But now the solid-state battery is here to challenge its reign. Word is that a potential advancement in the battery could change the way we store energy.
So what is the difference between the two batteries, and what makes solid-state batteries so special? Let's take a look.
Differences between lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries
Lithium-ion batteries have been used to power electric vehicles and consumer electronics for years. What makes them different from solid-state batteries is that lithium-ion batteries contain a liquid electrolyte inside them as opposed to a solid electrolyte.
The downside is that the liquid electrolyte makes the battery heavy and prone to instability when exposed to high temperatures. Also, to get enough energy, you have to link multiple battery packs together in series, which only adds to the battery’s weight.
By eliminating the heavier liquid electrolyte, the solid-state batteries are able to come out denser and more compact. They use a solid electrolyte that can either be in the form of ceramic, glass, or other materials.
Like any other battery out there, lithium-ion batteries are primarily used to store power for use in electrical devices. You'll often find it in cell phones, laptops, and cordless power tools. Lithium-ion was also the first kind of battery to be used in a commercial electric car.
Now, contrary to common belief, solid-state batteries are also not a new phenomenon. According to
, they have also been around for years, used in small devices like RFID, pacemakers, and other wearable devices because of their high energy density and safety.
Only recently has research been initiated on how they can be used for more heavy-duty applications, like automobiles. Expectations are that these batteries will vastly improve the performance and range of
The projection is that the reduced weight and increase in the battery's energy density will increase the range of the vehicle to a significant degree. In theory, solid-state batteries should also be able to charge faster.
Why is lithium-ion more popular?
Lithium was first commercialized in 1991 and has dominated the sector since then; this is mainly because it is lighter than other rechargeable batteries of similar size. Its electrodes also consist of lightweight carbon and lithium. Lithium is highly reactive. Therefore, it tends to store a lot of energy in its atomic bonds, resulting in a higher energy density.
Other than their ability to hold a charge for long, lithium-ion batteries also have no memory effect, meaning you don't need to discharge them completely before recharging.
However, these batteries still have limitations. For starters, they are highly sensitive when exposed to high temperatures. The heat causes the battery packs to degrade rapidly. Lithium-ion batteries also begin degrading the instant they step out of the factory and will be ruined if completely discharged.
These factors along with its bulkiness have reduced the popularity of lithium-ion batteries over the years, giving way to new ideas.
Why is the solid-state battery less popular?
Though solid-state batteries are safer to use, they are still vastly less popular to date. This can mainly be attributed to challenges in design and costs of manufacturing on a large scale. For instance, it requires expensive vacuum deposition equipment, which plays a critical role in determining consumer pricing.
However, we are starting to see gains in the technology behind solid-state technology. These gains promise improvement in the safety, range, and energy density of electric vehicles. They also have the potential for fast charging without the
With the newly sparked interest in solid-state batteries, battery manufacturers have been working overtime to develop the most efficient battery for the automotive industry. Some, like Solid Power, have been making notable progress.
The primary aim of the company is to encourage car makers to reduce the cost of their electric vehicles by making more affordable yet powerful batteries. Likewise, electric vehicle manufacturers everywhere are also putting their foot in the game, pouring loads of money into the research and development of a more commercial solid-state battery.
, both manufacturers recently established a partnership with Solid Power. The two electromotive giants invested $130 Million in the company during their Series B investment round held in 2021. The investment made BMW Group an equal partner with Ford, who had earlier invested in Solid Power.