BMW and Ford continue to invest in solid-state batteries. Together with Volta Energy Technologies, both carmakers have participated in a $130Mn investment round of the US solid-state battery specialist Solid Power. The two carmakers are to receive 100 Ah cells for validation tests in 2022.
The BMW Group and Ford say they have also expanded existing joint development partnerships with Solid Power to secure solid-state batteries for future generations of electric cars. BMW has been working with Solid Power since 2017, and Ford since 2019.
The completion of the Series B financing brings Solid Power the equivalent of €108 million. According to BMW’s statement, this investment will enable Solid Power to “produce full-scale automotive batteries, increase associated material output and expand in-house production capabilities for future vehicle integration”.
This “cost-effective and energy-dense” solid-state battery technology from Solid Power will be used in upcoming BMW Group and Ford electric vehicles, the Munich-based company said. Doug Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Solid Power, also revealed the start of production in the statement. “Solid Power now plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company’s pilot production line in early 2022 as a result of our partners’ continued commitment to Solid Power’s commercialization efforts,” Campbell said.
The fact that the two major carmakers are so confident in Solid Power’s technology and have invested again is apparently also due to a trial that took place late last year. “Solid Power’s leadership in all-solid-state battery development and manufacturing has been confirmed with the delivery of hundreds of production line-produced battery cells that were validated by Ford and the BMW Group late last year, formalizing Solid Power’s commercialization plans with its two long-standing automotive partners,” BMW wrote.
BMW received funding notifications from the federal government and the state of Bavaria from the second battery IPCEI in mid-April, that the Munich-based carmaker had clarified its solid-state plans. According to the statement, the BMW Group’s next generation of cell technology would not only include conventional lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolyte, but also solid-state batteries. “Being a leader in advanced battery technology is of the utmost importance for BMW. The development of all-solid-state batteries is one of the most promising and important steps towards more efficient, sustainable, and safer electric vehicles,” BMW’s board member for development Frank Weber said at the time. While he announced a demonstrator vehicle for “well before 2025”, he did not give any technical details on the solid-state cells.
Weber makes up for that in the latest announcement, calling the solid-state battery “one of the most promising and important steps towards more efficient, sustainable, and safer electric vehicles”. “Together we have developed a 20 Ah all-solid-state cell that is absolutely outstanding in this field,” Weber said.
Solid Power cells are manufactured on conventional production lines
One of the advantages of Solid Power technology is apparently that the cells can be manufactured on existing production infrastructure. According to BMW, the multi-layer solid-state batteries will be produced on the company’s “roll-to-roll production line”, which uses only industry-standard lithium-ion production processes and equipment.
But the 20 Ah are just the beginning; from 2022, both BMW and Ford are to receive 100 Ah cells from Solid Power for automotive qualification tests as well as for vehicle integration. But the cells will not be “off the shelf”, Solid Power’s technology is also said to enable customised cell designs that can be adapted to different performance requirements.
“By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we’ll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes,” says Ted Miller, Ford manager of electrification subsystems and power research.
Volta Energy Technologies (not to be confused with Volta Trucks) also participated in the Series B round. Volta Energy Technologies is a venture capital firm that grew out of the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and focuses on investing in breakthrough energy storage and battery innovations.
“The fact that Solid Power is already producing multi-layer all-solid-state batteries using industry-standard automated commercial manufacturing equipment is why Volta is excited to ramp up its earlier investment,” said Jeff Chamberlain, CEO of Volta Energy Technologies. “The company’s partnership with BMW and Ford will further accelerate the full commercialization of Solid Power’s batteries and position both car companies to be among the first to have EVs on the road powered by safer, affordable, high-energy solid-state batteries.”
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.