Lithium-ion batteries have been the mainstay in the electric battery industry for more than 20 years. But, in this clip from “The High Energy Show” on Motley Fool Live, recorded on April 5, Fool.com contributors Jason Hall, Travis Hoium, Lou Whiteman, and Tyler Crowe discuss some significant advantages of the solid-state battery, as well as the risks and costs of scaling this particular industry.
Jason Hall: These are companies for folks that don’t know are working on solid-state battery technology.
Travis Hoium: What is the advantage of solid-state?
Lou Whiteman: A lot of them. For one thing, the context here, because we just looked it up in our preshow. It was 1991, that Sony (SONY 1.44%) introduced the first commercial product with a lithium-ion battery. If you go back and look at the marketing then, it was this is a transition technology to better batteries because lithium-ion has a lot of flaws. Here we still are.
Just speaks to how hard it is but solid-state lithium form of battery, but I won’t pretend to be an engineer here, but it is a lot more efficient, it charges a lot faster, and it is a lot more stable, which means a lot fewer fires.
In theory, in a lab, on paper, it is a better alternative. It is for the electric vehicle. It is five minutes of gas station versus a half-hour to charge it. It is ranges that potentially definitely for trucks, maybe for trains, maybe even for airplanes, because you have so much more power density for the weight. The problem is, is that these things, what I just said with the lithium, we’re 20 years into this technology. Battery tech is really, really hard and it is even harder to commercialize at scale.
If these guys work out, they are going to be great companies. Both of them have very good partners who are watching them along the way and seem to think they’re heading in the right direction. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that this is a slam dunk. This is a very speculative technology that could well fall well short of what we hope.
Hall: It’s not a guarantee that either of these companies, it’s not like it’s going to be QuantumScape‘s (QS 2.85%) going to do it or a Solid Power (SLDP 3.29%) is going to do it. There are dozens of companies and universities and engineering schools that are working on this. The solution could come out of MIT and MIT could have the best technology that gets spun off into a company that doesn’t even exist today and that’s the best investment in this.
As much as the Volkswagens (VWAGY 0.53%) and the Fords (F 0.95%) are big partners with these companies the investments they’ve made, are the equivalent of the loose change in their pockets. Even if it’s hundreds of millions of dollars, they’re going to spend tens of billions of dollars to build factories that are largely going to be spitting out cars that are using lithium-ion batteries right now. Then they’re going to plug in solid-state whoever makes it. Tyler.
Tyler Crowe: Quick plug for a book, it’s called Powerhouse by Steve LeVine. It’s basically like an in-house account of tweaking battery chemistry compositions in lithium-ion during early 2010s, mid-2000s to get to an automotive scale battery. It talks about dozens of companies that tried it and failed. We’re going to see the same thing as we tweak these chemistries. It happened before, it’s going to happen again.
We don’t know who’s going to come out on top. Somewhat promising now. Maybe it’s just because they got a good marketing pitch. None of us are in the lab doing it with them. For one of us to say that one is going to be better than the other. It’s really like throwing darts at a board right now.