A team of engineers from Germany — led by Prof. Dr. Günther Hambitzer, Dr. Sebastian Heinz and Dr. Thomas Lützenrath — have announced that they have succeeded in developing a new type of battery, which marks a real “quantum leap” for the current lithium-ion, as the engineers claim. More than that, we are not only talking about a stage of the initial discoveries but about a technology that the three and their assistants developed back in 2018 since then, they have made tests, measurements and improvements, and in the meantime, they have also obtained patents related to this invention of theirs. Let’s see what the big leap of the new battery consists of.
First, speaking of a solid-state battery, this means that the electrolyte, the separating layer between the anode and cathode of a battery, is not a liquid or a gel but a solid-state material. Solid-state batteries are still few worldwide, but they already exist as a type of battery, being installed, for example, on a Mercedes e-Citaro electric bus. And last year, we published a detailed article about ASSB batteries, or all solid-state batteries, developed by the company QuantumScop, batteries that only had solid substances in their composition and a ceramic separator. Well, the three German engineers, with the patented technology, formed the company HPB, or High-Performance Battery, based in Bonn, and they say that their battery is effectively the world’s first mass-produced solid-state battery with superior performance to lithium-ion in all chapters — environmental impact, energy density, resilience to fast-charge, power, production cost, even low-temperature operation capability and lifetime!
The three say that current lithium-ion batteries retain their good qualities for only 1,250 cycles of charging and discharging fast charge. Here, the figure can be a bit juggled, or there are lithium-ion batteries with 3,000 charging cycles promised. Still, it depends on what we mean by keeping good qualities and to what level of degradation we set that margin, 85, 90 or 95%, for example. Three thousand may seem small to many of us anyway, which is why many large applications, such as battery power plants, use LFP batteries, which have up to 12,000 charge cycles today, at least those produced by Tesla and Rimac.
What the German engineers say, however, is that their new battery will have a ten times longer life at the same measurement parameters — fast charge power and at the same limit of degradation, reaching 12,500 guaranteed cycles. The figure of 12,500 is guaranteed based on the test batteries that engineers have been testing since 2018, for five years, in constant charging and discharging. They say their batteries show virtually no degradation after these 12,500 discharge cycles, so that the actual life will be even longer, and the mentioned figure will increase. Their theoretical calculations, from the patent documents filed in 2018, which I reviewed in the documentation for this article, indicated theoretical calculations for a lifetime of 100,000 cycles! If these batteries demonstrate at least 1/3 of this desired, they will be truly revolutionary!
The solid electrolyte of the battery is not flammable; thus, the Germans’ battery would have a significantly lower risk of explosions and fires. More than that, the new battery does not contain any cobalt and thus avoids using a rare, expensive and controversial ore in its composition, the impact of its mining being one of the biggest in the composition of current batteries. The Germans say that the environmental impact of the new battery will be 50% lower than that of a lithium-ion one.
Even more surprising is that the German engineers announced that their new battery operates with practically unchanged conductivity down to -40 degrees Celsius! So, even a battery that reaches -40 can provide the same discharge and charge power without needing a system to heat it! Again, they say that they have tested all these statements that they are making now, including through independent tests contracted to third parties, and everything is confirmed in real life, or they are already talking about a chapter in which they are ready to put into production standard this battery.
And it seems that even the torrid heat will not be a problem for the new battery, as the same tests show the preservation of the conductivity qualities up to +60 degrees Celsius! So we have a 100-degree Celsius range where the new battery can operate without thermal management! Practically, this would mean that about 90% of the machines or industrial applications that use such a battery would not have to consume energy for its thermal management.
The three engineers say that the production methods are even more straightforward than current lithium-ion batteries because the materials are more common, and part of the battery is poured into liquid form during the production stage, after which it takes solid form. In the current communication from the Germans, the exact composition of the battery is not mentioned, but, as far as I could extract from the description of the massive volume of the patent documents, it would be aluminum and lithium tetrachloride — LiAlCl4, treated with sulphur dioxide in the stage of production. The same patent documents also explain how such a large number of charging and discharging cycles is possible. In lithium-ion batteries, the limited cycle is caused by the effect of the deposition of some lithium ions on the pores of the electrolyte, over time, forming dendrites, which decrease the conductivity. Here, the researchers say that the dendrites formed later detach back when the ions pass in the opposite direction, practically without them remaining. Thus, the loss of conductivity is avoided over time.
When and who will put the new type of batteries into production? The Swiss were the fastest to contract the three engineers, and the three say that in Switzerland, plans are already being authorized to construct a vast Gigafactory-type battery factory, which will produce these batteries. There is a massive demand for them, especially if all these parameters are confirmed shortly after the start of production. But if those from Switzerland contracted the technology and started the investments for constructing a Gigafactory, all these things went through a rigorous filter of checks and validations.
And this means that in the coming years, a huge leap awaits us in the world of batteries! 10 times longer life and maybe even more! Unlimited fast-charge loads because it does not affect the lifetime. No cobalt! And with loss-free operation from -40 to +60 degrees Celsius! It really is a quantum leap in parameters!