The solid – state batteries are considered as the lifeline of the electric car industry. It will be the battery that allows a democratization of the electric car thanks to its higher energy density, safety and longevity.
However, a new advance made by the team of Pr. Jeff Dahn for Tesla opens the way to lithium-ion batteries of higher energy density, without cobalt and with a cost of less than $ 100 per kWh.
Professor Jeff Dahn is one of the pioneers of lithium-ion batteries. It has worked in its development practically since they were invented and their contributions to improve the longevity of these batteries, and therefore that their commercialization has been possible, they are considered key.
Jeff Dahn and his team have been working for Tesla since 2016 at their research center in Halifax (Canada). Recently, Dahn and his R&D team and the University of Waterloo have published a joint article in the scientific journal ‘Nature’ in which they explain that they have developed cells whose graphite anodes have been replaced by lithium-metal anodes without the need to resort to solid state electrolytes.
Most of the industry relies on solid-state batteries because they are the ones that generate less dendrites (internal cavities that show the deterioration of the battery after several cycles of charging and discharging). However, if the development of the Dahn system, currently in prototype phase, is viable, it would be a huge advantage for the industry and for Tesla.
As explained by Pr. Dahn in the article (whose extract you can read here), this new system produces less dendrites than solid-state batteries and does not imply making changes in battery factories – intended for liquid electrolytes -, reducing the cost of production as they could be quickly put on the market. Tesla would approach thus the 100 dollars per kWh of cost, considered the turning point in which an electric car becomes cheaper than a gasoline car.
Rivals also look for the ideal battery
Tesla is not the only manufacturer that investigates batteries to achieve greater autonomy, greater density and greater longevity of the batteries. Toyota, for example, is committed to solid-state batteries and believes that its battery will be ready in 2020. Ford also invests in this type of batteries.
Other manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, BMW or Daimler, invest in companies that develop solid-state batteries and at the same time in companies that investigate lithium-silicon batteries. It is estimated that the addition of silicon to lithium-ion batteries by a small percentage (less than 10%) would increase the density of the batteries by 300 Wh per gram over the next three to five years.
It is still early to determine what type of battery would be the one that is finally imposed, but it is clear that without a battery with a high energy density (greater autonomy with lower weight) and shorter recharge times, both Tesla and the Volkswagen group work In this, the electric car will not be imposed.
Why batteries are the key to the success of the electric car
Many are the pitfalls that make the electric car not take off. And no, the current price of electric cars is no longer an obstacle, since it is no longer a segment covered for premium brands.
And while it is true that most do not fall below 30,000 euros, remember that in Spain in 2017, 12.65% of cars sold cost more than 25,000 euros, according to data from the Tax Agency. In a market like the Spanish one million cars a year, that’s more than 120,000 cars every year. That is, a car of 30,000 euros in Spain has enough market.
Actually, the main obstacle is the fear of running out of battery power to continue moving to the next charge point. And once at that point of loading, the wait to recharge at a sufficient level of autonomy can be long. Even with a Tesla, long trips are conditioned by the autonomy of the car, the availability of charging points and charging times.
Electric cars are great but remember that most of the electricity generation around the world is currently from combustion of fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas. Renewable electricity generation sources are increasing and improving for sure but still remain a small fraction of current generation capacity and not necessarily reliable. As electric cars and charging stations become more popular, the load on the generating grid just increases.