By: Emma Thomas

Superbatteries fill the technological gap between supercapacitors and batteries and provide a path toward the goal of a net zero future.

Carmakers have been searching for new alternatives that are more useful and efficient to use in Electric Vehicles (EVs) to replace the traditional Lithium-ion batteries that power most EVs. Instead, according to The Economist, they are searching for more advanced “solid-state” versions. These batteries would help advance features of an EV, such as increasing its driving range and reducing charging time.

Toyota began looking at solid-state batteries for a very long time (since 2012); however, little has been shown. However, recently, they claimed that they had a breakthrough and plans to start manufacturing a solid-state battery as early as 2027. Toyota claims its new battery will provide an EV range of around 12,000km. A number that is twice the range of many existing models. Additionally, Toyota believes that with this new solid-state battery, charging time would only be 10 minutes. Furthermore, Nissan is also investigating the possibility of using these batteries with manufacturing starting next year. They will be building a test plant in Yokohama as a facility for building and constructing these batteries.

It is hardly surprising that the development of solid-state batteries to be used in EVs has taken this long due to the sheer size of energy it has to generate on a large scale. Developing it in laboratories and getting to work on a small scale is simpler than enabling it in a large-scale setting.

Initially, carmakers were attracted to solid-state cells to improve safety because Lithium-ion cells come with a risk. This is because they contain a liquid electrolyte which is typically made from organic solvents and these are incredibly flammable. This means that if a battery is damaged, something which can occur in an accident or overheats while charging, it can explode and burst into flames. In a solid-state battery, a non-flammable, solid electrolyte prevents that.

By itself, a solid electrolyte does not improve the performance of a battery. However, it allows a Lithium-ion battery to be redesigned so that it can be made even smaller and lighter, thus packing more energy into less space. Furthermore, it allows for more flexibility from carmakers to experiment with materials used to produce the Lithium-ion battery.

Currently, there are some solid-state batteries on the marker. For example, Blue Solutions produces one containing a polymer as its electrolyte. As this requires a high operating temperature, the battery is best suited to vehicles that remain in constant use once the battery is warmed up. Hence it is being used to power electric buses.