Today, nearly all electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries in which lithium ions travel through a liquid or gel to discharge electricity.
In a solid-state design, a solid material replaces the liquid or gel. The material, sometimes ceramic, still allows the lithium to pass through. The solid takes up less space than the liquid, which leads to a battery that is smaller and lighter and can pack more energy into each unit of volume.
“Solid state batteries allow you to control what is happening inside a battery more carefully than when using liquid electrolytes,” said Frith.
The idea of a solid-state rechargeable battery is not new, but designers have run into problems with high costs and various technical challenges, like the tendency of solid-state batteries to expand and contract as they charge and discharge.
If any of the other developers of solid-state batteries can affordably mass produce the technology, the result would be a battery that has longer range and takes less time to recharge than today’s most common batteries. There also would be safety advantages, because solid-state batteries would be cooler and less flammable than some current lithium-ion designs.
The idea is that a battery with those qualities would be so desirable that consumers would eagerly leave behind their gasoline engines.