German electronics firm Bosch says it will have a solid state battery on the market by 2020 that will double the range of electric cars at half the cost of today’s batteries. “Bosch is using its knowledge and considerable financial resources to achieve a breakthrough for electromobility,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, the chairman of the company’s board of directors.
Recently, Bosch purchased Seeo, a California start-up battery company. Seeo says it has come up with a new way to make lithium batteries without a liquid electrolyte. The batteries need no cooling system and won’t catch on fire the way a traditional lithium ion battery can. They are also significantly lighter and cost less to manufacture.
“Solid electrolytes have a number of potential advantages; the one Seeo has developed uses pure lithium, which allows it to store more energy,” said Kevin Bullis in MIT Technology Review. “Other companies have developed batteries with solid electrolytes and pure lithium, but their energy storage capacity – at least for the large batteries needed in electric cars – has typically been less than what Seeo has achieved.”
There is only one drawback. The Seeo battery operates at a temperature of 178 degrees Fahrenheit. It may not need a cooling system but it definitely needs a heating system. At least it will if it is going to be used in electric vehicles. Bosch obviously believes it can overcome that obstacle and make the new battery commercially viable; we won’t know if that is true for several years.
There are plenty of companies who say they have the next big thing in batteries waiting in the wings. Some will succeed while others fail. If Bosch can pull this off, it could become the dominant battery maker in a very lucrative market. Lighter, more powerful, and cheaper batteries could go a long way toward making electric vehicles acceptable to mainstream drivers.