126: Are Solid State Batteries Still the Future?

Matt and Sean discuss what to expect when breakthroughs miss their moment. Are solid state batteries in danger of missing their moment to other technologies like lithium sulfur or Tesla’s new 4680 battery cells, chemistry, and structural battery pack?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Is This Solid State Battery Breakthrough Too Late?”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAfGozXBou0&list=PLnTSM-ORSgi55IJwXkqPkgtq03bgQDNoH&index=1&t=0s

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Follow us on Twitter: @stilltbdfm @byseanferrell @mattferrell or @undecidedmf

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Hey everybody.

Today’s episode still to be determined,
we’re gonna talk about being a day

late and a dollar short as usual.

I’m Sean Farrell.

I’m a writer of some sci-fi, I’m a
writer of some stuff for kids and I’m.

Just all around.

Curious about tech and with me of course,
is my brother, Matt, who is the tech guy.

So lucky me when I have questions
about tech, I call my helpline, which

is also known as Matt’s personal line.

Matt, how you doing?

I’m pretty good.

How about you?

Pretty good.

As you know, of course, Matt, we are gonna
be talking about your most recent video.

This is, is this solid state battery
breakthrough too late, which is a

interesting question about this in
particular, but it’s an interest

interesting question in the bigger
picture, the bigger picture being, what

happens to those tech developments that
are interesting breakthroughs, but are.

A little bit behind the curve and mm-hmm
so I, I, I’m interested in that side

of the discussion mm-hmm before we get
into today’s episode, though, I wanted

to share a thought from a previous
episode, this one came from drill or dev.

This is based on last week’s
conversation, where we talked about

other things, including recycling
of styrofoam, recycling of plastics,

and a more organic version of plastic
based on seaweed and drill or.

Had this to say regarding styrofoam,
darkling beetle, larva can devour

it rather quickly, thanks to some
bacteria in their digestive system.

And apparently they decompose it so well
that you can’t find microplastics in them.

Which could make them safe for
livestock feed chickens, for

example, imagine turning nugget,
packaging into real chicken.

So thank you for that driller
de that’s very interesting.

And I was going to suggest Matt, maybe
a video in the future looking into

organic ways to deconstruct styrofoam.

So I like that.


I, I had not heard that before.


So, yeah.

And kind of grows.

It’s it’s but it’s really it’s.

I mean, stuff like that,
I think is amazing.

When you have a thing that we make,
which that we then stand around and

say, this does not exist in nature.

This does not naturally occur.

We don’t ever have that.

Well, a storm swept through and
there was a lightning strike and

a left behind all this styrofoam,
as we know, that’s how it’s made.

Like, no, this is like a thing where
a bunch of guys were riding bicycles.

They all collided and the chemicals
they happened to be carrying.

You got your peanut
butter in my chocolate.

You got your chocolate
in my peanut butter.

Suddenly we have styro.

And then nature shows up and it’s just
like, oh yeah, we can handle that.

I love those.

Discover that when it’s just like,
oh yeah, there’s this beetle larvae.

And you know what that
beetle larvae can do.

It can eat styrofoam.

Does it enjoy it?

Who’s to say maybe who are we
to judge what those poor little

VE actually want to be eating?

Or are they just sitting there
like, well, it’s a living.

It’s here.


so as the title would suggest, we’re
talking about breakthroughs in solid

state batteries and Matt poses.

The question, is it just a
little bit behind the curve?

Has the tech moved onto other things?

Left this development in a,
would you put it in an also ran

category or how would you frame it?

I would,

I don’t know if I’d say it’s an also ran.

It’s just one of those.

The benefits have to really significantly
outweigh what you can do today

for it to really kind of take off.

And it’s like, there’s this other
technologies and things that are happening

that are eating away at that solid
state advantage to the point where it’s

like, is it really that much better?

And it’s so much more expensive
and this is good enough.

And close enough to that, that
we could probably just do this.


So it’s, I dunno if it’s an
ulcer ran, but it is kind of.

Almost also ran.

I guess that would be

the way I put it.

It strikes me as like being, if
you, if you were gonna go along the

route of like a satirical version
of, of this, it would be like, if in

the early 19 hundreds, somebody had
developed a slightly larger horse.

Yeah, and was saying, and now this
horse can pull even more on your wagon.

And meanwhile, there’s model T driving
down the road, and exactly everybody’s

watching the model T drive down
the road and looking at this horse

and the horse is looking at them
and everybody feels very awkward.

It feels a little bit like that.

including the horse,
including the horse, that

poor horse

So in the vein of this conversation,
there were a lot of comments like this

one from the eight bit guy who rode.

Considering my first EV was a
Nissan leaf back in 2011 and it

only went 85 miles on a charge.

And these days Tesla’s low end
battery gets 267 miles per charge,

probably at a fraction of the cost
of the early Nissan batteries.

I’d say we have already arrived with
the technology to achieve mass adoption.

And while that’s no reason
to stop research in advance.

I think people need to stop waiting for
the magic battery that may or may not

happen and jump on the bandwagon now.

And I’m wondering, do you see
this new tech, let’s say it is

able to start being mass produced?

It does, you know, the, the numbers drop.

Do you see.

Production of this being in the same
vein as say, I go to a store looking

at a cell phone and I see my apple
phones and I see the Android phones.

But then I see those from other producers,
which are maybe a little cheaper.

They cut a couple corners of, they
don’t use the most recent tech that the

main, you know, frontier phones use.

Do you see this kind of technology being.

The tech that might fill that gap
for a slightly more affordable

version of the electric car?


Or do you think it just doesn’t meet the.

It’s too

It’s too expensive right now.

And by the way, the eight big
guy, great YouTube channel.

If you, I had a chance to meet
him at fully charged live really

interesting guy, um, and great channel.

It’s not that it’s going
to fill a cheaper need.

It’s that it’s it’s high end.

So it’s like I could see some top
tier Android phone coming to the

market, some $2,000 phone that, Hey,
we got solid state battery in here.

That’s where it’s gonna realistically
start to show up in consumer electronics.

And then what we have today
would trickle down to the.

Little phones you’re talking about.


That’s how it would work.

And to me, that’s where I kind
of come back to the premise of my

video, which was, but is it too late?

Is that yeah.

Does it make sense?

Because it’s like the, the
technologies that are available

today are really, really good.

And as, as he points
out, they’re really good.

It’s like we have cars with 300 miles
of range on it, which is more than

enough for the vast majority of us.

And so it’s, we’re kind of already there.

And the kind of what I was raising in
the video is it’s not just that we’re

already kind of here it’s that there’s
other technologies coming that are going

to make that a 500 mile car, or it will
be a battery that will take up a third

or less space and wait as the batteries
today and give you the same exact range.

And that’s the sales pitch of solid
state is that it’ll take up half

the space of your car and gave you
the same amount of range it’s like,

but it’s also crazy expensive.


We have companies that are
finding alternatives to kind

of chip away at those benefits.

So it, it really does come down
to, there’s not gonna be a magical,

magical scenario where solid state’s
gonna suddenly be the cheaper option.

It’s not gonna happen.

It’s it’s just not, it’s just the
advancements that are happening in other

technologies are driving those costs
down as so a solid state comes down.

Everything else is coming down too.

So it’s will solid state ever just
suddenly leapfrog and become cheap.

I don’t see that happening.


I just . I just don’t see that happening.

So it’s, it’s gonna take a long
time for it to trickle that.

Could it conceivably happen as a result
of something along the lines of the

materials required for manufacturing?

Does solid state have an advantage there
that it might be like a more plentiful.

Uh, component that that would
actually undermine that if somebody

somewhere is just like, we’re now
mining this material or producing

this material really efficiently.

So the price of the materials
goes down and then does the

solid state go down with it?

Do you see that?

It’s a
lot of.

No, it’s a lot of the same
materials going into solid states.

It’s just different chemistries
and different ways you do it.

So it’s, it’s not that that
would be the advantage.

The advantage is, is that you
would need less materials to

get the same exact result.

So if you want a car that goes 300 miles
in theoretical land, with the best solid

state battery, you would need half as many
of those materials to achieve that goal.


So that’s where it becomes cheaper.

But the problem is, is that there’s
there’s these other technologies.

or maybe use third less materials, but
they’re already far cheaper than solid

state is or can be even in that scenario.

So it’s, it’s just one of those
it’s um, it’s an uphill battle.

I think solid state has where if
you had asked people or myself, like

five years ago, what do you think?

It’s like, oh, solid.

State’s gonna be the future mm-hmm today.

I’m kind of like, I don’t know about
that anymore because there’s so many

options hitting the market that are, are
chipping away at the benefits of solid.

So for cost wise, there are other ways you
can go and get the same exact benefits.

And that’s the biggest
problem I see for solid state.


think that there’s a comment here from
breakfast burrito, which I like one of

those is a wonderful right now, intro
this comment, but burrito I’m at, but

burrito points out something that might
be an advantage in solid states camp that.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on
burrito writes, I’ve worked on solid

state batteries for an automative OEM.

The amount of work that went into testing
and providing solid state batteries

for mass production has been immense.

The fact that we have major OEMs, publicly
announcing strategies for adoption within

two years shows how far along they are.

It can’t really be compared to new
developments, just coming out of

labs as they’re at least a decade
away from being implemented in EVs.


The timing issue as a part of this
too, is simply enough of the snowball

rolling downhill, that it still hits
the market in a way that is measurable.

And maybe it doesn’t sustain itself
as the primary choice, five, 10 years

from now, maybe one of those new
techs does replace it, but maybe we do

still see them on the market because
oh, they’re gonna hit the market.

It’s yeah, it’s been
rolling downhill for so.

I mean, there’s there’s car companies
that are putting all of their

eggs in the solid state basket.

So there are definitely gonna be solid
state batteries that will be in EVs.

They’re gonna be coming
to consumer electronics.

So when I say it’s too late, it’s not
that there won’t be any, there are

definitely, they’re gonna definitely
be part of the, the, the mix.

But if you had asked people five years
ago, it looked like, oh, solid state will

just be kind of be permeate most things.

And where I’m at now.

It’s like, no, it’s not, it’s
gonna have it’s use cases,

but it’s not gonna be this.

Holy grail of battery technology,
that’s gonna just kind of be 80%

of the market or something crazy.

It’s gonna be smaller than that.

Mm-hmm he he’s right.

But the problem is, if you look at
the companies that are coming out

in the next two to three years,
The amount of batteries they’re

gonna be producing is like this.

Like it’s the amount of batteries that
Tesla produces in a month is gonna

dwarf what they’ll produce in a year.

So fast forward five years,
they’ll be producing a lot more in

five years, they’ll be producing
a lot more 10 years from now.

So it’s gonna be, there’s gonna
be a ramp up period for them.

And that’s where I’m making the
argument of there’s other paths that

are already being followed today.

It’s not just stuff in the lab.

I would point to Tesla today,
they have their 46 80 cell.

They have new chemistries.

They’re putting into place.

They’re starting to put
Silicon into their batteries.

They have the structural battery
packs they’re putting into their cars.

There’s all these things do that they’re
doing not just from a chemistry level,

but from an engineering perspective
of how they’re constructing the cars.

Mm-hmm that is driving the cost of their
battery packs down through the floor.

So it’s like in three years, their cost
of their battery packs is gonna be.

Small compared to what it is today.

And they’re continuing
to drive that cost down.

Mm-hmm . What’s the sales
pitch for solid state.

Oh yeah.

They’re gonna be on the market in two to
three years, but they’re still gonna be

crazy, more expensive than what Tesla’s
doing today is that’s the, kind of the,

the point he’s making of the stuff that’s
in the lab is lagging behind solid state.


But there’s already stuff
on the market today.

That’s ahead of where solid state’s
gonna be in two to three years.

It’s like, everybody’s kind of
chasing, kind of running in

unison and it’s not like one of
these things is standing still.

They’re all advancing together.

It’s the same thing for,
um, this is a bad analogy.

But beta max versus VHS, right?

Beta max beta became the defacto
standard for like, for, uh, TV stations.


But for home use beta max versus VHS
beta max was the better technology.

Better sound, better quality, better
everything, but it was more expensive.

VHS was good enough and it just dominated
the consumer space because it was cheaper.

It was good enough.

People didn’t care the differences.

Most people couldn’t tell.

That’s kind of where I’m looking at
it as like, okay, so I’ll say it may

be technically better and it may be
coming on the market in a few years in

a small scale, but it’s not gonna be
dramatically better than these other

technologies that are already here.

Other engineering things you can
do to tr try drive costs down.

It’s it’s gonna have, I think, a, a
longer time to try to gain traction

than people originally expected.

I think we’re kind of, I
think there’s kind of a, an a.

People need to open their eyes
and realize, oh, it’s not gonna

be the, the, the big only grail
that we were all hoping for.

It’s it’s, it’s, it’s gonna be a, just
another option on the, on the market,

but it’s not gonna be the dominant
player in the way people were expecting.

There was also this comment from
Aaron Thomas, which I think touches

on what you’ve just been saying.

And it raises an
interesting question for me.

Aaron writes the battery
breakthrough news has me jaded.

I’ll believe it once it’s on the market.

So solid state is still amazing since
it’s starting to hit the market.

And I’m wondering how
much of this is driven.

And you mentioned VHS beta max,
how much of this is driven simply

by public perception, solid state,
as an idea has been something

that has been pushed for longer.

Do you think that it simply has more.

Of the public’s understanding from a
marketing perspective for them to slap

a label on something that says now with
solid state battery and the public kind of

understands what that means that, oh yeah,
this is the thing we’ve been waiting for.

Do you think there’s an advantage there?

I don’t.

Part of the reason for that is I would say
if you asked 90% of people on the street,

they’re gonna be like, I don’t know.

I don’t care.

Aren’t they all the same.

it’s like, I think that’s the vast
majority for people that like me

and people that watch my videos.

We’re like this two, 3% of the market.

So it’s like, we actually understand.

And we know, and we’re
like, Ooh, solid state.

It’s like, that’s a very small percentage.

So there’s, I would put good money
on the fact that consumer interest

is not gonna drive this at all.


Nobody gives a crap.

All they care about is how far can my car.

How much does that home battery last
mm-hmm like, it’s like, that’s all

they, how much is it gonna cost me?

That’s the only thing
people will care about.


So slapping, graphing or solid
state or anything on the label,

nobody’s gonna give crap.

It’s it’s, it’s all comes
down to, what does it give me?

Like what, how long does it last?

How much does it cost?

How far can I drive?

That’s the only thing that’s gonna matter.

And finally, I wanted to share
this last comment from Adam Little.

It’s a, it’s a divergence from the
main part of this conversation, but I

thought it was an interesting question.

Adam writes one factor I’d like
to learn more about for all of

these upcoming technologies is.

If a solid state battery can have
its component materials separated

relatively easily at the end of its life.

That relatively low charge cycle number
becomes less of an issue, but if they

end up being even more difficult and
costly to recycle at the end of more

conventional batteries, Then that adds
to the rejection of them as a technology.

Any thoughts about that?

Is there any indicator here that solid
state batteries will have an advantage

at the end of their life to say like,
oh yeah, here’s a thing that we can

actually reclaim fairly easily compared
to these other techs or do the other

techs have more of an advantage?

I would say

with all the technologies available today
and what solid estate bring to the table.

There’s not gonna be a lick of
difference with battery recycling

in a significant way at all.

So there’s not an advantage there
where I think there’s gonna become an

advantage in time is that there are
battery technologies coming that are

going to be based on like, you know,
different sodium, you know what I mean?

Like some or, or abundant, right.

Things that are things that are
more abundant and easier to get.

That’s where.

I think there’s gonna be batteries
that could become compostable

almost that that’s where the event
will come in a decade or two.

But as far today, the one thing I would
wanna bring up about battery recycling

is we can actually recycle today,
virtually the entire battery, like the

batteries of a Tesla, the batteries of
pretty much anything there’s companies

like lifecycle and American manganese.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to
tour some of these recycling plants.

They can recapture.

An incredible amount of the materials
you’re talking about, like 90 plus

percent, 95%, in some cases, 98% of the
battery materials to make new batteries.

So it’s like, this is
already happening today.

So I don’t think there’s gonna
be an advantage to solid state’s

recyclability over what we have already.

All of that leads me to the
final conclusion, which was,

there were several commenters.

Around this that I thought captured the
issue pretty well for me, which was at the

end of the day, if this work towards solid
state has largely been research almost

for research’s sake, as opposed to mm-hmm,
having a product that goes on the market.

A good number of commenters were
still saying that’s still worth the

time and money that goes into it.

And the question being.

does that research end up in the
IP of a company that puts it in

a cabinet and just locks it away?

Or does it become something that
somebody in the future builds on?

And then we make a
tremendous leap forward.

That’s unexpected now, but in 50,
60 years, something happens where

solid state suddenly becomes a thing
that people didn’t expect it to.

So I think that that is a very
interesting place to land on and yeah,

as usual, I wanted to thank everybody
who posted comments on Matt’s videos.

As you can tell from this video
in particular, they really

do drive the conversation.

And I’m always impressed going
into the comments and seeing

the myriad of discussions.

And most of them are
conducted very, very polite.

Even differing opinions.

I’m very impressed by the, the viewer’s,
uh, ability to say, like, I think

you’re wrong and here’s why, but I’m
not gonna make it a personal attack.

So that’s debate the ideas,
debate the ideas, not the people.

So listeners, I’m curious,
where do you land on this?

Do you see this as a
technology that you’re like.

I can’t wait for this to come out.

I think it’s gonna be, uh, a
powerhouse in the industry.

Or do you think this is something
like, I’m glad people researched this.

I’m glad there were these breakthroughs,
but I don’t think it’s necessarily gonna

be the driving force in tech moving
forward, let us know in the comments.

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