Solid state battery systems have long been considered the next breakthrough in battery technology, with many startups already ready for commercialization. The automakers have been some of the technology’s top investors, each of them seeking an edge that will make their electric vehicles safer, faster and with increased range.
Ford Motor Company and BMW Group have invested their money on the battery technology company Solid Power.
Louisville, Colorado-based SSB said its latest $ 130 million Series B funding round on Monday was led by Ford and BMW, the latest indication that the two OEMs see the future of transportation to SSB. Under the investment, Ford and BMW are equal equity owners and the company’s representatives will join Solid Power’s board.
Solid Power received additional investment in the round of venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies, out of the Argon National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy.
Solid state batteries are named because they lack a liquid electrolyte, as Mark Harris explained in an ExtraCrunch article earlier this year. Liquid electrolyte solutions are usually flammable and are at risk of overheating, so SSBs are generally considered safe. The true value of SSBs versus their lithium-ion counterparts is energy density. Solid Power states that its batteries can provide a 50% to 100% increase in energy density compared to rechargeable batteries. Theoretically, electric vehicles with more energy-dense batteries can travel long distances on a single charge.
This latest round of investment will help Solid Power boost its manufacturing to produce battery cells with the company’s highest ampere hour (Ah) output. Under separate joint development agreements with Ford and BMW, it will deliver OEM 100 Ah cells from 2022 for testing and vehicle integration.
By this point, the company is building cells with 2 Ah and 10 Ah outputs. Solid Power said in a statement that “hundreds” of 2 Ah battery cells were verified by Ford and BMW late last year. Meanwhile, it is currently producing 20 Ah solid-state batteries on a pilot basis with standard lithium-ion equipment.
As opposed to 20 Ah pilot-scale cells – which are made up of 22-layers at 9 × 20 cm – these 100 Ah cells will have a larger footprint and have even more layers, Solid Power spokesman Will McKenna said in Tech Crunch. told. (‘Layers’ refers to the number of double sided cathodes, McKenna explained – so a 20 Ah cell has 22 cathodes and 22 anodes, a single cell cell has a solid electrolyte separator between all of them.)
Unlike the manufacture of solid power, conventional lithium ion batteries must undergo electrolyte filling and cycling in their production processes. Solid Power states that these additional phases account for 5% and 30% of capital expenditure in a typical GWh-scale lithium ion facility.
This is not the first time that Solid Power has launched investments from automobile manufacturers. In 2018 the company’s $ 20 million Series A attracted capital from BMW and Ford, as well as Samsung, Hyundai, Volta and others. This is part of a new wave of companies that have attracted the attention of OEMs. Other notable examples include the Volkswagen-backed Quantumscape and General Motors, which put their money on the SES.
Ford is also independently researching advanced battery technologies and plans to open a $ 185 million R&D battery lab last week.