has gone further, revealing a prototype factory for solid-state batteries in partnership with NASA. The Japanese automaker claims that its solid-state cars could be charged up to three times faster than current models, while offering twice as much range. The company hopes to have a pilot production line running by 2024, in preparation to sell solid-state EVs to the public in 2028. The company also noted that solid-sate tech would produce a pack “about half the size of the current battery” and that it could “fully charge in 15 minutes instead of a few hours.”

BMW has managed to produce prototype solid-state batteries up to 20 Ah capacity in partnership with Solid Power. The plan is to test 100 Ah batteries in 2022. Credit BMW, press site

Toyota has also invested big, and is working hard with Panasonic to be at the head of the pack. The company claimed earlier this year that it would have a hybrid vehicle on sale with solid-state batteries as soon as 2025. Given the high cost of developing and producing the new batteries, this counterintuitive move makes some sense. Hybrid cars use smaller batteries than EVs, and thus the solid-state tech won’t inflate the price of a hybrid as much, keeping it market-suitable.

When it comes to the automotive market, though, solid-state batteries are fundamentally too important a technology to ignore. Everyone from Volkswagen to Rivian is taking a look, though most of the other players aren’t showing their hands just yet.

Overall, solid-state battery technology promises to be a gamechanger. All that’s required is for scientists and engineers to solve a few issues around reliability, manufacturability, and cost. If those hurdles can be overcome, the new batteries should blow lithium cells out of the water, and quickly take the market by storm.

Banner image: Solid Power‘s production 20 Ah battery versus 2 Ah first version.

137 thoughts on “The State Of Play In Solid State Batteries

  1. There’s been some really exciting news in batteries over the last year. One recent thing I was reading was about how an additive for lowering the combustibility of Lithium batteries made higher density possible and may let sodium be used in lithium’s stead.

    Trouble is, I got my optimism damaged by all the “imminent breakthrough in batteries, 10x the capacity!!!!1111” articles through the 80s, 90s which turned out to be marginal progress if any. So I’m not sure if much of the recent stuff is “real world” tech we’re gonna see soon or not. ( I still thought I was gonna have a wall sized OLED TV for a couple of hundred by 2010. )

    1. I remember an on-going list on some forum. Pretty much once a month you get a new “magic battery” and pretty much nothing ever comes of it. You get incremental improvements from the big companies, while all the novel stuff like sulfur batteries etc. just fall on their face because they have some fundamental fault that they’re “just about to solve” – and then it turns out impossible or infeasible.

      There’s been some really stupid ideas as well, like “stabilizing” lithium batteries by using chemicals that are in and of themselves high explosives.

      1. Not always a fault – sometimes it is just that nobody is willing to invest to make some new tech at larger scales so they can become used and the concept get further development – not a big enough perceived win to be worth the investment short term – its just a novel idea that MAY have turned into new magic level battery tech but nobody in the existing battery industry wants to make it, and quite possible bought the patent to make sure nobody else could try it either.

    2. There’s a long, long way between chemistry done in a laboratory and a battery installed in a car. There are many, many, many battery technologies that look good in the academic literature but never see the light of day. Either they have undesirable safety properties (usually a tendency to catch fire), or they don’t deal with charge cycling well, or their structure isn’t stable over time, or there is no easy way to manufacture them in quantity, or they need such a hefty enclosure that their energy density ends up being rubbish, or they don’t work in cold weather, or they don’t work in hot weather, or they’re wildly toxic, or …

      There is this idea going around that good battery technology is suppressed by the oil companies in some sort of conspiracy. In reality, there’s just not that much good battery technology about – ideas that sound good don’t work out at least nine times out of ten.

      But batteries overall are still crap. Draw a graph of energy density of different storage media; if petrol is on the graph, then every existing battery technology is represented by a single dot in the far bottom left corner. You need orders of magnitude improvement in energy density before they become a “good” type of storage.

      1. Nah, it’s literally true. GM or Chevron bought up the patents for nickel metal hydride car batteries in the 70s/80s so they could guarantee nobody would threaten their profits.

          1. Even if that was true, and its the only place the patent could be applied as America is a huge and wealthy market that does buy European and Japanese cars – especially the very frugal or high end models it seems American car makers were incapable of producing, having that patent in the US kills any other major player in the car industry from going through the high development costs to make a car using the tech – as its cutting out a huge swath of the market they would have sold to.

            Also I think from memory the patents for many such things were owned by one or other of the big car brand groupings, and kept in a toilet cubicle in the basement, with no stairs, behind a sign saying beware of the leopard, and his pet cobras… So even if one of the sub brands might have wanted to give it a go the big boss doesn’t let ’em…

          2. Nah. Other countries tried to build EVs, PHEVs etc. on large format NiMH batteries but found them lacking anyways. It was the high self-discharge rate, low charging efficiency (high overpotential), difficulty to estimate state-of-charge from cell voltage, balancing issues, the tendency to produce hydrogen, very poor cold weather performance, low energy density, low cycle life…

            Believe me, I have tried to press modern sealed NiMH batteries to service and they just aren’t any good. The only thing they’ve solved is the self-discharging issue but that has made other properties of the battery worse. Regardless of the GM patents, they were never going to build a successful mass market EV on nickel batteries. Toyota Prius used NiMH for a while, but even they switched over as soon as lithium became affordable.

            The “oil companies bought patents to suppress this technology” is just fanboy bunk. They bought the patents because they wanted to use it exclusively, and then found that it doesn’t work.

          3. If you look at the actual patents they had (expired 2010), the improvements made to the batteries were based on adding precious metals like palladium (US6413670B1) which act to recycle the hydrogen generated by the cells to improve their power handling and capacity.

            90 Wh/Kg, 1000 cycles at 80% DOD. It would have been a very expensive battery to manufacture with no economies of scale due to the scarce and expensive materials, and only about half to a third of the capacity of modern Lithium batteries.

            The fanboys try to claim that because the Nissan Leaf went on to sell 200,000 units on introduction, then the similarly ranged EV1 with NiMH batteries would have been feasible on the market and GM killed it just to kill it – but one is a proper small car that seats four while the other is a two-seater sub-economy car with the rear half completely filled with batteries.

        1. You mean the batteries that were in every laptop in the 90s?

          Give credit where it’s due.
          The laptop industry enabled electric car development by paying for the battery technology. Before e-cars and cellphone markets got big.

          You think car battery cells are fundamentally different?

          1. Weeeeell, it’s a double edged sword, isn’t it? Innovation costs money and without a patent system money spend innovating is immediately donated to the competition meaning no one would do it.

          2. Economics has studied the patent problem. First-mover advantage is generally enough to recoup the costs of R&D, which means patents do not serve their intended purpose because innovation would happen regardless.

    3. I was expecting a method of printing super thin OLED displays. Imagine a 1mm thick sheet of plastic with the complete OLED circuitry printed on one side, topped with a clear sealing sheet. Bond that to a 3mm thick isogrid that has a second 1mm sheet bonded to its back side. Total thickness less than 6mm and manufactureable as fast as printing a color newspaper.

    4. A few years ago I read about a car battery system that was very rapidly “recharged” by changing the non-hazardous liquid electrolyte. It could use modified gasoline filling station infrastructure. The expended electrolyte would be pumped out and stored and new electrolyte would be pumped in. Fresh electrolyte would be delivered by tanker and the empty tanker would remove the stored expended electrolyte to be recycled. Haven’t heard anything since.

  2. > All that’s required is for scientists and engineers to solve a few issues around reliability, manufacturability, and cost.

    And the high resistance under low temperatures issue. If the battery doesn’t go at temperatures below room temperature, it’s a no-go for most applications. Typically these batteries only start working well around 30-40C and keeping a battery heated up all the time is highly inefficient.

        1. There was a Canadian review of (I think) the Bolt where the writer could only charge it at home on a 115v outlet – on a Canadian winter night it achieved almost no charging overnight as it was using all the power just to heat a huge slab of batteries.

          It’s very solvable though – insulating the pack better for cold climates would not be very hard and we’re still in the very early days of actual viable EV’s that aren’t a rolling science experiment / loss-making PR exercise.

          1. Also have to point out that ruggedised to be suitable for more extreme conditions have been the norm for mechanical transport, basically forever – EV’s are nothing new there, and while there isn’t a huge market in volcano traversing, or true arctic conditions ready EV – all the places where people generally are not, its natural the designs are well suited to the more normal conditions humans choose to live and move in…

      1. There’s been crazier attempts though, like the Zebra battery which is kept at 270–350 °C in an insulated box. If you don’t keep heating it, it will freeze solid in 2-3 days.

    1. usable capacity in some instances is much less when cold, so a 1kWh pack might actually deliver 500Wh when frozen and just to get it to operating temp essentially drains it at an equivalent 2x rate.

  3. I was looking high and low for the Murata solid-states the other week, but still the only reference to them is in that initial press release and all the articles written on it. With the “fall” timeline, they should have been in production (though of course only for a small customer subset at first) for half a year now. I would expect at least a tiny bit of new info on them.

        1. You can have it. I love my electric lawn mower. It’s so quiet I can easily listen to head phones without needing to blast my eardrums out and doesn’t vibrate my hands so much that they are numb when I get done. The batteries last long enough to do my yard and they are compatible with my weed eater, blower, edger, AND my electric snow blower. I don’t need to store or buy gas or oil. I have multiple batteries that I can exchange while charging. But they only take 60mins at most to change so it’s really not an issue. I will concede that it’s not as powerful as a gas powered but close enough that it doesn’t matter.

          1. Ryobi looked to have a nice zero-turn, but at almost $800 for a battery and it takes two of them. That’s going to be a sizable dent compared to a gas.

          1. I have Ego Power+. It had all the tools I wanted plus a highly rated snow blower. They have a zero turn lawn mower that I would be amazing to get but it’s something like $1200. I don’t have a big enough yard to justify it. But my yard is too big for a corded one. If you have a small enough yard for a corded I’m sure it works great. I hated mowing my lawn growing up with a gas powered lawn mower. Also had a small gas powered snow blower that I hated. Didn’t work great, it was loud, and I smelled like exhaust when I was done. I actually enjoy mowing my lawn now. And I really don’t mind snow blowing the driveway. My next car will probably be electric. But I have a newish gas car now so it will be a while before I need to upgrade. By then I’m hoping for even more battery improvements.

  4. So, how fat do your conductors need to be to charge a 100 kWh car battery in 15 minutes? 1000 amps of current there.

    The grid will need to supply a half megawatt of power for each car being charged. That’s about what a small residential subdivision uses, or about what one acre of solar farm supplies on average.

    I recharge my (liquid-fueled) car at a rate of 10 MW, or 2 MWe-equivalent. It takes about 3 minutes every 10 days or so.

    Going all-electric for most people and most cities will involve a fundamental shift in how we supply electricity and refuel vehicles. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s going to be time consuming and expensive to make the shift.

    1. The vast majority of vehicle charging happens overnight from a standard 115 volt outlet there is no need for ordinary people to charge their car in 15 minutes. You can seek out a fast charger if you need a recharge during the day.

      Can we stick to rational arguments and not fly away to fantasy land where every vehicle owner is fast charging their vehicle 24 hours a day?

      1. Ok. Let’s talk about a typical European city/town with low-rise apartment buildings and either street-side parking or detached parking lots. There’s about a 3:1 ratio between apartments and detached homes, so by far this is the most common scenario:

        There’s either no electricity sockets available at parking, or the wiring is sized to supply 1 kW per car for 30 minutes – enough to defrost and heat the engine in the morning. Not for continuous use – that is prohibited. The sockets are also in terrible condition being old and subject to the elements all the time with vandalism being common, so you’re somewhat risking a fire leaving anything plugged in anyways. At work is the same deal.

        The housing company refuses to tear up the parking lot and install real charging points because it would cost money and they’d have to provide alternative parking. The city or municipality won’t install charging points along the streets because it gets voted down each time – you’d have to increase taxes. You cannot buy or rent a home that comes with a parking lot with charging except for brand-new development that is non-affordable to most.

        The only way you can charge is by periodically driving to a fast charger and sitting there for 1-4 hours and twiddling your thumbs. Fortunately, the nearby Lild has two charging points since one of them is typically broken or already occupied.

        1. Actually there are many town councils putting charging points into street furniture, and private car parking lots doing the same – the most poor areas won’t get it any time soon, but then they can’t afford an EV any time soon yet anyway, so there isn’t much point in providing it.

          And as EV become common even at the poorest end of society the charging systems will end up happening – even if its just the folks living on the ground floor making a small profit charging their neighbors cars off a standard domestic socket. Probably get some decent new infrastructure too as time goes on.

          1. It’s going to be a really long process. The buildings in my area are from the 50’s through 70’s and they’re just about sort-of considering a full overhaul in the next 10 years. Maybe.

            I don’t even have grounded wall outlets in every room. My computer gives me mild electric shocks from the casing because of PSU leakage.

          2. If you think America will have it bad, look at the euros with there ‘crete buildings everywhere.

            Sucks to have to tear something built to last centuries down at 20 years. But Germans, so…

          3. While you make a somewhat valid point HaHa, as not all buildings will be easy to upgrade or change use, it is not that much of a big deal to put some fatter cables to a concrete box, or run more through existing cable runs – find me a habitable concrete box that doesn’t have mechanical rooms, cable runs and shafting that does 90% of the work, and pure storage multi-stories still need to provide electric, for all the lights, its just running some more probably surface mounted armored cables for the car chargers – not like anybody cares if the parking structure is pretty – heck the existing lighting cables are almost certainly surface mounts.

            A little more expensive than some other types of building no doubt but if there is a will to do so its far from impossible, and its always going to be better to refit an existing sound shell than blow it all up and start again, just think of all the extra work.

          4. Foldi, My mom’s rich, extended German family has one so pretentious she lives in a cow shit walled, old town, German house.
            You don’t want to know how much _anything_ she does to the place costs. Also: No flat floors anywhere. Floors have swells, like the sea.
            That’s all part of the ‘richer flex’. Like Chuck and his ‘keeper of the royal toilet seat’.

            I know where you can buy a German ‘crete house for 20 euro (up the road from Johanus’ place). It’s about 50 years old, but is teardown from neglect and one outlet/room 1960 style building. Teardown costs exceed value of lot.

          5. Well the stupidly rich can afford to pay more to bring their precious relic of centuries past into the future…

            Having not seen it I have no idea if no idea how bad your 20 euro box is, but being concrete and only 50 years old I’d be surprised if the structure wasn’t still good as new, and just needs a full refit and some upgrades for modern life… Still might not be worth the cost, at least where it is, but full on tear down of concrete buildings for anything other than because it makes economic sense to put a much bigger concrete, steel and glass building on the site seems rather rare to me.

        2. The market will fix the problem. If landlords want electric car owners as tenants then they will upgrade. It happened for indoor plumbing and telephone and electricity and gas and cable, why not for vehicle charging

          1. The problems start when the landlords would need to do some serious renovations to upgrade the electric system to modern code. They need to pull up the yard, the parking lot, and tear into the walls in every apartment – which is not something you do while the tenants are still living there and paying rent, which would be needed to pay for the upgrades.

      2. I’ve never had my wife/kid leave my car gas tank on empty in the driveway only for me to fill it on the way to work. Nor does my wife ever avoid making a left turn into a gas station when gas is $0.10/Lcheaper than on the right hand side of the road.

    2. Charging current depends on charging voltage. At 800 volts, a common EV number, it would take 500 amps to charge an empty 100kWh battery in 15 minutes. But most batteries won’t be fully discharged, and most folks will charge at home overnight, taking say 10 hours, reducing the amps to maybe 10-15. And the grid at night should handle that OK.

      1. An EV that is driven the usual 15,000 miles a year consumes about 5 megawatt-hours of energy. That’s a significant increase in the power consumption of a single household, and when all households add together, you still end up having to build up the power grid.

        1. “May you have an interesting life.” Old Chinese curse. Our future is gonna be super interesting as we transition to renewable power and EVs. I can imagine a household with 2 EVs, one of them charging during the day from solar panels. Then the other EV comes home, having gotten a charge at work or the mall, and sucks a little juice from EV #1. And maybe the grid goes down and the 2 EVs run the house. Wish I had 20 or 30 more years to see all the neat stuff coming.

      1. Exactly – all the whataboutists here acting like everyone will need to go from 0-100% in 15 minutes every day, when in reality that use case will mostly be for longer trips, so likely at dedicated (and likely battery-backed) superchargers in gas stations, while home/work/street charging can be pretty slow.

    3. I don’t think it will be as bad as you imagine…

      EV manufacturers are moving towards 800V+ charging standard.

      So 100kWh in 15mins, they will just up the voltage to keep the current within spec for the charging cables and connectors.

      As for supplying power:
      The majority of people with EVs charge over night.
      And start each day with a “full tank of gas”.

      The majority of the fast DC chargers will be located along the interstate where they can get access to higher power rated electrical grid connections to support the rapid charging needed for longer trips.

      As local gas stations / businesses start to add EV chargers, they will become limited by their power connection to the grid (power companies are not to keen on adding a substation).

      To alleviate this there are companies working on repurposing 2nd life EV batteries to store energy.

      The battery packs would store energy when prices are low or negative, and then supply energy back to the grid when prices are high, which would help offset the cost of the energy storage system.

      In addition the battery packs would supply the DC fast chargers high power demands and provide other uninterruptible power supply functions to the connected businesses.

    4. The expectation that every EV car will even need charging that fast is wrong in my opinion. For a majority of use cases it’d be fine to basically trickle charge. Plug it in while it’s parked at night or at work, if possible, and charge it like a cellphone. You’re not going to use anywhere near the full range in an average day of just driving to work and back or doing errands. I’m not even sure it’s needed in longer trips if you plan your stops well.

  5. Despite the obvious issues, people tend to ignore the 800lb gorilla in the room with these fancy new battery technologies WRT widespread EV adoption: Can they be recycled, and what is the environmental impact of producing them? Do we even have enough of the raw materials necessary to sustain that kind of production?

    Another important point in this discussion that is often overlooked: Where is all the electricity going to come from to charge these electric vehicles? Presently it is still Fossil Fuels, thus making it more of a NIMBY thing presently. Without a huge buildup of Nuclear or other environmentally conscious electricity production capability, widespread EV adoption is a moot point. And the cop out that solar and wind are going to save the day doesn’t count, because those technologies have their own shortcomings that have yet to be solved, chief among them, the intermittent nature of the energy that is produced.

    EV’s are a great step towards fixing the current paradigm, but it is easy to get caught up in the hype and lose site of all the other innovations that will have to happen to make widespread EV use commonplace. Batteries are just one facet of that problem. Despite that, it is good to see some progress being made on this front, though I echo one of the other commenters sentiment about being burned out by all the hype articles over the years about the ”…next best battery technology being just a couple years away…”. Great talk if your trying to get some funding, but it still doesn’t solve the problems.

    1. Not all grid power comes from fossil fuels. At present, about 20% of our grid comes from renewables, so an electric car is an immediate 20% reduction in fossil fuel use compared to an ICE car.

      About 12% of the total in renewables has been added in the past 20 years. In 2000 there were no solar farms or wind farms, so if we extrapolate that into the future the amount of renewables will be much higher. Also, technology is taken up in an exponential curve, so we can expect to add more than anotther 12% in the coming 20 years.

      1. If 20% of your power comes from non-dispatchable renewable sources right now, and you plug in your electric car – where does the power come from?

        100% from fossil fuels – because you can’t tell the wind to blow or the sun to shine harder. The added load is met by turning up load following power plants. Unless you coordinate your charging habits with the availability of renewable energy, the actual percentage is not very high.

        With solar, if you’re charging at night you obviously don’t get it. With wind power, the average wind speeds are much lower than the power rated speed of the turbines, so they make most of their energy over a small number of hours in a year, when the wind happens to blow hard. Pick a random day and it’s about 5:1 odds you’re not getting anywhere near full output.

        1. There was a post on a camping forum I saw, where a dude actually asked in all seriousness how many solar panels he’d need on top of his RV to charge up the battery for his fishing boat trolling motor overnight.

          It took one page of posts to get him to realize the problem, another page of posts to explain how using two batteries would help…

          1. Yeah to start with that seemed like a reasonable question, the age old how much oversupply on paper is needed for the real world performance, then you noticed the last word…

          2. Yep. Seen the same thing with a slight variation. A dude needed to know how many solar panels he’d need to charge up batteries year-round. There’s four problems with that: November, December, January, and February.

          3. Year round isn’t a problem @Dude, we have a really modest setup here, as the roofline can’t be altered (at least when it needed replacement the planners wouldn’t let us) and its a small house and we still get enough in the middle winter days to run the house, probably enough excess to still run it overnight with a little load management. It would be trivial if we could gable end the roof as that would probably add 2 maybe 3 times the total panels that can be fitted, and panels are so stupidly cheap really…

            (We don’t actually have near enough battery to do so, as the grid here is good, so going off grid was never a priority, the energy company we were with actually subsidised the battery so they can do some load balancing and energy trading type stuff, get paid quite a bit every month from the battery really).

          4. >Year round isn’t a problem

            What latitude though? Go to somewhere like Stockholm and your average solar output is 5% in December of what you get in June. 20x the panels needed, not 2-3x.

            For anywhere in northern Europe, including France and Germany, the rule of thumb is 10x the panels to average demand – but that still doesn’t account for the seasonal variability and there’s about a month you have to gap somehow because you’re getting almost no electricity.

          5. I’m in the UK dude, and yes not the most northerly Scot infested (sorry to the Scots I know and like) parts of it either… But the point stands even very far north/south, as long as the sun actually comes up daily – it is not a problem to do year round supply, the lower and less time the sun is in the sky the more panels you will need, or greater storage, so at some point it starts to get more costly or less reliable, but its still not a particularly big problem, just changes the upfront expenditure and area you need.

            And here in the UK, so further north than your France and Germany a pretty damn small old house (though far from the tiniest), with relatively poor roof geometry but reasonable orientation can get damn close to off grid, for very little cost, well on course to pay for itself, may have already with the increasing energy prices. And had we been allowed to change the roof profile we could easily have fitted way more solar in the same building footprint – so almost every house in the UK with a good roof angle to the sun – vaguely south facing should be able to get close too…

            Never have we had more than the odd couple of days at a time stretch where the panels don’t at least entirely offset the daytime loads once the sun is over the horizon, no matter when in the year and my suggestion to double to perhaps triple the number of panels had the roof been altered would have been enough easily for us in this relatively small footprint house – Nothing at to do with how much more you need in winter vs summer, as really that isn’t the problem, the price per panel is almost nothing compared to the certified electrician fitter so it can legally be grid hooked up, so the real challenge is having the space for them!! Also adaptive angled mounting for the seasonal variation is useful there – as even in the depths of winter we get more than enough now most days, probably enough as it stands to go off grid if we had more than about 8 hours of battery life (optimistically) in the very tiny little house battery.

            Also noting that at the extreme latitudes the temperatures tend to be really damn low, and PV cells like that, so actually work better than just the light intensity changes would suggest – some folks in Norway seem to be getting better efficiency than I get by quite some margin in the winter largely for that reason.

        2. Most of that 20% is hydro today. Which is very dispatchable, within constraints of course.

          The problem is hydro is limited by water availability. It’s dispatchable, but a fixed total amount (based on rain in the watershed).

          Power is fungeable. Any hydro power used to charge batteries is later replaced by fossil fuel power. Unless they were spilling of course.

      2. Nope. An EV, charged from an oil-fired electric plant is a 50% CO2 reduction from running a gas car.
        Charging it from a 20-80 renewable/fossil electricity mix means a 60% reduction.

        Also, electricity is easy to transport over about 500km (and quadruple that with HVDC), the wind usually blows somewhere. You can also charge your car over the daytime.

        And don’t forget the electricity network is a free market with prices varying every 15 minutes. Consumers (large industrial ones) are very much adapting to this. Think about refrigerated warehouses that cool deeper during low costs then don’t cool during high costs, operating in a -24—-36°C band.
        Or the company I work at, a large bus company (450+ EV’s), deferring charging moments.
        In fact, we had a moment last week where electricity had a negative price.

        1. Until you count the energy demands and emissions of manufacturing the battery. (See ESOEI)

          The problem is that big batteries are expensive to manufacture both in terms of money and in energy, yet they are never actually used to their full potential, which means the battery itself is inefficient.

          1. Can’t be… EV is 70% the same as an IC car, body, seats, suspension wheels etc and it’s takes over a decade for one to “pay down” the energetic cost of making one in fuel consumed. (Not that it actually pays it back). So either that calculation is orders of magnitude wrong, or was one that says it takes 6 months longer or shorter than a typical IC car (Which I might add are all over the place with the thirsty Jeeps scoring well due to less complex body panel forming.)

    2. Even in places where the grid is fossil fuel its massively cleaner to burn it all centrally in a really efficient power station, with good exhaust treatment, and ship it around as electricity with pretty damn good efficiency than it is to burn lots of fuel to make the right type of fuel, then ship this refined fuel around with engines that barely get anything resembling efficiency or exhaust cleaning (at least in comparison) to power yet more equally bad or probably worse engines…

      Its obviously not ideal still, but it does work out beneficial as you just can’t fit big or effective enough Cat converters and filters to your mobile combustion engine, and because it must stay small, cheap and light it can’t be built or run with such high efficiency.

      I agree on battery though, but lithium is pretty damn common, and recycling can and no doubt will be done as there is ever more demand for new battery – economics tend to work that way the supply gets short and expensive on virgin materials but the demand for the products is high and suddenly all these piles of old junk start getting at least partly recycled to get at that now expensive raw material.

      1. Gasoline (iso-octane) would actually be pretty clean burning if we didn’t insist on blending in all sorts of ersatz additives such as ethanol and cheaper lighter fuel fractions, that turn into nasty chemicals on partial combustion.

        1. True enough, though you still have the refining process, which isn’t great and all the shipping losses as no amount of engineering can make a direct drive ICE car able to be particularly efficient compared to the giant static generators.

          And if you didn’t add in all those ‘cheaper lighter fuel fractions’ then petrol would have to rocket up in price as you are only able to use a really really tiny fraction of the crude directly, and would have to spend so much extra energy cracking the heavy oils into more petrol (generally considered easier than the reverse it seems – though lighter to heavy is also doable). There is a reason its a blend.

          1. > no amount of engineering can make a direct drive ICE car able to be particularly efficient

            Efficiency doesn’t matter as long as it’s cheap enough to use and scalable to very large numbers – which batteries and battery EVs aren’t on both counts.

          2. Efficiency matters hugely from the point of view of not wrecking the joint Dude, cheap inefficient methods of burning shit to do something are what got us into the mess that forces the EV into the mainstream…

          3. The mess that forces EVs into the mainstream is politics and subsidies.

            What exactly would be “wrecking the place” with a clean-burning combustion engine running on synthetic fuels made out of e.g. surplus wind power?

          4. > What exactly would be “wrecking the place” with a clean-burning combustion engine running on synthetic fuels made out of e.g. surplus wind power?

            The wrecking the join in that case would be the shear inefficiency requires way way way way more wind turbine to ever be able to provide enough extra to combat the terrible system efficiency, while still meeting the rest of the energy demands. They may be pretty cheap and ecologically not a massive disaster to build, but its still got a cost, and there is only so much room you can put them on. Plus you don’t want to have to build 30% more of them to make the synthetic fuel instead or more direct and efficient electrical use.

          1. PtL technologies are approaching present day wholesale gasoline prices. It’s going to get cheaper to make exactly the kind of molecules you want rather than refine it out of crude oil.

          2. Or super clean fuel for 20 cents a gallon and we can’t have it because like a dozen billionaires think they would starve. bio-methane, bio-methanol.

          3. RW does have a good point, but the scaling of Bio fuel productions means you can’t really use them as a drop in replacement for all current fossil fuel use, there isn’t even close to enough produced, and if you go deliberately growing yet more stuff entirely to provide energy you could have moved to other ‘green’ sources you have everyone starving because there won’t be enough food grown.

          4. There is only so much cow shit, wheat stalks etc kicking around for such a use RW, and really creating fuel from such waste is really just inefficient somewhat delayed action indirect solar power – only so much energy is even possible with that.

            No where near enough to make up for burning eons of captured solar power in but 100 years, the current rate of consumption.

          5. Be that as it may, there’s still rivers of shit under our feet, and organic waste from multiple sources humped around to inconvenient locations just to get rid of it. Methane/ol feedstocks don’t need to be sanitary, could even be grown on superfund toxic cleanup sites to slowly suck contaminants out of the land, because it’s not being burned directly, it allows easy-ish recovery of such. Marginal lands that are unfarmed can support energy crops that aren’t foodstuffs. Even should there be such high demand that land currently under agriculture for food is used, using ethanol friendly food crops is 5-6 times less efficient than some types of grasses with potential as energy crops. Already many megatons of organic matter are “pointlessly” harvested, such as highways departments bush-hogging verges and embankments which are left to grow scrub.

          6. Oh I agree entirely RW, its stupid that these various waste streams are not getting used, or used better, and there is scope for deliberate cultivation of inedible but suitable plants in land too poor for farming. It just isn’t, and can’t be the entire solution.

        2. Which is not to say ICE powered by synthetic or bio waste derived fuels have no place, but they can’t sanely be dropped into everything currently fossil fuel powered – not even close to that level.

    3. It’s far more efficient, less greenhouse gases, having one central power plant than having many little generators. Consider those car engines small generator motors. If it’s not so, we would get off the grid and power our homes with individual generators.

    4. An EV charged by dirty electricity is still greener and more efficient than an ICE vehicle from what I’ve seen – and as the grid gets greener your EV automatically gets greener too.

      Engineering Explained on Youtube has some good videos on facts & myths about EV’s that debunk a lot of these common arguments.

  6. https://www.colibri-energy.com/

    These solid state batteries can be charged (and discharged) at 10C without damage, work well below freezing, work at 100C without deteriorating, provide more than 10K charge cycles at >90% capacity (at the end of the test), are undamaged by 100% charging and 100% discharging.

    On the down side, they are >3x the cost-per-Joule of typical 18650’s, the cells are only 2V, and the manufacturer is difficult to communicate/deal with. A ‘development kit’ is $10K (probably more now). Oh, and each cell is about the size of a motorcycle battery.

  7. I’m confused about the concern for the grid with electric cars. But maybe I’ve done the math wrong:
    it takes about 0.346 kWh / mile to move an electric car (current average of ev’s)
    about 200 million licensed drivers in US
    about 14,000 miles driven per driver
    (all the above numbers from “simple” Google searches, so they might only be approximate)
    Multiply it out – a little under 1000 terawatt hour of electricity for a year
    The US uses about 4000 terawatts of electricity a year right now
    What am I missing? Yes, increasing the grid by 25% is not insignificant, but it’s not a disaster.
    And that’s to replace every car. And it assumes mileage doesn’t get better.
    And it won’t happen overnight.

    1. My concern comes from the current and very likely future behavior of utilities companies, in that they have to date refused to invest, in order to maintain and update the grid as needed. Case in point is California here in the US where they heavily throttle energy usage on any given day to prevent grid overloads. If they cant meet 100% now, something drastic will have to happen for them to meet 125% going forward. I don’t believe any amount of Government regulation will ever be able to solve this issue either. Not saying it isn’t a potentially solve-able problem, but it has so far proven elusive.

      I am also curious if the numbers you sight above include all the ‘over-the-road’ miles driven by trucks, trains, and boats needed to simply keep the economy functioning? Moving large loads requires far more energy per mile, and goods have to be sourced and delivered still, even if everybody has electric cars. Logically, it seems that over-the-road miles would far eclipse what individual drivers will do in a year, considering the incredible amount background activity that goes on just to get materials and product into the hands of those who need it, industry and otherwise.

      I haven’t seen a good comprehensive study of such an issue, and I can understand why, as there are so many variables and data points to collate before you can even come close to providing any hard numbers…the complexity is immense! If you know of any good ones, post links, as I would very much like to see who has tried and what they have come up with!

      I just have in my mind how easily this system was broken by government mandated shutdowns and lockup due to pandemic concerns just now starting to lift, and other geo-political concerns that have come up recently. Grid problems are just another obstacle to add to everything, especially if all that background activity has to rely on electricity now too!

      1. US usage went from 2tWh to 4tWh from about 1980 to 2005. 100% increase over 25 years.
        Why it flattened out after that is beyond me. But the last 15 years have all been just under 4.
        So we “should” be able to go from 4 to 5 in the next 10-20 years without crashing things.

        You make a good point – I only included individual driving. I don’t know how big the commercial sector is.
        Again – my numbers are “back of the envelope” numbers gotten off simple Google searches (eg how many miles does a person drive a year). Not perfect but not unreasonable.

        Why we could do this 30 years ago and now it seems to be a huge problem is where my confusion lies.

    2. The problem is grid capacity. You need a 70 Amp circuit to charge an EV. Consider the typical 2 car family. At a 25% EV adoption rate we will need to rewire neighborhoods. At a 40% adoption rate we are going to have to replace the vast majority of substations too.

      This all is going to raise the cost of electricity. This shifts the status of being a car owner to one of just being able to cook a meal or heat your home. Talk about creating. A dystopian society.

      1. > You need a 70 Amp circuit to charge an EV.

        This is not correct. You need a 70 Amp circuit maybe to *fast charge* an EV, but most people won’t need to fast charge overnight.

      2. Where did you get that 70A figure?

        My wife and I are about to install a 40A / 220V circuit that will be able to charge our car from near-dead in about 6 hours – which is plenty fast since it tends to sit in the garage for at least 10 hours every night.

        And most days we use less than 25% power anyway, so 20A / 220V would suffice. But 40A / 220V will have us ready for a second electric car.

  8. I don’t know if anyone else has seen these, but a weird new component I found the other day, taking apart a USB rechargeable led dog collar. It was powered by a lithium ion battery, but instead of the usual silver bag, it was in the same format as an electrolytic capacitor. I thought it was a suer capacitor at first, until I read the label. So much easier to assemble no doubt. Apparently they are pretty safe too.

    1. I’ve seen hybrid cap battery in the parts lists that just look like a cap but are really a bit of both. Never seen a pure battery packaged up that way, though I can’t see why they shouldn’t be – seems like a really useful form factor.

  9. > All that’s required is for scientists and engineers to solve a few issues around reliability, manufacturability, and cost.

    Is that supposed to be irony?
    Cause if those things are “all” it takes, it usually “just” takes 15-20 years to figure them out.

  10. To those who insist that the vehicle charging problem has to be solved for everyone: when has this ever happened? We did not run telephone wires to every house in the country overnight. We didn’t even know how to run the wires. But this did not stop us from making incremental progress. The history of humans shows incremental progress, not overnight transformation.

    1. >We did not run telephone wires to every house in the country overnight.

      Yet when the number of users started increasing, telephone wires became a big problem that was preventing the further spread of telephones that had to be solved for everyone. They had to invent automatic exchanges and multiplexing before the whole place was just completely strung with wires:

      https://ethw.org/w/images/5/5d/Phoneline1903.jpg

  11. Here at hackaday, apparently the people who design vehicle charging systems are utterly unaware of the human tendancies to solve problems. To them, even the tiniest issue brings the whole thing to a screeching halt. To them there is no ingenuity or desire to solve problems. This behavior has never been observed in homo sapiens, it is a curious and problem solving species by all accounts. And on hackaday no less! Yes indeed curiosity and problem solving only apply to 3 d printers and 555 circuits.

    1. I’m assuming you don’t make technical things for a living? The ‘tinest issues’ also can mean “completely broken” or “impossible to actually build”, or “a modest risk of death” – so people who make things tend to be really careful about them. A technical meeting can easily be 90% doubt and uncertainty, and yet move things along really well.

      Morons who assume the solution for any problem can be wished into place are the bane of my existence. People who make things are generally much more concerned with WHEN not IF something is available.

      Engineers live in a world of practically, so you can live in a world of magical assumption. Just try not to be a jerk about it, ok?

  12. Using modems to transmit digital data over analog lines is one very good example of an ingenious short term solution to a big problem

    As is the case with every other problem with home electricity distribution, a plain old extension cord will solve the problem more often than not. Yes you can effectively charge your car from a standard outlet. It’s not fast but you have all night to charge. If that doesn’t work then human ingenuity kicks in.

  13. Mad props to the author for pointing out what they’re calling “solid state” batteries are ones with a solid electrolyte. It’s not a solid state device like a transistor or a diode. If you’re using pure lithium on the negative electrode, the volume of that will go from x to zero going from fully charged to fully discharged. Likewise there will be a volume change on the positive electrode as it goes from its fully charged to discharged state. These volume changes during charge and discharge can cause a thin ceramic solid electrolyte to crack during cycling. That’s a big reason why making bigger batteries with solid electrolytes are so challenging. The bigger the cell is, the more likely something is to go *crack* and fail. Still, really hoping this gets solved.

  14. More points to ponder:

    When everyone has an EV and charges it overnight, how will the utility companies respond with peak demand pricing?

    Also, how much worse will the economic impact of large scale grid outages be? In many employees will not have transportation during the outage, shutting down industries that have their own power generation (even hospitals).
    And basically you can extend the effects of any outage by 10 hours or more, til everyone gets their vehicles charged.

    1. If there is V2G actually having an outage would be rather surprising, something very catastrophic would have to go wrong that all that stored energy can’t cover it long enough to recover seamlessly.

      And even if there isn’t how long do outages last? Usually a few hours, maybe a day – your EV’s battery is almost certainly able to do all the travel you would have done in that time, probably 3 or 4 times over.

      I do agree though if everyone was Battery EV then after any outages long enough to matter it will take a little longer for things to get back to normal, as that immediate spike to fill up the now deeper discharged than normal EVs will take some time to work through.

      Peak demand/supply pricing is likely to change as greener more renewable grids come in, and will have less to do with time of day and some more to do with the wind and solar generation capacity at that time – so rather than its always cheap overnight you get its cheap on this particular Thursday afternoon, and really really cheap last Monday, but oooh that big storm rolling over the largest wind farms forcing a shutdown makes the days in between work out pricier..

      1. This is why distributed power generation is so important, despite the higher costs and downsides compares to centralized power generation. There are real vulnerabilities with centralized power that are magnified if everything goes electric, vulnerabilities that mostly don’t exist if we incentivise distributed power.

  15. You seem to have missed out the most advanced solid state battery company, ilika. Ilika are developing their Goliath solid state batteries, and should be ready in a couple of years or so.

  16. “Nissan has gone further, revealing a prototype factory for solid-state batteries in partnership with NASA. The Japanese automaker claims that its solid-state cars could be charged up to three times faster than current models, while offering twice as much range.”

    IOW, Nissan plans to turn over a new “Leaf”.
    B^)

  17. Fascinating how one of the highest-valued solid state battery companies, with the most evidence for their working product, isn’t even mentioned here. Quantumscape has so far tested their 16-layer solid state cells through 500 1C/1C cycles with less than 10% degradation.

    [am a shareholder]

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