Faster Charging and Increased Range? Solid State Batteries for EVs Explained

Faster Charging and Increased Range? Solid State Batteries for EVs Explained

Many think this lithium ion alternative will nearly double vehicle range and reduce charging time, dramatically changing the perception and performance of electric vehicles.

Many aspects of an electric vehicle are the same as a gas-powered one: the seats are seats, tires are tires, the steering wheel still turns right and left. The biggest difference, and the one that will make or break mass EV adoption, is the battery.

That's why some of the most exciting research in the modern automotive landscape centers on battery technology—and "solid state" batteries are one area being explored. This alternative to the lithium-ion batteries used today promises to improve vehicle range, decrease charging times, and eliminate risk of battery fires.


You can't yet drive a solid-state battery-based EV off the lot, but they're in the works. Honda recently confirmed it's working on them in its Tokyo-based lab, with plans to launch a vehicle with a solid-state battery in the latter part of the by 2028 or 2029. Hyundai, BMW, Ford, GM, Volkswagen, and more are conducting similar research, JD Power reports. Toyota leads, with over 1,300 patents related to solid state batteries, and it plans to launch a hybrid with one by 2025.

In the future, trains, planes, and trucks may also use solid state batteries, setting the stage for much wider electrification of transportation than we can visualize today. Here's what you need to know about this potentially game-changing technology.

What Is a Solid State Battery?

Cross section of two batteriesSolid state batteries operate the same way as any other battery. They take energy in, store it, and release the power to devices—from Walkmen to watches and, now, vehicle motors. The difference is the materials inside.

Lithium ion batteries, used in EVs today, have a liquid electrolyte solution sandwiched in between their cathodes and anodes (see the middle gap in the image above). Alternatively, solid state batteries use solid electrolytes.

The increased density means solid state batteries can hold anywhere between two to 10 times the capacity of a lithium ion battery, AutoWeek reports.

Why Don't EVs Already Use Solid State Batteries?

Solid state batteries already exist, just in much smaller devices like smartwatches, pacemakers, and RFID tags. The barrier to using them in EVs is primarily that they're expensive and difficult to produce in a larger size at scale, Vox explains. With battery-powered vehicles already more expensive than gas-powered ones, consumers have little appetite for even pricier vehicles.

Longevity is another issue, but Honda says it has a solution. The solid electrolytes can degrade over time, so Honda plans to protect it by wrapping it in a new polymer fabric, Ars Technica reports.

The batteries also need to undergo ample testing for durability on roads and lifespan for everyday driving. Remember, we're talking about taking something worn on a wrist and using it to move a car or truck for the first time en masse.

Do Solid State Batteries Increase Range?

EV chargingWith a solid state battery, EVs should be able to go just as far as a gas-powered car does before refueling. Take a 15-gallon gas tank that goes 30 miles per gallon, for example. That car can go 450 miles before filling up.

Most EVs today have ranges of 200 to 300 miles, although the 2024 GMC Sierra Denali pickup truck will have a 400-mile range, and the super-luxe Lucid, already on the road today, boasts a 520-mile range.

Multiplying those ranges by around 50% (or as much as 80%, CarBuzz reports), and solid state batteries are ready to play ball on road trips. An EV with a 300-mile range now has 450 miles. Plus, solid state batteries will charge faster than lithium ion with less degradation to the battery itself.

Fires Extinguished: Solid State Improves EV Safety

Car battery on fireWith frightening reports of battery fires in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Ian, EVs have developed a bad rep for being rolling matchsticks. But in reality, that honor should go to the lithium ion battery. Swap it out for a solid state equivalent, and the EV has a very low risk of fire.

The liquid electrolytes in lithium ion batteries are flammable, but since solid state batteries do not have that liquid, they do not run the same risk of fire.

Fires from lithium ion batteries are rare, and automakers include casing and protective measures to avoid them, but when they happen they are powerful and difficult to extinguish, sometimes taking thousands of gallons of water. Building EVs that are not flammable is a big win for drivers, citizens, and fire departments.

How Do You Recycle Solid State Batteries?

Both lithium ion and solid state batteries can be recycled in one of many new facilities dedicated to rejuvenating end-of-life material. For example, Redwood Materials, started by former Tesla co-founder J.B. Straubel, is a large scale battery recycling project in Nevada. Redwood has $792 million in funding from investors, including Ford.

"Solid-state batteries are able to leverage the growing lithium ion battery recycling infrastructure," Will McKenna, head of marketing for BMW- and VW-backed Solid Power, tells CarBuzz.

"Like [lithium ion] batteries, Solid Power's batteries typically contain nickel, manganese, lithium, and small amounts of cobalt. The same methods for recycling lithium ion batteries by extracting these metals will also work for solid-state batteries. As such, we don't anticipate additional processes of infrastructure investment required."

Nightmare scenarios of piles of dead EV batteries leaking into the ground can also be dismissed, as there is no liquid inside to leak. Not to mention, solid state may have a 39% smaller carbon footprint than lithium ion batteries, Electrek reports.

Silicon vs. Solid State Batteries

The race for an energy-dense EV battery spans multiple technologies, and solid state batteries are just one solution. Silicon batteries are another leading contender, and TeslaPorsche, and others have already made investments there. Porsche's 2024 EVs plan to use silicon batteries made with raw materials developed by Washington-based Group14.

Raw materials in a jar with gloved handGroup14 website showing raw silicon battery materials"We're increasing the battery's energy density by up to 50% or more, and enabling battery manufacturers to bring charging times way down to the point where recharging your car gets closer to refilling your tank," says Grant Ray of Group14.

Group14 has pioneered a new manufacturing method for silicon ion, an abundant yet unstable material, which battery manufacturers and automakers can use inside batteries to enhance their performance. They will not be the last, as Group14 received a $100 million grant from the Biden Administration in October to further development.

Silicon and solid state batteries are not mutually exclusive, and one may not win out over the other. Rather, they can work together as one of many technologies required to bring cheaper, better EVs to market.

"With automakers pursuing both silicon batteries and solid-state batteries, the reality is that these two technologies are not mutually exclusive," says Ray. "Our partners are leveraging our silicon battery technology within solid-state batteries to push the boundaries on energy density, enabling a vehicle to go the distance that consumers are expecting."

To learn more on EV batteries, see EV Batteries 101: Degradation, Lifespan, Warranties, and MoreEV Batteries 101: Degradation, Lifespan, Warranties, and More.

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Volta Automotive Ltd which imports and sells Electric Vehicles and Hybrids Car dealers New Zealand and Australia can list and sell on our website

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