Answers to burning questions on battery science and business

4. Are solid-state batteries going to be practical—and commercially available—for cars in the next few years?

It seems so. Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an advisor to QuantumScape, one of the hottest solid-state battery startups, certainly thinks so. Typically, new battery materials take 15 years to go from lab to commercial scale. QuantumScape was founded in 2010.

For context, solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte material instead of the typical liquid electrolyte. The job of the electrolyte is to shuttle ions between the electrodes, as the battery charges and discharges. Using solid electrolytes will open up the possibility of using new types of anode, such as lithium metal, which store a lot more energy than today’s graphite anode.

The difficulty is that, so far, liquids tend to be better at doing the job than solids. But companies like QuantumScape, Blue Current, and Toyota are trying to solve the problem.