Ilika focuses on the development of solid state battery (SSB) technology that has the potential to achieve extended range and faster charging than current electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The UK company started out developing a range of micro-batteries, called Stereax, which will enable miniaturisation of medical implanted devices and industrial IoT sensors.
Its large format Goliath programme has been supported by grants from the UK’s Faraday Battery Challenge to help it develop the SSB technology designed for EVs.
On this week’s Mobility Moments, we talk range anxiety and commercial roll-out plans with Ilika’s CEO, Graeme Purdy.
Describe Ilika’s SSB technology and its key benefits?
There is great interest in solid state batteries at the moment for the EV sector because, even though current Li-ion technology will still progress, there is a consensus that they will soon plateau in terms of performance, in particular regarding energy density. SSB are expected to yield higher energy density which will lead to longer EV range. Also, because SSB do not use a liquid electrolyte, unlike current L-ion, they do not have an explosion risk.
Safety is a key driver for the choice of materials and processes we have selected for Goliath SSB: we are using an oxide electrolyte and Si anode, both components which will create batteries that are safe in manufacture and safe in use.
How can Ilika help combat ‘range anxiety’?
Driving range is related to energy density, which as expected to be significantly improved by SSB. This is because SSB don’t need as much packaging as Li-ion do to contain their toxic flammable liquid electrolyte nor do the battery packs need to be cooled to the same extent.
Initially, the deployment of SSB will focus on markets that value the improved performance of safety and range and can absorb the higher initial price, due to lower volume production, such as luxury vehicles and high value brands in consumer appliances. By the early 2030’s it is predicted that SSB will be achieve cost parity with LIB, so their deployment is expected to increase widely then.
What are your commercial roll-out plans?
In parallel to pursuing our R&D road map, we are already making plans for a scale up of our technology. We are planning a 10x increase in production at our pilot line to accelerate developments and help us produce initial quantities of prototypes which we will share with our partners.
We are also making plans for a scale up to a mid-scale, MWh-level facility which will initiate the first volume production of our cells and help us write our ‘Blue Book’ for the process to be more easily scaled up to GWh-level later.
For this purpose we have already signed a Framework Agreement with the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in the UK.
Describe your partnership with the Italian engineering company Comau?
Comau are our partners in a grant-funded project sponsored by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, project SOLSTICE, which started a couple of months ago. The aim of the program is to design the process and equipment required to realise the 10x fold increase in our pilot line and the subsequent scale up to MWh-level.
Working with Comau is a great asset for us thanks to the wide experience they have designing volume manufacturing facilities.
How could future mobility player, such as eVTOL start-ups, utilise your technology?
Although EVs have been the main pull for the explosion of the Li-ion sector and the great interest in SSB, many other sectors within transportation may benefit from higher performance batteries. eVTOL is such a sector which on one side needs lighter batteries for obvious reasons, but also requires high power capability for the initial boost on take off.
Why does the UK need its own battery gigafactories?
It is a government policy to increase the number of EVs on the road and to support the production of these vehicles locally. More importantly, the question is how much Gigafactories will benefit the UK financially: with the great majority of the materials supplied from abroad, including pre-formed electrode films, the current value add for the UK is minimal and centred mainly around assembly of cells and modules.
With a development of a UK supply chain in materials (cathodes, electrolyte, anode…), a broader R&D network and export production ability, we believe that the potential for jobs and added value in the UK could be much greater.
What will transportation and EV charging look like by 2030?
We are strong believers that EV will dominate the transportation market in the 2030s and that SSB will accelerate this deployment. Looking into the future, we are seeing much safer and environmentally friendly vehicles, fewer greenhouse gases, and also new driving habits, including shared schemes and driverless vehicles; accompanied by revolutionary new ways to travel further distances with eVTOL or short-haul flights.