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Are solid state batteries the future of EVs?

It’s no secret that Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, has been stuck in the slow lane when it comes to the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. Rather than embrace the challenge of EVs, they’ve been busy fighting a rear-guard action against the sort of emission standards designed to encourage their development and uptake, most recently against the Biden administration’s stricter standards in the USA. To be fair, Toyota is hardly alone here, most Japanese carmakers have also been slow when it comes to developing EVs.

But now there’s an apparent change of heart from Toyota, with its promise of an EV revolution, no less, in the form of solid-state battery technology. This will see its new EVs travelling up to 1200km on a single charge, with that charge only having you waiting for 10 minutes or less. It’s a veritable game-changer, that Toyota is saying will hit sales rooms by 2027-28. But can Toyota pull it off?

Now a cynic might suggest that the timing of Toyota’s announcement is interesting, coming so soon after an AGM that saw its executives roasted by major shareholders for their feet-dragging performance on EVs.


One noted skeptic is Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council.

"What raises some eyebrows about Toyota is they somewhat have a bit of form of promising that they've got some new technology just five years away, while every other car company gets on with building electric vehicles and making them available to consumers" Mr. Jafari said in a recent ABC interview.

"There is some skepticism that they're maybe making excuses and also trying to stop people from shifting to electric vehicles today just because they don't have one to sell to you," he continued.

But there’s no doubting the promise of solid-state battery technology, and Toyota isn’t alone in developing them.

So, what are they exactly? Well, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries, which are in a liquid state, solid-state batteries replace the liquid with a solid material, like glass or ceramics. That makes them safer than the conventional batteries, which can catch fire in an accident, though that’s extremely unlikely. Despite the self-appointed experts on that fact-free zone, Facebook, your EV is far less likely to catch fire than your internal combustion vehicle, with its tank full of flammable and explosive petrol (and that’s unlikely in itself).

And on top of that, solid-state batteries can store far more energy, allowing you to drive further on a single charge than you can do on a lithium-ion battery. And, as I’ve said above, they also charge faster. But there are still considerable technical challenges to be overcome, as well as infrastructure and supply chain issues to be sorted. But with their vast resources and enormous profits you probably wouldn’t want to bet against Toyota overcoming those hurdles, and they have form when it comes to innovation. The Toyota Prius, with its hybrid drivetrain, was quite a trailblazer in its day.

Sodium batteries

But on the other hand, the competition is hardly standing still, and battery technology keeps surging ahead. Some of today’s EVs are already offering 400-600km of range, which is already plenty for most people, and those increasing ranges show no signs of slowing down. Sodium-ion batteries are also showing promise, with cheaper, more readily available sodium replacing rare and expensive lithium. This promises cheaper EVs, albeit in less powerful vehicles offering lower range. There’s still some way to go before sodium batteries can match the performance of lithium, but sodium batteries are more sustainable, as well as being cheaper.

Time will tell whether solid-state batteries are the future of EVs, and whether Toyota proves to be a pioneer in the technology, because there are other players in the field. Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis are also developing them with Taiwanese battery maker ProLogium Technology, while Ford, Hyundai and BMW are also invested in their development. Hyundai plans to mass produce them by 2030, so watch this space.

Written by
Mark Schneider

Mark is a successful copywriter with over 20 years of professional writing experience.

We welcome him as a guest blogger to Fleettorque.

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