electric vehicle battery

Solid-state batteries under development with Oxford University-led consortium

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A UK-based consortium of seven organisations including Oxford University has banded together to develop prototypes of solid-state battery (SSB) technology with the automotive sector in mind.

SSBs are made with technology that uses solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte, instead of the liquid or polymer gel electrolytes found in lithium-ion or lithium polymer batteries.

While the batteries can already be produced, their low energy density has so far dissuaded manufacturers from embracing the technology.

But the consortium plans to develop “highly scalable” manufacturing techniques that it believes will boost the cost-effectiveness and performance of SSBs.

There are currently fundamental scientific challenges that need to be addressed before high-power SSBs can be produced, although the Faraday Institution’s SOLBAT project has made considerable progress in addressing these obstacles over the last three years.

The construction of the one-of-a-kind facility being developed by the consortium aims to help SSB technology to emerge from UK university laboratories and allow larger cells to be produced.

A number of manufacturers, including Ford and BMW, are also researching or investing in SSB technology in the hope that with advancements they will be able to store more energy, extending driving range for electric vehicles (EVs) as well as improving safety due to a lack of flammable components.

Early deployment of SSBs is expected to be in consumer electronics, niche automotive applications and unmanned aerospace, before being used in broader EV markets.

The Faraday Institution forecasts that, in 2030, SSBs are likely to take a 7 per cent share of the global consumer electronics battery market and a 4 per cent share of the EV battery market.

Global SSB revenues from sales to EV manufacturers are forecast to reach $8bn by 2030  and then grow rapidly to 2040 and 2050 when the market is expected to become extensive.

Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone said: “Collaboration between industry, government and our world-leading academic institutions is putting the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop innovative automotive technologies, such as solid-state batteries.

“It is the work of our internationally renowned research and development base, like those brought together by this consortium, that will give us the tools needed to forge a strong and sustainable future for the automotive sector and increase our contribution to combating climate change.”

In May, researchers demonstrated a stable, lithium-metal solid-state battery that can be charged and discharged at least 10,000 times – far more cycles than have been previously demonstrated – at a high current density.

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