As the automotive industry as a whole moves to adopt an electric vehicle centric approach, there are still some serious challenges that need to be dealt with. MC&T has reported on issues related to the supply chain of EV battery materials, as well as the fact that there might not even be enough of them out there. Combine this with the skyrocketing price of lithium in recent months, and it’s clear that there is still some room for development in the battery tech space. And while we know that General Motors and others are in the process of developing next-gen of lithium ion batteries, Rivian is taking a different approach. According to a report from Electrek, the EV startup is hiring engineers to help develop a new solid-state battery.
A typical electric vehicle, like a Tesla Model S or a Mustang Mach-E, utilizes a large lithium-ion battery. This is the same sort of technology that the battery in your cellphone or laptop employs. These batteries contain a few key components: a cathode, an anode, a separator and a liquid electrolyte or polymer gel. A solid-state battery on the other hand forgoes the liquid electrolyte for a solid electrolyte. This allows the battery to be lighter than a typical lithium ion unit, while also allowing for more charge cycles before any degradation takes place. Furthermore, solid-state batteries promise to be safer at high temperature operation, while also providing more energy density. This in turn allows for greater range in an electric vehicle, alongside much faster charge times. It is then no surprise that Rivian would be interested in utilizing this tech.
The electric vehicle manufacturer currently has five job openings listed on their website related to solid-state battery development, all of which are based out of their Palo Alto facility in California. This is somewhat interesting, considering their new headquarters in Irvine, California will be home to their propulsion and battery system development teams.
Rivian is a promising company, and has managed to garner massive support from the likes of Ford and Amazon. That said, they are not the first ones to try and reinvent EV batteries. In fact, there is a long history of startups promising to deliver on solid-state battery technology, with no tangible results ever coming to light. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible for Rivian to achieve this technological feat, but even those in the industry have their doubts. One of these folks in Henrik Fisker, whose own company recently abandoned such an undertaking.
“It’s the kind of technology where, when you feel like you’re 90 percent there, you’re almost there, until you realize the last 10 percent is much more difficult than the first 90,” Fisker said in an interview with The Verge. “So we have completely dropped solid-state batteries at this point in time because we just don’t see it materializing.”
There is hope for the automaker however. Electrek notes that recents advancements made by Quantumscape and other companies chasing solid-state battery technology could help to mitigate some of the longstanding challenges. These plans are focused on the next-generation of electric vehicles, which does give the automaker some time to try and work out any kinks. Should Rivian’s own research pay off, the company would be poised to transform the industry. Whether or not anything pans out, this is definitely a story worth following.
Should you be an engineer interested in working on such a project, you can find the job listings posted here.