Elon Musk has achieved much with batteries made using lithium, but the Fisker EMotion electric car uses a solid-state battery to charge faster that could revolutionise the market.
Next week, in Las Vegas a maverick inventor will unveil an electric supercar with a difference. He claims that it has a range of 500 miles and can recharge in a minute. The entire booming electric car business is intensely curious to see what the Fisker EMotion luxury electric vehicle has under its bonnet; skulduggery is to be expected.
Last year, with a lot less hype, an oddball group of scientists in California managed to move several billion magnesium ions across a lump of compressed powder in the blink of an eye. There were no flashes or bangs, just a couple of crocodile clips and a few careful measurements. But the ions moved, creating an electric current.
What is new about this revolution is its scale. The technology is relatively old. The traditional lithium-ion battery has been around since the 1970s. It has been cost-effective for several decades in cameras, and for several years in cars, albeit with the help of subsidies. The question for carmakers is whether they can harness a breakthrough in battery technology to make electric vehicles stand, as it were, on their own two feet. And the answer seems to be yes. The breakthrough has a name: solid state. This is what Mr Fisker’s supercar and Mr Ceder’s magnesium ions have in common, and it could change everything.
Using solid instead of liquid material between a battery’s electrodes can boost power output and cut charging time, but it can also cut flammability and therefore packaging, weight and size. The chief scientist at Britain’s leading battery research company says the potential to hold twice as much power as a conventional lithium ion battery and to recharge six times as fast is “intrinsic” to solid state. If he is right, it has petrol well and truly licked.