Scorching Hot Solid-State Electric Vehicle Battery Race Heats Up, Now With Buttery Sauce

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Weren’t we just saying that everybody is talking about solid-state batteries for the electric vehicle of the future? We were! That’s because solid-state technology could have a couple of little advantages over the current crop of lithium-ion batteries, such as being smaller and lighter and more reliable and more energy dense and less expensive and lasting longer and going for a lot more miles between charges and that kind of stuff. We’re saying “could” because there are still a few kinks left to work out. The latest development on that score involves a butter-like, spreadable paste.

electric vehicle battery like butter solid state
A new butter-like paste could help accelerate the introduction of the solid-state electric vehicle battery (via USDA, screenshot).

The Electric Vehicle Market The Future

Before we launch into the new butter battery, let’s take a quick look back at the latest BloomberNEF forecast for the electric vehicle market of years to come.

BNEF came down on the side of caution, with EVs accounting for 58% of new car sales by 2040. That’s pretty dismal compared to the 100% mark preferred by electric vehicle fans, especially when you consider the potential for new cost-cutting breakthroughs like solid-state batteries.

That touched off quite a rumble on the ol’ CleanTechnica comment thread. After all, if an electric vehicle is less expensive than a gasmobile, who wouldn’t buy an electric vehicle?

Good question! Let’s take the US, for example. If millions of Americans refuse to wear a simple cloth face mask in public to protect themselves and others against a disease that could potentially bankrupt them with medical bills if it doesn’t kill them, it’s a safe bet that millions of Americans will continue to buy gasmobiles as long as they are for sale, even if they cost more than an electric vehicle, don’t perform as well, and aren’t even as nice looking.

Another factor would be the relative availability of EV charging stations and gas stations, keeping in mind that Level 1 and Level 2 home charging is not an option for many households.

Then there’s the biofuel option, which could give new life to liquid-powered mobility.

A Spreadable Buttery Paste For A Better Electric Vehicle Battery

All this is by way of saying that a new generation of solid-state batteries is no guarantee that BNEF’s 58% forecast will crumble like dust in the wind.

However, it certainly can’t hurt.

Last week we took note of a solid-state energy storage solution from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and that was just one of two interesting developments that popped up in the last few days.

The other one was from a team of researchers spearheaded by Chalmers University of Technology, along with Xi’an Jiaotong University,  the Technical University of Denmark, and China’s National University of Defense Technology.

As with Oak Ridge, the Chalmers team tackled a key challenge for solid-state battery technology, which is how get the solid electrolyte to interact efficiently with everything else.

After all, if the electrolyte is a solid mass, how are you going to tease ions in and out?

Here, let’s have Chalmers explain it:

“…a solid-state battery can be likened to a dry sandwich. A layer of the metal lithium acts as a slice of bread, and a ceramic substance is laid on top like a filling. This hard substance is the solid electrolyte of the battery, which transports lithium ions between the electrodes of the battery. But the ‘sandwich’ is so dry, it is difficult to keep it together – and there are also problems caused by the compatibility between the ‘bread’ and the ‘topping.’”

Got all that? Good! You can get all the technical details in their paper, “Design of a Multifunctional Interlayer for NASCION‐Based Solid‐State Li Metal Batteries,” in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, in which they describe a pasty substance consisting of an ionic liquid doped with specialized nanoparticles that creates an efficient interface.

Who Will Be America’s Next Top EV Battery?

Regardless of who’s researching what, it sure looks like the whole electric battery field is gearing up for a makeover.

Since no discussion of EV batteries is complete without a mention of Tesla, let’s note that newly minted freedom fighter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been teasing a “million mile battery,” coming soon.

That sounds like the “million mile” concept GM is teasing, except that GM appears committed to solid-state technology and we’ll have to wait and see what Musk is up to.

GM has been making serious moves into the solid-state field since at least 2018, when it hooked up with Delta Electronics in a Department of Energy program aimed at “extreme” fast-charging technology.

Last year, CNET’s Road Show reported that GM received $9.1 million in research funding from the US Department of Energy, some of which was earmarked for solid-state batteries based on sulfide glass.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to GM to see if they can tell us how the grant dollars are being applied, so stay tune for more on that.

Come to think of it, the University of Texas at Austin has been hammering away at the “glass battery” angle for a while now so we’ll check up on them, too.

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Image (screenshot, cropped): “All about Butter” infographic via USDA.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3234 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey