With the ever-growing awareness of how renewable resources are depleting from the earth, researchers have been on an agenda of constant innovation and the automobile industry isn’t any different. Another component on the agenda today is for scientists to find alternatives that allow them to curb the overall pollution caused by emissions. The automobile industry is a notable contributor to the air pollution we see in the world today due to its release of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. According to several studies, car emissions within OECD countries account for 55-percent of carbon monoxide, which is an incredibly harmful gas. With the need to do better for our planet came BEVs and HFCVs. Although, the need for creation and tweaking doesn’t just stop there. With that came the solid-state batteries for automobiles. Although quite promising, it seems that solid-state batteries aren’t at all feasible yet.
Let’s Get Technical About Solid-State Batteries
A diagram from QuantumScape website depicting the Solid-State Battery
Solid-state batteries are certainly not a new invention and have actually been in use for a significant amount of time – just not in the automobile industry. Although these batteries work with intricate systems, the devices they are connected to are significantly smaller than vehicles, namely pacemakers, and smartwatches. All batteries function in the same way and solid-state batteries aren’t any different complete with a cathode, anode, and separator. Energy is absorbed and stored within and once in use, it is released to help power the device. The difference in the mechanism lies within the structure of the battery itself. A lithium-ion battery features a membrane-like separator sandwiched between its cathode and anode. To allow the movement of electrons a liquid electrolyte solution is wedged in between. In the case of a solid-state battery, the separator is the electrolyte itself, which is in a solid state – hence its name. This solid electrolyte is ordinarily made of ceramic and has a higher capacity than lithium-ion batteries.
Sure a solid-state battery has much to offer. However, in its application, the positive impacts are out of reach. With the use of solid-state batteries, electric vehicles can have a higher energy capacity. Solid-state batteries could also reduce an electric vehicle’s carbon footprint by 24-percent. Of course, it all depends on whether we can source solid-state batteries for electric vehicles efficiently.
Solid-State Batteries Are A Long Time Away
Graphic of what a solid-state battery pack in a future car could look like
At face value, solid-state batteries seem like a great option for automobiles. However, with a hefty price tag, not much activity, and hydrogen fuel cells curbing their potential it seems that the feasibility of solid-state batteries is a distant dream. Electric vehicles incorporated with solid-state batteries come with a weighty price tag. Of course, as the technology is fairly new, the industry hasn’t found sustainable or cost-cutting ways of production yet. Although there is no exact number yet, with the cost of production and the cost of the solid-state battery itself, a costing projection of higher prices than current HFCVs is indisputable. A small appetite for high prices is predominant among consumers, who will surely be reluctant to purchase a vehicle priced even higher than BEVs and HFCVs.
Solid-state batteries feature highly dense anodes which are likely produced using lithium. When compared to a lithium-ion battery, a solid-state battery could possibly require five or even ten times the amount of lithium. With the current lithium shortage, despite increasing battery energy by three times, making solid-state batteries on a mass scale could encounter major supply chain obstacles. Although new, it seems that this technology is far from reaching its developmental fruition. A major complexity solid-state batteries deal with is that of an unpredictable Electric Double Layer effect. This unpredictability only exists within the solid-state battery as the effect takes place on an electrolyte interface of a solid composition. Thus, batteries with liquid electrolytes are on the market today and solid-state batteries aren’t. The movement towards tweaking and perfecting solid-state batteries seems to also have been thwarted by other fuel systems, notably the development of HFCVs.
Other Fuel Systems To Stifle The Work Done On The Use Of Solid-State Batteries
Parked shot of the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell in white orchid pearl
With the alliance of Honda and General Motors, the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell systems seems to be taking the electric vehicle market by storm. It is said to reduce production costs by one-third in its initial stages. With the incorporation of this next-gen system, we could see an overall price reduction in HFCVs as other automakers adopt it. Hydrogen fuel cells also work as a zero-emission solution in a world that is already shying away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. Looking at how solid-state batteries come with a hefty price tag, it seems that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are to steal the limelight from an already low-activity battery system.
The next-generation hydrogen fuel cell system isn’t the only technology that could stifle the impact of solid-state batteries. The largest manufacturer in the world, CATL, and Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory U.S. division have concurrently started experimentation with sodium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles. These batteries offer better perks than lithium-ion batteries despite some trade-offs. A massive blow to the development of solid-state batteries is that sodium-ion batteries have a higher availability and, therefore, are much more sustainable to produce.
From the perspective of potential, solid-state batteries seem to be quite promising. Surely, big-name automakers wouldn’t be investing in the technology if the technology itself wasn’t deemed to be profitable in the future with the prospective capacity of mass production. However, until the unpredictability of the electric double-layer effect isn’t eliminated and production of the batteries itself is made sustainable with cost-reduction, solid-state batteries are not feasible yet or any time soon for that matter.
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