So a lot of interest keeps being generated by this topic globally as people struggle to see how we are going to move from the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to a more sustainable way of getting around.
To be fair I think mostly the mainstream media are selling the public a whole tissue of lies when which is a shame, as we can do some amazing things with electric now, but its not quite as easy as they are making out.
One advance to keep an eye on this year is in so-called solid-state batteries which I am reading a lot more about. The current lithium-ion batteries and related chemistries use a liquid electrolyte that shuttles charge around; solid-state batteries replace this liquid with ceramics or other solid materials. I think we have really reached the limit for energy density for Li-ion at a cheap price.
Researchers have succeeded in making rechargeable pouch-type lithium batteries with a record-breaking energy density of over 700 Wh/kg. The new design comprises a high-capacity lithium-rich manganese-based cathode and a thin lithium metal anode with high specific energy. If developed further, the device could find use in applications such as electric aviation, which requires much higher energy density batteries than those available today.
This swap unlocks possibilities that pack more energy into a smaller space, potentially improving the range of electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries could also move charge around faster, meaning shorter charging times. And because some solvents used in electrolytes can be flammable, proponents of solid-state batteries say they improve safety by cutting fire
However, a new type of battery could finally make electric cars as convenient and cheap as gas ones. Solid-state batteries can use a wide range of chemistries, but a leading candidate for commercialization uses lithium metal. Quantumscape, for one, is focused on that technology and raised hundreds of millions in funding before going public in 2020. The company has a deal with Volkswagen that could put its batteries in cars by 2025. They have created a single-layer, solid-state lithium-metal battery cell.
However, completely reinventing batteries has proved difficult, and lithium-metal batteries have seen concerns about degradation over time, as well as manufacturing challenges. Quantumscape announced in late December it had delivered samples to automotive partners for testing, a significant milestone on the road to getting solid-state batteries into cars. Other solid-state-battery players, like Solid Power, are also working to build and test their batteries. But while they could reach major milestones this year as well, their batteries won’t make it into vehicles on the road in 2023.
Solid-state batteries aren’t the only new technology to watch out for. Sodium-ion batteries also swerve sharply from lithium-ion chemistries common today. These batteries have a design similar to that of lithium-ion batteries, including a liquid electrolyte, but instead of relying on lithium, they use sodium as the main chemical ingredient. Chinese battery giant CATL reportedly plans to begin mass-producing them in 2023.
Sodium-ion batteries may not improve performance, but they could cut costs because they rely on cheaper, more widely available materials than lithium-ion chemistries do. But it’s not clear whether these batteries will be able to meet needs for EV range and charging time.
Cathodes are typically one of the most expensive parts of a battery, and a type of cathode called NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) is the dominant variety in EV batteries today. But those three elements, in addition to lithium, are expensive, so cutting some or all of them could help decrease costs.
This year could be a breakout year for one alternative: lithium iron phosphate (LFP), a low-cost cathode material sometimes used for lithium-ion batteries.
The big question I have is when we will see the birth and realisation of a viable retrofit system where you can give up a bit of boot space, or undercar space, to have a battery pack and electrical motor fitted in good cars already out there. This could be a licence to print money and be much better for the environment. In the mean time I am holding on to both my Saab 95 cars in hope!