"People always say, it's going to be ready in five years," said Steve LeVine, a New America Foundation fellow at Georgetown University and author of "Powerhouse," a book on lithium-ion batteries. "The floor is littered with people claiming things in the battery space."
It's not just start-ups that are pursuing advanced batteries. In December, Toyota said it will have solid-state car batteries ready before 2023. BMW, 2026. Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen are working on solid-state batteries, and most point to the mid 2020s for their debut.
"They're all working on it," said Gerbrand Ceder, professor of materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. He said he's more positive about solid state than any other approach to improved batteries, he said. "Solid-state batteries will happen."
But, he said, "it's not going to happen as fast as people think."
The biggest issue will be manufacturing costs, Ceder said. Solid-state batteries will hit the auto industry after they're taken up in smartphones and other consumer electronics, because they can be built in smaller sizes for that industry, which enjoys high profit margins.
Unexpected breakthroughs are always possible. LeVine may be skeptical, but he's not giving Fisker a total brush-off. That's because of the scientist heading up Fisker's battery program, Fabio Albano.
Battery research is a small world where major players are familiar with one another's work. "Albano is a credible figure. He's a real player," LeVine said. "He's levelheaded. He's not a hypster."
Most researchers use a thin, 2-D film to separate the positive and negative electrodes. Fisker is taking a 3-D approach, stacking thin layers, creating more surface area for even tighter density and concentrated power.
The EMotion will drive up to 400 miles with current battery technology. With the denser and safer 3-D solid-state battery, that range could be extended beyond 500 miles, at a lower cost, the company claims.
"We're looking at half the price of" current batteries, Fisker said. "Actually, much less than half."