Explained: Solid-state Batteries vs Lithium-ion Batteries


Summary

  • Solid-state batteries offer higher energy density, shorter manufacturing times, rapid charging capabilities, and a reduced risk of fires compared to lithium-ion batteries. They have the potential to revolutionize electric vehicle performance.
  • However, solid-state batteries face challenges such as recycling difficulties, scarcity of key materials like lithium, and dendrite formation that can cause short circuits. These factors impact their widespread adoption and commercial availability.
  • Despite these challenges, major automotive companies like BMW, Nio, Toyota, and Nissan are investing in solid-state battery technology and working towards integrating it into their electric vehicle lineup in the future. The transition to mass production of solid-state batteries is expected to happen after 2030.



As the automotive industry transitions towards sustainable mobility, one crucial factor has taken center stage – the battery. Most electric vehicles are currently powered by lithium-ion batteries, which dominate the market. However, a groundbreaking technology in solid-state batteries will likely revolutionize EV performance and address some of the major limitations of traditional lithium-ion counterparts.


Imagine an EV with a longer range, faster charging times, reduced weight, enhanced safety, and improved overall efficiency. Although we’ve relied on lithium-ion for things like our smartphones, appliances, and even vehicles for decades, there could be a *better* way.


Solid-state batteries have the potential to make this a reality. With major players like BMW Group, Nissan, and Toyota leading the charge in research and development, these advanced power sources are quickly gaining prominence in the race for greener transportation. This article will explore the advantages, disadvantages, and potential impact of solid-state batteries compared to lithium-ion batteries on the future of electric vehicles. Of course, it’s only fair to compare lithium and solid-state batteries, as they will be going head-to-head very soon. Stay tuned!


Updated on February 12, 2024: This post has been refreshed with new information regarding solid-state battery and lithium-ion battery development, as well as expanded pros and cons per type. We’re seeing the slow but sure rise of solid-state batteries, although lithium-ion continues to evolve and improve as well. Both offer something to drivers, it depends on manufacturing, recycling, and overall safety.

To provide you with the most up-to-date and reliable information possible, TopSpeed has sourced data from authoritative outlets, including Car and Driver, government websites, and Nissan.

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How Solid-state Batteries Differ From Lithium-ion Batteries


Solid-state batteries and lithium-ion batteries possess distinctive functioning styles. The lithium-ion battery stores lithium ions in both the anode and cathode. These ions are transported through the electrolyte, allowing them to move from the cathode to the anode during charging and vice versa during discharging. Electrons are created in the anode as the lithium ions move through the electrolyte, generating a positive charge.


On the other hand, solid-state batteries are pushing the limits by using solid electrodes and electrolytes. While it charges faster, offers a better range, and is relatively compact in size, the dendrites are caused faster in solid-state batteries, thus diminishing the life of the battery. So whether you’re mesmerized by the lithium-ion battery or drawn to the innovation of solid-state technology, one thing remains clear. These batteries offer different modes of operation that play key roles in powering EVs.

Solid-state Batteries vs Lithium-ion Batteries

Solid-State Batteries

Lithium-ion Batteries

Electrolyte

Solid

Liquid

Energy Density

High

Low

Manufacturing

Tough and expensive

Established and affordable

Safety

Low risk of thermal runaway

Risk of thermal runaway

Self-discharge

Low

High

Commercial Availability

Still in the early phases of production

Easily accessible


You also want to remember that solid-state batteries *currently* outweigh lithium-ion in price, which is why you aren’t seeing tons of models using them. Manufacturers typically have to order large quantities of a product or part to get a good discount, which has not been done with solid batteries.


  • Solid-state is a fairly new technology: When comparing lithium-ion vs solid-state battery tech, you want to remember lithium has been proven successful for decades. Solid-state is still somewhat new to the automotive industry.

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The Ups And Downs Of Lithium-ion Batteries

CityEl Lithium-ion Battery Pack

When it comes to what makes and breaks lithium-ion batteries, there are benefits as well as drawbacks to consider. You want to recall that we’ve relied on these batteries for decades, whether it’s a battery-operated vacuum cleaner, your electric car, or even to power entire delivery trucks. Lithium-ion gets a bad rap sometimes, although we wouldn’t have much of our current tech today without it.

Pros

  • Maintenance-free
  • Battery Management System
  • High energy density and lightweight
  • Low self-discharge rates

Cons

  • Higher production cost compared to nickel-based batteries
  • Flammable electrolyte


Solid State Batteries
BMW


One of the key benefits of using lithium-ion batteries is that they are maintenance-free. Lithium-ion batteries do not require active maintenance for perfect performance, unlike other battery types. Interestingly, most lithium-ion batteries have a protection circuit board called a Battery Management System (BMS). The BMS acts as a cut-off switch, preventing overcharging and over-discharging, which can negatively impact the battery’s lifespan.


When it comes to energy density, lithium-ion batteries reign supreme only when compared to traditional battery technologies like lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries. In such scenarios, their lightweight and high energy density enables them to power devices for longer durations. Hence, these batteries are popular for powering various portable devices, including electric bikes and cars.


Lithium-ion batteries have significantly lower self-discharge rates compared to other traditional batteries. Still, of course, solid-state batteries have a much lower rate because they utilize solid electrolytes that are less prone to chemical reactions and leakage. Lithium-ion batteries lose approximately two to five percent of their monthly charge when stored properly in a cool, dry place.


Undoubtedly, you can rely on these batteries to retain their charge even after periods of non-use, making them ideal for infrequently used EVs. Nevertheless, you should remember that lithium-ion batteries contain a liquid electrolyte that can be flammable if mishandled or damaged.


  • Lithium pros and cons: You see a long history of success with lithium batteries, although safety risks are regularly brought into question.

Although advancements in technology, such as gel electrolytes, have addressed this safety concern to an extent, there is still
a risk of explosion or fire
associated with lithium-ion batteries.

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The Good And Bad Side Of Solid-State Batteries

Lithium-Ion vs. Solid-State Battery Comparison

Moving onto solid-state battery technology, there are many pros to using it inside EVs and even larger cargo vehicles. You see safer and stronger charging with these batteries, plus a reduced risk of explosion or fire. There isn’t liquid moving around this type of battery, which makes it safer *overall* during increased temperatures and other rapid charging.

Pros

  1. Higher energy density
  2. Shorter manufacturing times
  3. Rapid charging capabilities
  4. Reduced risk of fires

Cons

  1. Recycling challenges
  2. Scarcity of key materials
  3. Dendrites cause short circuits
  4. Expensive initial commercialization


One major advantage of solid-state batteries is their higher energy density. Solid-state batteries with higher energy densities can potentially increase the range of electric vehicles even if the electrical output remains the same. It means lighter and more efficient EVs traveling longer distances on a single charge.


Traditional lithium-ion batteries require several steps, including filling and conditioning phases, in their manufacturing process. In contrast, solid-state batteries eliminate these steps leading to significantly shorter manufacturing times, reducing overall costs, and improving production efficiency. Solid-state batteries promise rapid charging capabilities without the safety concerns of current lithium-ion batteries.

Because solid-state battery technology is so new and has not been widely used in making electric cars, there hasn’t been much of a mass-scale push from auto manufacturers. Testing is happening, although this is at a smaller order level.


While lithium-ion batteries require considerable time to charge fully, solid-state batteries can potentially achieve full charge in as little as 15 minutes. Reducing charging time improves convenience and makes electric vehicles more practical for long-distance travel.


The absence of liquid electrolytes in solid-state batteries contributes to their enhanced stability. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, where thermal runaway can occur, leading to chain reactions and fires, solid-state batteries remain relatively safe even during high-power charging.


  • Two sides to the same coin: Solid-state battery tech is so new we don’t have enough long-term data on its success.

A Lack Of Recycling And Availability May Stop Further Solid-State Development

NIO ES6 solid-state battery
NIO


However, recycling solid-state batteries poses a hurdle to their broader implementation. Current recycling processes for lithium-ion batteries are relatively efficient for materials such as nickel and cobalt but struggle with graphite and lithium. The lack of an established closed-loop recycling system for these specific components complicates the overall environmental impact and strains future supply chains.


Addressing these recycling challenges is crucial to ensure sustainable production and consumption of solid-state batteries. Another significant challenge in developing and adopting solid-state batteries is the scarcity of key materials, particularly lithium. Solid-state batteries may require even more lithium than current lithium-ion packs, exacerbating the limited global supply. Without effective recycling methods for solid-state packs, obtaining sufficient lithium resources becomes a concern that could hinder the widespread adoption of this battery technology.

Watch Out For Dendrites!

Dendrites, branching metal structures that can lead to short circuits, have been observed in both lithium-ion and solid-state batteries.


While researchers are actively working on solutions to inhibit dendritic growth and Honda finding a solution that can be considered nothing short of a breakthrough, implementing mass-manufacturable techniques may take several years. The shift from traditional lithium-ion cell manufacturing to solid-state battery production necessitates new factories, procedures, and cost-effective scaling strategies. Although solid-state batteries hold the potential for cost reduction over time, initial commercialization is likely to come at a premium price.


  • Dendrites and a lack of recycling: Solid-state batteries face unprecedented recycling challenges, as well as develop dendrites over long periods.

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The Evolution Of Solid-State Batteries Spells Promising Future For EVs

2023 Nio ET7 sedan
Nio


In conclusion, the comparison between solid-state and lithium-ion batteries has shed light on an exciting technological development in energy storage. Solid-state batteries possess immense potential for the future of electric vehicles, despite the advantages and disadvantages associated with both battery types.


However, the transition to mass production of solid-state batteries may still be several years away, with current estimates suggesting it won’t happen until after 2030. Lithium-ion batteries will remain the dominant player in the market for the foreseeable future.

Big Companies Want A Bite

2023 Nio ET7 rear view while driving
Nio


Despite this challenge, leading companies such as BMW, Nio, Toyota, and Nissan are investing in solid-state battery technology and working towards integrating it into their electric vehicle lineup in the coming years. For instance, Nissan aims to provide its customers with an EV with in-house produced solid-state batteries by 2028.


This effort by Nissan indicates a strong belief in the potential of this technology. It suggests that significant progress could be made in the coming years. As we rev up for an electrifying future, the road to solid-state batteries powering our vehicles awaits a bit of fine-tuning and tinkering by ingenious researchers and eager manufacturers before making them commercially available on a large scale.



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