By on December 21, 2017

Honda Urban EV Concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - Image: Honda UK

Tightening global emission regulations are pushing the world’s automakers to put all fuel-saving options on the table. Electric cars are an obvious answer, but range anxiety and consumer concerns about battery life continue to dog vehicles powered solely by electrons.

With a finite amount of space in their vehicles, manufacturers are constantly looking for efficiencies when laying out plans for EVs. According to a report from Reuters, Honda is considering developing solid-state batteries for use in their future EVs.

Solid-state batteries have an abundance of advantages over the lithium-ion units found in the majority of today’s electrified vehicles. Relying on a gel- or liquid-based electrolyte, lithium-ion batteries use that fluid as a pathway for electricity as the unit discharges. As with any technology relying on components that are in a state of flux, lithium-ion batteries will eventually weaken and lose performance over time.

Solid-state batteries, as suggested by the name, deploy a solid conductive material instead. This battery type is said to handle thermal loads better than its mundane brethren, while also holding an edge in energy density. Without getting into too much detail and putting everyone to sleep, these advantages will allow EVs that deploy solid-state batteries to potentially operate efficiently in a wider range of temperatures and pack more juice into a smaller battery footprint.

At present, solid-state batteries are eye-wateringly expensive, preventing manufacturers from using them in the current fleet of EVs. As OEMs are not exactly in the business of losing money, this budget-hoovering battery technology has traditionally remained solidly on the R&D back burner.

Now, with most manufacturers bumping up against the limitations of existing battery tech, solid-state batteries are getting a second look. Reuters reports that Honda is looking into sinking a few dollars in the technology, while BMW announced just earlier this week it’s teaming up with an American company called Solid Power. Toyota, which said on Monday that every vehicle it makes will have an electrified version by 2025 (plus ten new EVs by the early 2020s), is also hard at work attempting its own solid-state breakthrough.

Honda showed off several natty EV concepts at various auto shows around the world this year, most notably the retro-themed Urban EV in Germany and the cool Sports EV in Japan. If the House of Soichiro can figure out solid-state batteries over the next five years, you can bet it’ll find its way into production pretty quickly.

[Image: Honda]

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24 Comments on “Positives and Negatives: Honda Weighing Benefits of Solid-state Batteries...”


  • avatar
    stingray65

    Lithium batteries are coming down in price, but not enough to make EVs profitable or salable without subsidies. Thus it is hard to imagine how these expensive solid state batteries are going to make EVs even less cost competitive unless subsidies get even bigger during the movement down the new cost curve. On the other hand, if they do catch on, I wouldn’t want to be a shareholder in any factories making Lithium batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed on all points.

      One would suppose Tesla read the tea leaves before building the Gigafactory. It would be a company stopper if they had to retool for solid state.

      In a modern example of this, the Mt. Pleasant, PA Sony TV plant near me closed overnight once flat-panel TVs hit the market, because all they made were tube TVs. I think they hit ‘peak TV’ there, producing tube TVs up to 60″, IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick Astley

        SCE to AUX:

        If Elon can get another round at the taxpayer trough for separate solid state R&D/production he will be on his knees and going balls deep faster than working girl the day before rent is due.

        The only thing he likes more than himself is when he can get the taxpayer to assume financial risk and debt for his ideas.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Stingray: “but not enough to make EVs profitable or salable without subsidies”

      At the low end, that’s probably true for now, but they can be profitable at the high end. Something like the Mission E will probably be profitable because Porsche is experienced in manufacturing and finding ways to squeeze money out of buyers. If it’s losing $7k per car, no problem they’ll just charge $7,500 for floormats or something else.

      As far as the lithium battery factories go, they can make the switch to a new technology. It’s the investors and companies working on some of the advanced lithium technologies now in the pipeline from the labs to manufacturing that might be hit. Although, some of those technologies should be hitting the market 2020 to 2022.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Who in the battery business has suffered in the transitions from Nicad to NiMH and from NiMH to lithium?

    • 0 avatar
      beachy

      John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium ion battery, has with another lab developed solid glass electrolyte batteries that enable use of alkali metal anodes. Battery tech is evolving rapidly, there is no way to know what the cost will be. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170228131144.htm

  • avatar
    Asdf

    If Honda is unable to make an EV that takes 5 minutes or less to charge, has a range and price comparable with that of a petrol-powered car, and which does not require tax payer subsidies, then it shouldn’t bother developing the car at all.

    • 0 avatar
      slap

      Time to charge isn’t that important if you can charge it in your garage overnight. Many people may never have to go to a refueling station with a car that has a reasonable range. Price can be higher if the payback time for lower energy costs is reasonable. If you save $1000/year, a $3000 higher price is a bargain.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @asdf: 5 minutes blah blah blah.

      They should stop making ICE cars until they figure a way to have it fully fueled everytime you get into it like my EV rather than dealing with finding a gas station and standing out in the cold fueling the thing. They should also stop making ICE cars until they figure out how to eliminate oil changes. Why waste all of that time. Just shut those lines down now until they figure out this problem.

      If it takes my car five minutes or five hours to charge, most of the time it doesn’t matter. I’m somewhere else doing something and it really doesn’t matter – most of the time. Sometimes, I do need a fast charge, but since it happens unattended, I’ve never had trouble finding something else productive to do while it’s charging. My EV is mostly dedicated to commuting and it seems like it’s powered by a perpetual motion machine. Plug in at the office and plug in at home. Always fully charged when I get into it. Over three years now and I cab honestly say I really would never want to go back to dealing with gas stations. Five minutes is a lot worse than zero minutes. I think that five minutes adds up to 12 hours for the 57,500+ miles (based on its predecessor – your wasted time may vary) I’ve driven the EV. 12 hours standing around squeezing a handle filling a car with gas.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Well, you’ve convinced yourself anyway, with the most convoluted logic I’ve ever read. In your dream, you’ve conflated three years of gas filling to a 12 hour stretch of Siberia in mid winter all at one go. I used to have daydreams like this when I was a boy.

        Perhaps you might extend your vivid imagination, utilizing only minor empathy, to the circumstances of others, who don’t live your life where all is wonderful. Your reasoning then collapses like a house of cards.

        Why is it that people assume what’s good for them is good for everyone else? Ridiculous.

        • 0 avatar
          srh

          Perhaps you should read the original troll^H^H^H^H^H^H post.

          Here, let me help you:
          “””
          If Honda is unable to make an EV that takes 5 minutes or less to charge, has a range and price comparable with that of a petrol-powered car, and which does not require tax payer subsidies, then it shouldn’t bother developing the car at all.
          “””

          I know few EV owners who seriously claim there is no case for ICEs. On the other hand there is a certain kind of bridge-dweller who cannot understand the case for EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Red herring; unlike gasoline cars EVs can be charged while parked. This is only an issue on long drives.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Regardless of how relentlessly you guys pretend otherwise, there are a huge number of cars which live on the street full time, and BEVs cannot functionally replace them. Ever. There will be no magic wavier to the laws of thermodynamics. To move a lot of electricity in a reasonable amount of time, you either deal with huge cables, or you throw away huge amounts of energy as waste heat. Neither is a viable broadly-applicable option.

        As for the “nobody is claiming there’s not a case for ICE’s” you might want to glance at what the people forcing these things into the market are saying. It’s all “ban ICE’s completely by x year” and “everybody will/should/must” switch to ZEVs. The push is not “where applicable”. It “universal adoption”, whether it’s wanted or not.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Agenda 21.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Agenda 21 was getting too much negative PR for the UN, so they renamed it Agenda 2030.

            You can’t even make this stuff up!

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          You think parked cars can’t be provided with electricity? Ever heard of block heaters or been to a really cold place?

          Governments are mandating the switch to ev’s. Western governments are the hand of the people. So if the people want the people to have ev’s, can that be coercion?

          Ev technology is certainly compellingly applicable if you factor in the health of the planet we depend on.

          But you may be a denier, flat earther, chemtrial believer, 9/11 conspiracy fan. In which case I don’t expect to change your views.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve65

            You think every city and suburban street is going to be equipped with 240v chargers for every parking spot? And somehow -I’m- the one with unrealistic ideas?

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            The guys with the guns, are only the hands of the ones without them, in children’s fairy tales. And in propaganda.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Well I can have my teenager go out and dump gas in it in the garage if I am that dead set on charging it in my garage. ICE vehicles don’t need this because it isn’t inconvenient to “charge” them. Plus I get to indulge in a delicious peanut butter cup as I fill the tank.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Almost all cars are not being used most of the time.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Perhaps for full EV power these may prove to be too much, but for a mild hybrid setup this could be significant. The Prius battery pack would suddenly weigh as much as a conventional 12V passenger car battery (can’t speak to size)

  • avatar
    probert

    Everything has a trade off. In the computer world SSDs are fast and have no moving parts, but they wear out with heavy use. That’s why they have extra capacity and trim software to replace capacity as it fails. We’re just talking pushing electrons here so I’d guess a solid state battery may have this issue as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Enterprise class sad’s have gotten really good though, if spendy and even the consumer grade ones will typically last beyond the point they go obsolete. But yeah, with no trim functionality, solid state memory goes quickly. Drop a camera grade sd card in your android phone and set it up to use the card as system memory. Then repeat in 8 months or so when it dies.

  • avatar
    D. Saxton

    Wish Honda would build that concept car!! It reminds me of my beloved Honda 600 sedans(I owned nine of them at one time). even in an electric only model it would be something I would consider for a second car for local jaunts.

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