BMW and Ford invest in battery start-up Solid Power

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The race to secure next generation batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) steps up with a new $130 million investment in their development.

The Colorado-based Solid Power, which specialises in all solid state batteries, will use the funding to ramp up its battery technology to automotive scale, according to a company statement.

Solid state batteries utilise a solid ion-conducting material – in Solid Power’s case, a proprietary sulphide solid – in place of the liquid electrolyte in a conventional lithium-ion battery, with the aim to increase the capacity while simplifying the cell architecture. The outcome, an increased EV range at reduced cost.

Without any liquid, the batteries also are inherently safer and at lower risk of fire.

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The other investor named in the Series B round was the storage venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies.

“BMW and Ford now share leading positions in the race for all solid-state battery-powered EV,” said Doug Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Solid Power.

“Solid Power now plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company’s pilot production line in early 2022.”

The investment comes hot on the heels of a $139 million investment round led by General Motors in Singapore headquartered lithium-metal battery developer SES in April and a $100 million investment by Volkswagen in Silicon Valley solid state battery developer QuantumScape in March following an earlier similar sum.

These are large amounts of money and reflect the seriousness with which the automotive manufacturers are pursuing their EV goals, with the emerging battery technologies set to be a key factor in their future competitiveness.

Solid Power scale up

With the new investment, BMW and Ford intend to use Solid Power’s battery technology in their forthcoming EVs.

Solid Power is currently producing 20Ah multi-layer all solid-state batteries on its pilot production line. Full-scale 100Ah cells are expected to be delivered to the two manufacturers beginning in 2022 for automotive qualification testing and vehicle integration.

The Series B investment also will support expansion of the production capabilities for future vehicle integration.

Ted Miller, Ford’s manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research, said solid state battery technology is important to the future of EVs, while Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management BMW AG, Development, described its development as one of the most promising and important steps towards more efficient, sustainable and safer vehicles.

“That’s why we’re investing directly,” said Miller, adding that by simplifying the design, “we’ll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, and deliver lower costs and better value for customers.”

Both Ford and BMW had made previous investments in Solid Power and Hyundai was another early investor along with Samsung.