There’s a new collaboration in town: Nissan is working with NASA to develop a new type of battery to power electric vehicles.
The goal is to create a smaller and cheaper all-solid-state battery that will replace the lithium-ion batteries currently used in Nissan’s electric vehicles. (And indeed, most EVs.) Ideally, the resulting battery would skip the use of the rare and expensive materials that power lithium-ion batteries, including cobalt and lithium itself. The safety and stability of the batteries will also be a priority.
And — here’s the kicker — when finished, the battery will fully charge in just 15 minutes, rather than the several hours required of the current technologies (though that wait time can be cut down significantly by the use of direct-current fast chargers). This potential for speed could change the charging landscape, making the “refuel” experience more analogous to that of a traditional gas station.
All-solid-state batteries use solid electrodes and other component parts, rather than relying on the liquid or polymer components of lithium-ion batteries. They have historically been low in energy density, but recent technological developments have renewed interest in exploring their use in EVs and other applications. With the need to get more people in EVs ASAP to address the climate crisis, the more innovation on the battery front, the better.
To conduct their research, Nissan and NASA are using a computerized database called an “original material informatics platform” to test combinations of hundreds of thousands of materials to gauge what would work best. The University of California, San Diego, is also involved in the research.
The Japanese automaker’s main EV offering so far has been the Leaf. The vehicle was truly ahead of its time when it hit the market in 2010, but now the rest of the market seems to be catching on as more and more EVs get snapped up.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the duo succeeds, the resulting battery could revolutionize EVs. Some of the main barriers to wide-scale EV adoption are the expense and rarity of the materials needed for lithium-ion batteries, as well as the time it takes to charge them. A number of Nissan rivals are also researching all-solid-state batteries, including Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and GM.
That said, we probably shouldn’t hold our collective breath. The Nissan-NASA partnership is slated to launch a pilot plant in 2024, and a product launch in 2028. And we need to get more EVs on the road yesterday.