A new MIT spinoff company, SolidEnergy says it has materials that can increase the amount of energy that lithium-ion batteries store by 30 percent or more and lower costs enough to make electric vehicles affordable.
SolidEnergy replaces the graphite electrode used in conventional lithium-ion batteries with a high-energy lithium-metal one. That’s been tried before, but the metal tends to cause short circuits and fires. So the company has also developed improved electrolytes to make them safer. It plans to sell materials to battery manufacturers, rather than making batteries itself.
Experimental cells store 30 percent more energy than conventional lithium-ion batteries, but the company calculates that the approach could eventually lead to a 40 percent improvement.
SolidEnergy calculates that its materials could be used to make battery packs that cost $130 per kilowatt-hour, in line with U.S. Department of Energy goals for making electric vehicles affordable. Battery pack costs are typically kept secret, but estimates range from $250 to $500 per kilowatt-hour for packs in commercial electric vehicles.
The first application of the technology will likely be in portable electronics, says cofounder and chief technology officer Qichao Hu. Electric vehicle batteries take longer to develop, in part because they need to last a decade, whereas batteries for powering electronics need only last a few years