Transition from Lithium to Solid-State Batteries in Power Battery Industry

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China has emerged as the global leader in the power battery industry, consistently leading in market size for six consecutive years. It has established the world’s most comprehensive and largest power battery industry system, with approximately 50,000 enterprises eagerly participating in the surge of the lithium battery industry.

However, with the rapid development of new energy vehicles, the industry has increasingly recognized the limitations of traditional liquid lithium batteries. Issues such as low energy density, inability to eliminate consumer range anxiety, overall battery weight, poor performance in low-temperature conditions, and safety concerns in high-temperature environments highlight the need for a shift towards solid-state batteries.

The development of solid-state batteries can be traced back to the early 20th century when German chemist Walter Ernst Moesl proposed the concept of solid-state electrolyte batteries. It was not until 2010 that Toyota introduced solid-state batteries with a range exceeding 1000 km. Since then, numerous companies and research institutions have been developing solid-state battery technology in an attempt to replace traditional liquid lithium batteries.

The development of solid-state battery technology has undergone a long journey. In recent years, with continuous technological advancements and growing market demand, more and more automotive companies, including Toyota, Nissan, BMW, and Volkswagen, have started focusing on and researching solid-state batteries.

The innovation cycle of battery technology is approximately 30 years. The use of lithium-ion batteries in the automotive sector began around the year 2000, and a comprehensive revolution is expected around 2030. The second decade starting in 2010 saw a gradual expansion of the power battery industry, with intelligent means driving technological innovation across the entire power battery industry chain. The third decade is anticipated to witness a transition to new materials, with the development of solid-state electrolytes as the core, and mature solid-state batteries are expected by 2030.

Despite the various advantages of solid-state batteries, industrialization progress has not been smooth. Globally, there has yet to be seen mass production of solid-state batteries in vehicles. Even Toyota, as early as 2011, announced plans to launch solid-state batteries between 2015 and 2020, expressing the view that solid-state batteries would completely solve the range anxiety issue for new energy vehicles and accelerate the popularity of such vehicles. However, solid-state batteries have not been widely applied commercially to date.

There are several key technical challenges and problems that need to be overcome. Firstly, although solid-state batteries offer many advantages such as higher energy density, faster charging speed, and increased safety, challenges in manufacturing processes and material science cannot be ignored. The solid electrolyte in solid-state batteries needs to operate stably at high temperatures while ensuring safety and stability. Effective control of manufacturing costs is also required to make them competitive in the market.

Secondly, besides technical challenges, market acceptance and the readiness of the supply chain are crucial factors affecting the widespread application of solid-state batteries. The new energy vehicle market is still in its early stages, and consumer acceptance of new energy vehicles needs improvement.

Thirdly, the overall readiness of the supply chain needs to keep pace with the development of the new energy vehicle market, including issues such as battery recycling and reuse.

Many industry experts believe that before 2030, mass production of solid-state batteries is unlikely. The next 10 years are considered a critical opportunity period for the research and development of solid-state batteries.

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