Promising solid-state batteries rev Canada’s all-electric mobility goals

Feb 1, 2024 | Biz/Tech, News

As Canada embarks towards achieving all-electric mobility by 2035, solid-state batteries (SSB) have emerged as a promising technology poised to revolutionize the electric vehicle (EV) landscape.

These next-generation batteries, touted for their superior energy density, safety and fast charging capabilities, have the potential to bridge the gap between current EV technology and the requirements for widespread adoption.

But what are they and why should the masses be aware of them? The first step is understanding the difference between an SSB and a traditional lithium-ion battery currently used in EVs.

SSBs, unlike their lithium-ion counterparts, use a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid one between the cathode (positive-end) and anode (negative-end).

“When it comes to lithium-ion or phosphate batteries, the electrolyte is liquid instead of a solid one and therefore it ends up burning like a torch instead of big fire like in gas cars,” said Mary Millon, manager of Plug N’ Drive’, an Ontario-based non-profit organization that promotes the use of EVs.

This difference in design offers several key advantages. One of the major is that it is less prone to fire and explosion risks, making them safer for both drivers and the environment.

“Compared to solid-state batteries, the cells present in a lithium-ion battery upon catching fire transmit quickly from one to another which is known as a thermal runaway,” Millon said.

Another potential area where these batteries can prove more efficient is the energy density. These batteries have a higher density, which means less weight. This could increase the range of an EV even if the battery’s electrical output stays the same.

“As you move toward solid-state batteries, the reason that they’re so useful, and the reason you get this over-performance benefit from them is that they allow the use of higher-energy-density anodes,” said Rory McNulty, co-author of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Solid-State and Lithium Metal Batteries Report, during a video conference session in November 2021.

He said that this increase could mean batteries that are three times more energy-dense than today’s lithium-ion cells.

However, the downside to these batteries is the cost due to the requirement of higher densities of rare metals. Another is cracks appearing between the anodes, cathodes and solid electrolytes due to repeated charging and discharging.

Toyota President and CEO Koji Sato, who partnered with petroleum company Idemitsu in October last year, has seemingly found a solution to the charging problem.

“Through repeated trial and error and by combining the material technologies of both companies, we have been able to develop a crack-resistant material that demonstrates high performance,” Sato said in an October 2023 media release.

“By combining this new solid electrolyte with the Toyota Group’s cathode and anode materials and battery technologies, we are now on the path toward achieving both performance and durability in solid-state batteries,” he said.

Multiple automakers like Hyundai, Kia and Honda, are actively researching solid-state batteries, but Toyota seemingly is the only one to have announced a battery technology road map.

It showcases the first generation of solid-state batteries to be fitted in its EVs will come around 2027-2028 and will enable a driving range of over 1,000 km on a full charge.

In addition, a top-up from 10 percent State of Charge (SoC) to 80 per cent will take approximately 10 minutes from a DC fast charger.