Ilika: how does solid state battery technology power electric vehicles?

Ilika plc (LON: IKA), a UK pioneer in ground-breaking solid state battery technology, explains on its website how solid state battery technology powers electric vehicles. Read below.

It’s now been 5 years since the Paris Agreement, where countries around the world agreed to work on reducing COemissions in a response to the threat of climate change, yet new car COemissions are the highest in Europe since 2014. This is due to fewer diesel registrations and an increase in the popularity of SUVs – a market segment that urgently needs more electrified models. However, whilst global sales of electric vehicles are up 70% on last year there is still a long way to go and there have been many detractors who have claimed that electric vehicles will not be more climate friendly.

So where are we now?

New research from the Universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge has shown that electric cars over their lifetime and from production to destruction, do produce fewer emissions than petrol cars and are better for the climate in 95% of the world. The study looked at the projected carbon emissions from production, whilst driven and when destroyed, for cars sold in 2015 in 59 regions of the world. Whilst electric cars themselves don’t produce any emission, this detailed study looked at all factors around an electric car, including any emissions from the electricity being supplied. The result showed that in 53 of these regions, electric cars have lower net carbon emissions. In the remaining regions (such as India and Poland), whilst the cars didn’t produce any emissions, the total produced emissions were worse from electric cars because their electricity is mainly generated from coal, unlike countries that are using more renewable sources to generate their electricity.

The research also projected that in 2050 every other car would be electric, reducing global COemissions by 1.5 gigatons a year – equivalent to Russia’s current total COemissions. That figure could increase as countries continue to try and find more renewable sources for their electricity supply, with the researchers believing that the average amount of carbon used in the electricity to power electric vehicles could be as much as 30% lower by 2050.

Small e-vans are already available and with electric lorries and vans being the main topic of discussion at this year’s World Truck Show, it’s believed that the choice available will expand. With their predicted routes and scheduled time in the depot, recharging can easily be planned. However, for consumers buying cars and vans for themselves, it’s a different story. Whilst there have been small increases in purchases of EVs in Europe and China (3.8% and 4.7% respectively) and the global EV market share was up from 2.2% in 2018 to 2.5%, in 2019, there’s still a long way to go to mass adoption. In the UK, the Department of Transport has confirmed that from 2040 all cars and vans sold in the UK will need at least full hybrid technology and the ability to drive using only electricity. This will take the choice away from the consumer but doesn’t address their concerns over electric vehicles.

So what’s holding people back?

Range anxiety is still a key factor stopping people purchasing an electric vehicle:

  • Will the car go very far without the battery needing to be recharged?
  • Will there be charging point whilst I’m out?

Range concern is mainly relevant for commercial vehicles and people doing regular long journeys. The average car journey is 10 miles and as more people start to work from home, they should be using their cars less. In addition, it’s expected that in the future fewer people will actually own a car and more will take part in shared ownership schemes, particularly in big cities. This will reduce range anxiety but the concern about speed of charging remains with consumers worried about how long it will take to recharge the battery, especially if they’re away from home. Imagine standing next to a charging point for an hour to top up the battery and compare that to the 5 minutes it takes to fill a tank with petrol. People don’t want, or have time for the inconvenience.

EV batteries are being developed to last longer but they can’t afford to be any bigger to accommodate more power as this will add too much weight to the car. Like all cars, electric ones still need to be as light as possible in order to be as efficient as possible. Mass adoption won’t happen if consumers have to forfeit efficiency in their vehicle, however green its credentials are.

It is expected that conventional lithium ion battery technology (with liquid electrolytes) will reach a theoretical maximum in terms of energy density very soon. Energy density is measured in Wh/g, and it is thought that conventional lithium ion batteries will be unlikely go beyond 350 Wh/kg – hence other technologies are needed to provide higher energy in smaller battery volumes. Various technologies will compete for the 400-500 Wh/kg level and beyond, but they are all at various levels of development and full commercialisation is not predicted before 5-10 years. These include Li-sulfur, Li-metal and in the longer term Li-air batteries. Another technology, Solid State Batteries, is expected to dominate battery production by the end of the decade and Ilika is right in the middle of this development.

Ilika’s Goliath program is learning from the development of its Stereax micro-batteries (for IoT and MedTech) and adapting the technology to produce a solid state lithium ion battery technology for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Wh-level pouch cells are currently being developed which aim to yield energy densities higher than the current lithium ion technology.

With high power density and high gravimetric energy density, they will not only offer increased range but also a shorter charging time of under 10 minutes whilst still being a safer solution. As the electrolyte – the section between cathode and anode – is solid, it doesn’t get hot like the liquid electrolyte in a conventional lithium-ion battery, which can overheat with dangerous consequences.

The benefits of this technology include:

  • All solid state construction
  • Wide operating temperature range
  • Ultra-fast charging
  • High current pulses
  • High energy density per mass and volume
  • Thousands of cycles
  • No free lithium
  • Moisture resistant
  • Low self-discharge

Original article HERE

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