The EV Battery Innovation That Could Usurp Solid-State Technology

12.18.23

Despite the solid-state battery hype, the lithium-ion batteries powering today’s EVs are pretty good. And they could get even better.

Many industry observers say we’re going to need better battery technology to fully phase out gasoline-powered cars, with EVs that juice up faster and drive farther on every charge finally convincing the last battery skeptics to go electric. Recently, much of the hype over what that next generation EV power source technology will be has coalesced around solid-state batteries—the assumption is that the EVs we will be driving in 10 years will be powered by this new technology.

Making them in large quantities, and cheaply, however, has proved difficult for years. But news that some companies, including Chinese battery manufacturer CATL and Toyota are nearing production of solid-state batteries has given experts some hope. Still, some influential members of the EV industry are betting that the new technology is never going to take off in a big way.

The lithium-ion batteries powering today’s EVs are pretty good. They’re cheap, and getting cheaper. They can deliver on the order of 300-400 miles of range, and can be charged up in a matter of 20 minutes. There’s already huge global manufacturing capacity to produce them, with annual output expected to more than quadruple from 2022 levels by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

Gene Berdichevsky, the co-founder and CEO of Sila Nanotechnologies and an early employee at Tesla, is among those who are skeptical that solid-state batteries are going to upset that paradigm. “Solid-state technology is like fuel-cell cars,” Berdichevsky says. “We’ll put some on the road. And it’ll be meaningless from a global production capacity [standpoint].”

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