Solid-state batteries aren't all they're cracked up to be, it seems.
As the automotive industry rapidly electrifies itself, the race for ultimate efficiency is at a boiling point. It's rather simple really; the company that can produce the most efficient battery wins, right? Between all the major manufacturers, the push for more range and quicker charging times has been bearing fruit, but there's always more room for improvement, and Nissan is one company pushing the limits of current battery tech. The Japanese automotive giant is currently developing advanced solid-state batteries which it hopes will replace lithium-ion batteries. These solid-state batteries have been flaunted as being safer, but as it turns out, things can go very bad, very quickly.
Nissan is going big on the whole electric revolution: it has stopped gas engine development in most major markets and is electrifying its model lineup at an ever-increasing pace. Along with these big moves, the company has promised its stakeholders and customers a lightweight, compact, energy-dense battery system in six years, but according to Kazuhiro Doi, corporate vice president in charge of advanced battery research, the new tech might be even more dangerous than the battery packs currently popular within the industry. "Energy density is double, so you have a potential bomb that's more dangerous," said Kazuhiro san. The good news is that Nissan believes that it has solved most of the inherent risks, but it comes with a massive time penalty.
The new batteries are being handmade in limited batches at a Nissan facility where workers slowly mix an electrolyte slurry of cathode powder and sludgy black goop by hand and flatten the resulting gunk between aluminum sheets. These sheets are then compressed at over three times the pressure of traditional lithium-ion batteries and stacked with anode sheets. Finally, these four-layer units are vacuum sealed into aluminum pouches. The process is so tediously slow that Nissan is currently producing only 50 of these pouches per month, and according to Kenzo Oshihara, deputy general manager for innovative battery production engineering, an average car will need about 5,000.
"It would take a very long time before we could make a battery for a car in this room," said the executive. "The mass-production equipment will have to be more sophisticated." So it might blow you up and it takes months to manufacture, but Nissan believes that its solid-state batteries will revolutionize the industry. Let's hope the engineers are 100% sure of what they're doing before they drop it in a Leaf or Ariya.