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Nio plans to offer a car with solid-state batteries by the end of the year. Photo by Bloomberg.

The Electric: Solid-State Batteries Are All the Rage—Except in China

Photo: Nio plans to offer a car with solid-state batteries by the end of the year. Photo by Bloomberg.

Today's column is from Dalibor Petkovic, a freelance researcher specializing in Chinese industrial policies. Since 2017, he has focused on the Chinese EV market, as well as smart cities, urban logistics and battery recycling management.

Investors worldwide are pouring billions of dollars into companies such as QuantumScape, Solid Power and ProLogium Technology that are building solid-state batteries for electric vehicles. They hope the devices will fulfill their promise of letting EVs travel farther on a charge, boosting the vehicles’ appeal to motorists. Curiously, though, there’s less fervor about the technology in China, the world leader in EV batteries.

That reflects the challenges Chinese battery manufacturers face in developing solid-state batteries. Most of the key patents on solid-state technologies are held by American, Japanese or German companies, so the production equipment and technology in China lags behind that of its foreign rivals; there’s also a shortage of homegrown industrial software.

Around 2018, the Chinese government began stressing the need to improve the safety of EV batteries rather than focus on extending their range. That had the effect of favoring existing technologies where Chinese manufacturers are strong, such as traditional lithium-ion batteries containing liquid electrolytes and next-generation technologies such as sodium. Projects to make solid-state batteries have not received as much government support. 

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