CATL’s Boss Doesn’t Think Solid-State Batteries Will Be Viable Any Time Soon

The company has been working on solid-state batteries for a decade but isn’t convinced by them

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by Brad Anderson

April 15, 2024 at 07:49

 CATL’s Boss Doesn’t Think Solid-State Batteries Will Be Viable Any Time Soon

  • Robin Zeng is concerned about the lifespan of solid-state batteries and their safety.
  • CATL is working on new sodium-ion and condensed-matter units.
  • Toyota is considered one of the leading developers of solid-state batteries.

The founder and chief executive of the world’s largest EV battery manufacturer believes solid-state batteries remain many years away, despite Toyota’s recent claim it could commercialize the new batteries within three years.

Robin Zeng, the man behind CATL, says that he supports solid-state batteries but believes they present problems that need to be overcome. For example, he says that to get the most out of them, they need to use pure lithium metal for the anode electrode. These ions then need to be diffused under high pressure, which presents a safety issue.

Read: Toyota’s First Solid-State Battery EV With 750-Mile Range Coming In A Couple Of Years

According to Zeng, CATL’s engineers have tested solid-state batteries materials under pressure. “Then they test and [say] oh, very good, the ion transfer is very good. But in reality, how can you put it under [so much] pressure?” Zeng added that when a battery is charged and discharged, the lithium expands, reducing its lifespan. He says such a cell can only last “maybe 10 cycles… so how can you make it commercially viable?”

“We fully support solid-state, but I have been investing in this for 10 years,” he added. “I watch the development people working on solid-state almost every month, so I know all the progress, and somehow we still have these showstoppers.”

CATL’s boss added that if a solid-state battery breaks during an accident, the lithium could mix with moisture in the air and release toxic lithium hydroxide.

 CATL’s Boss Doesn’t Think Solid-State Batteries Will Be Viable Any Time Soon
CATL’s Ford battery cells

While the firm remains wary of solid-state batteries, it is still developing new EV batteries. For example, it has invested heavily in sodium-ion and condensed-matter batteries that use a semi-solid material. Zeng told the Financial Times these batteries can provide double the range of a normal lithium-ion battery without the risks associated with solid-state cells.

Zeng’s statements on solid-state batteries come as a surprise as in February, CATL was among a host of Chinese companies that came together to form a new consortium aimed at building a local supply chain for solid-state batteries by 2030.

 CATL’s Boss Doesn’t Think Solid-State Batteries Will Be Viable Any Time Soon

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