Lithium-ion batteries are the most widely used type of rechargeable battery in the world. This is largely down to their ability to produce a relatively high amount of energy and a reasonable cycle-life – the complete charge and discharge of a battery – of about 1,000.
Despite this, it’s believed that current lithium-ion batteries have almost reached their full potential. To encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, better, alternative solutions must be found.
Increasing the power for widespread uptake
Dr Louise Turner, Technical Director at Ilika Technologies, explains:
[With lithium-ion batteries] there will only be small increments in energy and power densities possible over the coming 10 years.
But Ilika’s work in solid-state could see it produce batteries with double the energy density.
It’s widely accepted within the automotive industry that solid-state batteries will be a key enabler for the electrification of vehicles and their widespread uptake.
Ilika is currently working on scaling up its solid-state battery technology in a project funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Faraday battery challenge.
Ilika Technologies Faraday Battery Challenge
Traditional lithium-ion batteries include a liquid or polymer electrolyte, while solid-state batteries replace that with a solid material.
Solid-state batteries have a longer life, higher energy and power density, and improved safety. This is because the solid-state electrolyte is typically less reactive than its liquid counterpart, meaning it lasts longer and is less likely to explode or catch fire due to damage or defect.
Ilika’s previous work has focused on smaller solid-state batteries with a variety of sectors, including medicine. Now, it is looking to scale-up its technology for the electric vehicle market.
The challenge Ilika must overcome is ensuring the material is conductive enough within a car battery to provide the full suite of benefits, in particular, reducing the time it takes to charge the vehicle.
Ilika CEO Graeme Purdy, said:
The project objective is to deliver technology which will allow drivers of an electric vehicle to charge their car in less than 25 minutes.
Towards industry collaboration
Ilika is working alongside a number of large companies as part of this research and development project.
Collaborators include the Centre for Process Innovation, Honda, Ricardo and University College London (UCL).
Funding is under the £246 million Faraday battery challenge to develop new battery technologies for electric vehicles. It is delivered by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Building a supply chain in the UK
Taking a collaborative approach enables the businesses and research organisations to share knowledge and work towards a common goal. For example, UCL is researching processes to produce the materials for solid-state batteries at lower cost.
By the end of the project, Ilika hopes to develop a solid-state battery prototype module and build the UK supply chain with its UK-based project partners.
I would argue there is not much point trying to develop a supply chain for existing, commoditised battery technology as other countries, particularly in Asia, have already established an efficient manufacturing capability with economies of scale.
Solid-state batteries are an emerging technology and there are new aspects of the process that make it possible for the UK to establish a differentiated offering.
In anticipation, the company is on the verge of opening a new facility that’s double the size of its existing lab and adding 8 highly-skilled staff to its workforce.