Solid State Batteries - the buzz phrase in batteries for many years now. We've seen countless ambitious ‘breakthrough’ claims from around the world these past few years but in reality they still seem a long way from commercialisation. Or are they?
Well the recent announcements from Toyota certainly feel a little different. They have been working on solid state battery R&D for a decade and now claim to have made significant breakthroughs on this nex-gen technology.
They are working on a mass market SSB EV that could be available as early as 2027. They claim this would offer 700+ miles of range on a single charge, full charging in 10 minutes, much improved safety, and significant weight reductions. Most importantly, Toyota claim they've made significant advances in both materials engineering and cell assembly technology that could enable cost-effective, mass manufacturing (often seen as a major obstacle for this tech).
Impressive claims indeed!
If they prove to be true then this will revolutionise not only the EV industry but could also offer huge opportunities to electrify wider transportation e.g. aviation, maritime etc. We could see a huge power shift in the EV space and also diversification helps improve the security of the global battery sector. All major positives of course!
The reason I emphasised the if is because the last decade has taught me to consider such bold claims with caution (OK, age has also brought out the cynic in me too!)
I have my concerns…
* We've been here before… Toyota (like many others) have made claims about solid state technology for over a decade. We've been promised “it's coming soon” throughout this period, only for repeated delays. Of course, ground breaking innovation takes time, but I do wonder if this is just another case of headline-grabbing hopium to boost market cap.
* Toyota have been lagging behind in the EV space for some time. In fact, up until recently they were pushing Hydrogen over batteries for EVs, until making a U-turn this year. (We've all seen what happened with the Mirai haven't we!) Japanese companies have been well-renowned for playing the long-game, so was always part of the plan? I'm not so sure.
* Is the timeline realistic? Scalable manufacturing has been one of the biggest challenges for solid-state, and I'm not sure we will see them in the mainstream, at least in this decade. (Other key players in SSB development seem to be targeting the end of the decade for their breakthroughs).
Yes, we may see SSBs in luxury, high-end cars but purely from a supply and cost perspective, these won't reach the mainstream market and its likely that the most focus and investment will remain on improving existing solutions for the mass market.
* The fact that the battery giants in China and Korea are sceptical, does raise concerns. Battery leaders like CATL and LG have also worked for 10+ years to find a cost-effective solution for mass manufacturing of SSBs but without success so far, so what's the secret code for Toyota?
Ultimately, I do believe that solid-state batteries will one day come, which is very exciting for the sector. I just have doubts on the timelines. I sincerely hope Toyota's claims do become reality as it will be a game changer, but these efforts should run alongside improvements to existing commercial technologies as we need to democratise EV technologies if we hope to reach net-zero!
I lead the Energy Storage practice here at Hyperion Executive Search, helping clients along the battery value chain (particularly nex-gen technology start-ups) to hire great C-suite and Leadership talent. If you're looking for support in growing your leadership teams within the sector, then contact me at email@example.com