Solid-state batteries are being heralded by many as the future for EVs. They are capable of around double the energy density of a standard lithium-ion battery meaning you can either make an EV's battery half as heavy for the same range, or enable the car to go twice as far.
For example, back in the autumn we reported on TeraWatt, which had created a solid-state battery with an energy density of 432Wh/kg. This is an awful lot when compared to the Tesla Model 3's battery energy density of 247Wh/kg – widely considered to be among the best out there. The trouble was, and remains, that the technology isn't far enough along to be used in an EV, with many companies involved in development reckoning mid-decade for the first cars to get solid-state power.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe Bentley CEO, Adrian Hallmark, said: “I'm not saying that we are guaranteed to go solid-state, but that is already on the radar within that mid-2020s period. They are about 30 per cent lighter for the same power as lithium-ion. An I-PACE has 720kg of batteries so going to 500kg instead of 720kg makes a difference. Also, think about how that changes the packaging.”
For Bentley, a smaller, lighter battery is going to be a boon. Its only current electrified vehicle, the Bentayga PHEV, is a behemoth which once you throw in a tank of petrol and a couple of adults is knocking on the door of three tonnes. On paper is does 80.7mpg, but in reality somewhere around 30 is good going. The greenest thing about the Bentayga, when all is said and done, is the British Racing Green paint you can specify.
Being able to reduce the weight of its cars, which have always been big and luxurious bruisers, without compromising on potential range, is exactly what the brand needs. This is especially pertinent when you take into account Bentley's EV concept, the EXP 100 GT – a car which demonstrates the form the brand sees its future electric vehicles taking.
At 5.8 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, the EXP 100 GT is massive, yet the brand's goal is sub-1900kg and a touring-friendly range of 435 miles which was to be achieved “with future battery technologies achieving five times the density of current batteries”. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to work out what battery technology Bentley was on about.
Given that Bentley is looking at a 2025 launch for its first proper EV, Hallmark's statement that solid-state batteries are on the brand's radar may be a very purposeful understatement about the brand's ambitions. After all, if you're going to turn up late to the party, you may as well make an entrance...
Back at the beginning of 2019, Chinese EV start-up, Enovate, revealed its ME7 SUV at the ChinaEV100 forum in Beijing. Powered by solid-state batteries, at the time it was very much a concept of what an EV could look like, though the concept was more than skin deep, with battery manufacturer, ProLogium's solid-state 'Multi Axis Bipolar' (MAB) battery pack on board.
We do know a couple of things which lead us to conclude that we're on the cusp of a customer available solid-state car. Firstly, Enovate is planning to start series production of the ME7 by 2021, so presumably the tooling and production line for the vehicle itself is in place. Secondly, ProLogium by its own admission has been testing its solid-state battery technology in conjunction with manufacturers from Europe, Japan and China since 2016. Rumour has it that Jaguar is one such manufacturer.
Given that Enovate has designed the ME7 with the ProLogium MAB in mind as a power source, and given all we know about testing and planned production, it does rather point to the fact that when the ME7 hits the road, it will do so with solid-state power.
ProLogium will be presenting its solid-state technology at the 2020 CES show in Las Vegas between January 7 and 10, so hopefully we'll know more very soon.
It would be brilliant to think that solid-state battery technology will be hitting the road sooner rather than later; it really is going to be game changing for EVs. Not only is it better at storing energy and quicker to charge and lighter, such batteries aren't susceptible to fire in the event of a crash. We hope that in the short term, Enovate does launch the ME7 with ProLogium's MAB on board. This could also force Bentley's hand to launch its first EV with solid-state battery power. The brand is somewhat of an anachronism, so as we stated above, it would be good to think that if it's going to be the best part of a decade late to the EV party, it could at least make a grand entrance.