A massive headache is in store for fossil energy stakeholders as the solid state battery of the future begins rolling off the assembly line.

Even More Bad News For Fossil Fuels: Solid State Battery Gigafactories Are Here

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Solid state batteries were not supposed to happen until the end of the decade, but it sure looks like they are happening now. The new technology is billed as a next-generation improvement on the familiar lithium-ion EV batteries. A solid state battery offers more range, faster charging, longer lifecycle, improved safety, less supply chain risk, and enhanced recycling opportunities. So, what’s not to like?

Prologium Pushes The Solid State Battery Envelope

The latest solid state battery news comes from Taiwan, where the startup ProLogium is already pushing out its giga-scale solid state battery line at its Taoke factory in Taoyuan for delivery to electric vehicle manufacturers this year. Plans are also coming in hot for a second factory in France.

The big question is how to manufacture a solid state battery at an economical cost, and at scale. Prologium appears to have answered that question. When the French operation comes on line, it will benefit from lessons learned at the Taoke factory.

“Breaking the industry’s previous perception of solid-state battery production is highly challenging and costly,” the company noted in a press statement today.

“The Taoke factory’s output efficiency is 2.6 times greater than its original facility, with doubled assembly speed and innovative manufacturing technologies, i.e., solid-state electrolytes made by continuous wet coating without the process of liquid electrolyte injection, soaking and degassing,” they added. “This improves production efficiency and quality and reduces manufacturing costs.”

The Solid State Battery Rush Is On

For those of you new to the topic, a solid state battery is just what it says: A battery with a solid electrolyte instead of the liquid commonly used in both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries (see lots more CleanTechnica coverage here).

As one can imagine, coaxing ions through a brick wall is more challenging than having them swim around in bathwater, but somewhere around 2020 the research began to pick up steam.

“A dramatic improvement in energy density combined with a drop in costs is the energy storage unicorn sought by researchers in the solid state lithium-metal field,” CleanTechnica noted back in May of 2020.

At the time, the US Department of Energy was already banking on solid state technology to kick the electric vehicle market into high gear, even though there was a long way to go in terms of cost. In the area of lithium metal solid state batteries, for example, the Energy Department ran the numbers in 2017 and came up with a cost of $320 per kilowatt-hour. On the bright side, they also projected a potential drop into the more competitive range of $70-$120 per kilowatt-hour, eventually.

A quick look at the cost trajectory for lithium-ion batteries suggests that eventually could come sooner than expected. The cost of a lithiumion EV battery pack fell 89% between 2008 and 2022, according to an Energy Department recap in January of 2023.

“The 2022 estimate is $153/kWh on a usable-energy basis for production at scale of at least 100,000 units per year. That compares to $1,355/kWh in 2008. The decline in cost is due to improvements in battery technologies and chemistries, and an increase in manufacturing volume,” they explained.

Sure enough, by 2021 the Energy Department was anticipating that production costs for a solid-state battery, and other advanced batteries, to drop into the $60 range.

A Solid State Battery For The USA

That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, eyebrows are already being raised over Prologium’s plans for setting up a second factory in France rather than following the rush to take advantage of tax credits in the US under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Prologium is leaning on the South Korean firm POSCO for its materials supply chain, which could explain why they’re not ready to take advantage of the IRA credits just yet.

That could change. Back in 2021 CleanTechnica caught wind of a plan to bring a POSCO factory to the US, in a solid state EV battery deal with GM. Last summer the two firms expanded their EV battery plans.

POSCO has also hooked up with the US lithium startup EnergyX to support its new technology for extracting lithium from brine at the Salton Sea in California, so perhaps a Prologium solid state battery factory is in the works for the US sometime in the future.

More And Better EV Batteries For The USA

Prologium or not, the US is certainly not being left out in the solid state cold.

Among the recent developments to cross the CleanTechnica radar is a ceramic “brain” developed by the US startup Ion Storage Systems, which deploys powder provided by the materials specialist Saint-Gobain. When last heard from, ISS was getting ready to start pilot production.

“If all goes according to plan, the EV battery of the future will be faster-charging, longer-ranging, less expensive, less reliant on rare earths and toxic chemicals, and more easily recyclable, helping to push gasmobiles out of the market sooner rather than later,” we noted.

Another US solid state battery startup on the move is Factorial Energy. Last fall Factorial issued an update on its plans for a new R&D facility in its home state of Massachusetts, in preparation for production launch.

Things are also stirring over at the Colorado University spinoff Solid Power. In 2021 the company announced plans to expand its electrolyte production capacity by adding a second factory in the Denver area.

“Our second Denver-area facility – Solid Power Thornton or “SP2” – will quadruple our production footprint and is expected to play a key role in enabling Solid Power to progress through the initial stages of automotive qualification,” they noted.

“The goal is to produce 30 metric tons of electrolyte annually at the Thornton facility, or enough for roughly 200,000 cells for electric vehicles,” the Denver Post reported last September.

The activity revved up again just last week, when Solid Power announced a new step in its relationship with the Korean battery maker SK On. The latest agreement includes an R&D commitment as well as a new line to be installed at one of SK On’s facilities in Korea, modeled on the Colorado facility. The Korean line is expected to be up and running in 2025.

Under the same agreement, SK On will use Solid Power’s electrolyte to validate the line. Upon validation SK On will buy at least 8 tonnes (metric tons, that is) of electrolyte from Solid Power through 2030.

That’s not just for dropping into any old solid state battery. The two companies expect the purchase agreement to support additional advancements in battery cell technology.

Similarly, Prologium also anticipates that its current solid state technology will serve as the platform for developing follow-on improvements.

Solid state battery research is also continuing apace at the Energy Department’s sprawling network of national laboratories, so stay tuned for more on that.

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Photo (cropped): A new solid state battery manufacturing process will help cut the cost of next-generation EV batteries (courtesy of Prologium).

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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 3237 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey