Investments in electric vehicles (EVs) and EV batteries are fairly mature at this stage. Competing chemistries and construction methods vie to become the new industry standard as players race to squeeze more capacity and longevity out of their products while also battling to reduce the cost of production.

Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the solid-state battery industry, as identified by GlobalData.

Advancing materials science

A deep understanding of materials science is critical to the development of advanced lithium-ion and solid-state batteries. The success or failure of a battery project can be heavily influenced by the materials chosen in the R&D process.

EV giant Tesla claims to be on the cusp of releasing a so-called ‘million-mile battery’ in cooperation with China’s CATL. This design is claimed to slow the breakdown of a battery’s internal components allowing it to last at least the car’s entire service life with minimal capacity degradation.

Of the solid-state developers, 24M is far along in its R&D work. It’s pursuing an innovative semi-solid design that, rather than employ solid electrodes, mixes the materials into an anolyte and catholyte slurry.

On the other hand, companies such as Prologium Technology are pursuing more ‘traditional’ solid-state chemistries. In its case, Prologium’s design revolves around a solid ceramic electrolyte which has enabled it to simplify the design of its cell and eliminate much of the supporting components found in current lithium-ion batteries. Similarly, Ionic Materials is developing fully solid-state batteries.

Designing for mass production

If any of the battery technologies being pursued by these companies are to gain mainstream acceptance by electric vehicle manufacturers, they’ll need to demonstrate not just that they perform as promised but that they can be produced at a speed and cost that beats current technology.

Accordingly, this research has not just looked at the technology these companies are pursuing but their efforts to produce it industrially.

For example, while Cymbet has predominantly developed its solid-state technology for installation in integrated circuits, it claims to be the world’s largest volume manufacturer of solid-state batteries.

In China, the secretive Qing Tao Energy Development that spawned from the Tsinghua Technical University claims to have set up the world’s first mass-production line for solid-state batteries. Based in Kunshan, East China, the line is said to have an initial capacity of 100MWh per year, with a planned increase to 700MWh per year by 2020.

Alternatively, there are companies like Imprint Energy that aren’t seeking to build the batteries itself but, instead, license its technology to existing manufacturers.

Electric vehicles

There would be no demand for advanced batteries without the growing demand for electric vehicles. Today, there are three million electric vehicles on the world’s roads, but this could rise to 300 million by 2040.

This implies EVs, as a proportion of new registrations of the world’s passenger vehicles, will rise from barely 1% in 2017 to more than 15% by 2030.

Large scale commercial production of EVs by the big car makers is unlikely to take off until 2025. However, this presupposes that there will be a continued fall in the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

Presently, batteries account for around 50% of the cost of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), far in excess of the most complex internal combustion engine (ICE) which can account for anywhere between 25% and 40% of a vehicle’s bill of materials (BOM).

This is an edited extract from the Electric Vehicle Batteries – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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