In the rapidly evolving landscape of solid-state battery research and development, SK On, the battery supplier for automotive giants Ford and Volkswagen, has made a significant stride. The South Korean company has revealed a stable solid electrolyte that promises to increase lithium-ion conductivity by a remarkable 70%.
Similar to its South Korean counterpart, Samsung, SK On has employed a proprietary oxide formula for the electrolyte. This formulation, developed in collaboration with Dankook University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is set to advance the state of solid-state battery technology. Notably, the increase in lithium-ion conductivity achieved by SK On's unique Lithium-Lanthanum-Zirconium-Oxygen (LLZO) mix comes without the usual drawbacks, such as heightened air reactivity and lithium dendrite formation, which tend to accelerate electrode deterioration.
The LLZO formulation has now emerged as a leading contender for pilot production. SK On is actively constructing a test line with the ambitious goal of commencing solid-state battery production by 2026. Their plans also include scaling up to mass production by 2028. This timeline closely aligns with Toyota's announcement that its own solid-state battery cells will soon hit assembly lines.
The Head of SK On's Next Generation Battery R&D Office expressed optimism about the breakthrough, stating, “This solid-state electrolyte, which has both ionic conductivity and atmospheric stability, will have a substantial ripple effect as an innovative technology for creating high-quality all-solid-state batteries. Based on our superb future technological competitiveness, SK On will continue to forge growth opportunities in the field of next-generation batteries.”
The race to achieve mass production of solid-state battery solutions is heating up, with numerous projects in progress worldwide. China, for instance, is witnessing the construction of solid-state battery factories, raising concerns of potential overcapacity as the electric vehicle battery market becomes saturated. In Europe, ProLogium is gearing up for a substantial investment in a US$6 billion solid-state battery plant, bolstered by public funds that support research and development.
On the American front, SK On's partnership with Ford has already resulted in a substantial investment of US$11 billion in battery manufacturing facilities located in Tennessee and Kentucky. These facilities are designed to meet federal subsidy requirements for electric vehicle production. While it remains unclear which of SK On's clients will gain access to their solid-state battery technology, Ford is poised to reap the benefits as mass production promises to bring down the cost of solid-state EV batteries, making them more affordable for consumers.