Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.

Read time of 7 minutes.

When optimised for commercial use, solid state batteries could help end range anxiety for good.

The goalposts have moved on the 2030 deadline, but more drivers than ever are choosing an electric car lease. 

But there are still concerns about going electric that are holding people back from making the switch.

The high cost, worries about depreciation, range anxiety and the underdeveloped charging infrastructure across the UK are some of the biggest worries about electric cars.

But with EV tech improving all the time, new developments could make leasing an electric car easier and more convenient than ever.

And the next big thing?

We’re looking at a functional solid-state battery that could revolutionise the EV experience completely.

What is a solid-state battery? 

We’re not scientists, but the clue is in the name.

Lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes: a solid-state battery uses the exact opposite. Basically, the anode and cathode are separated by a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid one.

Changing the electrolyte creates a different kind of battery and needs a completely new manufacturing process.

It's a small change with a huge impact.

What are the benefits of using a solid-state battery?

Solid-state batteries have been around since the 19th century, but major drawbacks have stopped them from being widely used.

But with the sale of electric vehicles taking off across the globe, there’s been renewed interest in making solid-state batteries fit for a more commercial purpose. Why?

Because a working solid-state battery would remove a lot of the worries about going electric.

So, what are the benefits?

Solid-state batteries are denser than traditional lithium-ion. This means more energy at a reduced weight and with greater rapid charging than we’ve ever seen before.

Rapid-charging on a lithium-ion battery takes around an hour. But a solid-state battery could reach full charge in 10 minutes.

That’s quite an improvement!

The solid electrolyte also provides higher stability than a lithium-ion battery. This is because the liquid component of a battery can be prone to a process known as thermal runaway.

When the temperature inside a battery hits a certain point, it starts a chain reaction that’s very difficult to control. The battery becomes self-heating and can result in the spontaneous combustion of a vehicle.

Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, it's a relatively rare occurrence, but solid-state batteries could eliminate this risk as solid electrolytes are a lot less flammable.

And not only are these batteries faster, more powerful and less flammable than lithium-ion, they could be a lot quicker to make. Manufacturers believe the switch to a solid-state battery could take up to three weeks off the production time.

The drawbacks of using a solid-state battery

With so much to gain from switching to solid-state batteries, you’re probably wondering why we’re not using them yet.

Remember the drawbacks mentioned earlier? With all the hefty positives to gain, there are still some teething issues to work out.

The first being a global shortage of lithium. 

Solid-state batteries need even more lithium, as the higher density anodes are likely to be made of pure lithium metal. We could be looking at between five and 10 times the amount of lithium used at the moment.

Then there’s the recycling issues to sort out. Presently, we can recycle various components of EV batteries fairly well, including nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminium and copper. We’re not so good at recycling lithium.

And if solid-state batteries use even more of it, this is something scientists will need to crack quickly. Not only will it be better for the environment, but improving the lifecycle of the battery could even help with the supply chain.

We also need to sort out the dendrites problem.

Much like our old gran forgetting where she lives, as it ages the lithium electrode can start behaving in odd little ways. Like forgetting what shape it’s supposed to be in. When it does this, it grows into branching structures of metal called dendrites.

These can breach the electrolyte, shorting out the battery pack, which we can all agree is bad news. Researchers are still working on ways to stop this from happening, but it could be years before there’s a working solution. 

But the biggest downside to the solid-state battery is probably the cost.

As they need higher densities of rare metals and a completely different construction technique, the infrastructure we already have in place for EV production would need to change.

This could mean new factories in which to make the batteries, new procedures, and new benefits of scale manufacturing that are still being invented. And as anyone implementing industry-wide changes knows, you can’t do it on the cheap.

While it would be more expensive upfront to replace the current infrastructure, there is potential for solid-state batteries to become cheaper than lithium-ion down the road. The hope is that it would eventually become cost competitive.


The next big thing? 

The EV world is constantly evolving, with manufacturers working hard to develop and improve the available technology.

At the moment, Chinese superpower BYD are at the top of the EV game with their Blade Battery design.

With 28 years of experience behind them, their focus has been on offering new energy solutions with zero emissions. And there’s a lot to recommend them over other manufacturers.

Using lithium-iron phosphate, BYD’s Blade Battery comes with significant safety benefits like slow heat generation, low heat release and improved cooling efficiency, due to the unique shape of the battery itself.

It’s also passed the nail penetration test without emitting any fire or smoke.

Remember when we talked about thermal runaway? The nail penetration test is the best way to test for it. Thermal runaway is most likely to happen when a battery is penetrated by an external object - and that's most likely to happen in a severe traffic accident.

In other words, they’ve worked hard to try and stop those spontaneous combustions from happening.

Providing greater range and a longer lifecycle, BYD’s blade battery is already taking the EV world by storm, with Tesla now using it in production of their Model Y cars. So, you could already be benefiting if you have a Tesla Model Y lease!

With BYD entering the UK this year, it seems their trajectory can only go up.

But could the existence of a solid-state battery prove a worthy challenge?

Though we’re not likely to see one for a few years yet, Toyota recently announced a successful breakthrough. If successful, Toyota claims it will be able to manufacture a solid-state battery with a range of 745 miles, that charges in just 10 minutes.

This could halve the weight, size, and cost of batteries in electric cars.

This claim hasn't been proven yet, but it’s a promising glimpse of things to come in the next few years.

And if Toyota can put their money where their mouth is, electric cars could achieve a much higher range in the shortest charging period yet, in just a handful of years.

Picture it: in the time it takes to stop and get a coffee at a motorway service station, your car could get the capability to drive another 750 miles. Even in a petrol car, you’d have to refuel again before hitting that sort of range.

It has impressive potential.

So how does BYD’s ATTO 3 measure up?

At the time of writing, an ATTO 3 can charge from 30% to 80% in around 30 minutes which is nothing to sniff at.

But with competitors focusing on the solid-state battery, BYD will have some work to do to stay ahead of the curve.


What are the alternatives to solid-state batteries? 

It's just not about building better batteries. There are other avenues too.

Like hydrogen cars, a kind of EV that doesn't need a battery at all.

Why? Because it makes its own electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in its fuel cell stack. With a hydrogen car, you just need to refuel the same way you would in a petrol or diesel car.

The difference is there's no tailpipe emissions.

It’s clear manufacturers are exploring this possibility. Toyota, Hyundai and BMW all have hydrogen models on sale at present (the Mirai, Nexo and iX5 respectively).

But there’s very little infrastructure to support hydrogen powered vehicles in the UK. As of August 2023, there were only 16 hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK.

There's no point leasing a Toyota Mirai, or a BMW iX5, if there is nowhere to refuel them. And unfortunately, hydrogen refuelling stations are more expensive to build than public EV charging points.

We're unlikely to see more demand for hydrogen cars until the UK has the right infrastructure in place to support them. And purse-holders may be reluctant to shell out the funds to build this infrastructure until we see an increased consumer demand.

Now that’s a catch-22 situation if there ever was one.

And it means we’re unlikely to see hydrogen cars challenging EV sales in the near future.

So, it looks like the next step for electric cars is better, safer and more powerful batteries. We're not there yet, but the electric cars are getting better all the time.

And we can enjoy the latest updates by leasing the newest electric cars on the market.