The solid-state battery is the Holy Grail of researchers around the world. Getting rid of the of the liquid electrolyte used in today’s lithium-ion batteries means higher energy density, faster charging times, and less need for battery cooling. Leaving out the plumbing leaves more space for battery cells, which translates into more range. It’s a win/win/win situation.
Solid-State Batteries Are Coming. But When?
Everybody says solid-state batteries are coming, but no one knows when. Volkswagen has made a major investment in California solid-state battery startup QuantumScape, but doesn’t expect production to begin until 2025 — at the earliest. Panasonic thinks it will be 2030 before solid-state batteries go mainstream.
Henrik Fisker, the enigmatic former automotive designer, was way out in front of the EV revolution with his Karma plug-in hybrid electric sports car a decade ago. His was also the first electric car startup in the modern era to go bankrupt. Now he’s back with a new company and a new car, the Fisker EMotion — a gull-wing four-door all-electric sedan that Fisker claims can recharge in just 9 minutes, thanks to new proprietary solid-state lithium-ion batteries his company has reportedly developed. He tells The Verge those batteries will begin production in just a few months’ time.
The secret to Fisker’s new solid-state batteries is the use of thin-film technology borrowed from the field of making solar cells. Using a new manufacturing process, Fisker says several thin film layers are stacked inside each battery cell, giving them 27 times more surface area than conventional cells. The result is a battery cell with twice as much energy density as a conventional lithium-ion cell. The new cells also will last for “well over 1,000” charge cycles, according to Fisker.
“We have solved how to produce [three dimensional solid-state cells] accurately, repeatedly, and very fast,” Fisker says. “In a normal lithium-ion battery manufacturing, you’re looking at about 18 different steps of manufacturing, and you’re looking at, from the day the material comes in to the day you have a fully charged battery that you ship, it’s about 50 to 60 days. That’s an incredibly long time.” Fisker says his solid-state batteries will take “less than 10 days” from start to finish.
Fisker is tight lipped about the details of the manufacturing process or the precise components of the new cells, but claims his company is already in discussions with “selected” automakers regarding the new technology. He also tells The Verge he has spoken with major battery manufacturers who might want to mass produce his solid-state cells and packs.
Reason For Skepticism
Should the world believe that Henrik Fisker has done what nobody else could do? “You could of course argue, ‘why should I believe him at this point?’ But we just don’t have the need to try and convince people. We’re working with companies under strict NDA to get into production, and that’s number one goal for us,” he says.
Tesla is always keeping up with the latest in battery technology. It has to if it wants to maintain its competitive edge in the industry. ”If there’s something better [than Tesla’s battery technology], I don’t know about it,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer, said at the company’s most recent shareholder meeting. “And we’ve looked as hard as we possibly can. We try and talk to every single battery startup, every lab, every large manufacturer. We get quotes from them. We test cells from them. So if there’s something better, we’re all ears, we’d love to find it. But we haven’t found it yet.”
If Henrik Fisker is right, the world is on the verge of a step change in the EV revolution. But is it true? During an earnings call last year, Elon Musk said, “Everything works on PowerPoint. I could give you a PowerPoint presentation about teleportation to the Andromeda Galaxy. That doesn’t mean it works.” Will solid-state batteries power a new Fisker electric car sometime next year? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.