Solid state batteries: will they change the world?

Solid state batteries promise 2x higher energy density than traditional lithium ion, with 3x faster charging and lower risk of fires. Thus they could re-shape global energy, especially heavy trucks. But the industry has been marooned by uncontrollable cell degradation. QuantumScape’s disclosures suggest it is light years ahead. Many of its claims are supported by patents. But costs may remain high. These are the conclusions in our new 20-page report.

Solid state battery technology is explained on pages 2-4, enabling the replacement of graphite anodes in conventional lithium ion batteries with pure lithium anodes, which have 10x higher charge density.

How would this change the energy industry? Our conclusions are spelled out on pages 5-11, covering electric vehicles, consumer electronics, heavy trucks, aviation, drones, other futuristic sci-fi concepts (!) and oil markets.

Technical challenges remain. Pages 12-14 outline our “top five issues”, based on reviewing over a dozen technical papers that were published in the past year.

The costs and CO2 intensities of solid-state batteries are going to be crucial. We have estimated both on pages 15-18, starting with our models of conventional lithium ion batteries, then adapting the numbers.

Has Quantumscape cracked the code? To answer this question, we reviewed 25 of the company’s patents from 2019-20. The positive is a focus on manufacturing methods, to meet 2023-24 commerciality targets. But we also draw conclusions on the avoidance of dendrites, proprietary catholytes and manufacturing costs.