Solid-state battery systems have long been seen as the next breakthrough in battery technology, with several startups vying to be the first to come to market. Automakers have been among the major investors in the technology, each looking for the edge that will make their electric vehicles safer, faster, and with longer range.
Ford Motor Company and BMW Group have invested in battery technology company Solid Power.
Louisville, Colo.-Based SSB said on Monday that its latest $ 130 million Series B funding round was led by Ford and BMW, with the latest signal indicating the two OEMs see SSBs fueling the future of the transport. As part of this investment, Ford and BMW are equal shareholders and representatives of the company will join Solid Power’s board of directors.
Solid Power has received additional investment in this round from Volta Energy Technologies, the venture capital firm spun off from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.
Solid-state batteries are so named because they don’t have a liquid electrolyte, as Mark Harris explained in an ExtraCrunch article earlier this year. Liquid electrolyte solutions are generally flammable and can overheat, so SSBs are generally considered to be safer. The true value of SSBs compared to their lithium-ion counterparts is energy density. Solid Power claims that its batteries can provide up to 50% to 100% increase in energy density compared to rechargeable batteries. Theoretically, electric vehicles with more energy-dense batteries can travel longer distances on a single charge.
This latest round of investments will help Solid Power boost its manufacturing to produce battery cells with the company’s highest ampere-hour (Ah) efficiency to date. Under separate joint development agreements with Ford and BMW, it will supply OEMs with 100 Ah cells for vehicle testing and integration from 2022.
Until now, the company has been manufacturing cells with an output of 2 Ah and 10 Ah. “Hundreds” of 2 Ah battery cells were validated by Ford and BMW late last year, Solid Power said in a statement. At the same time, it is currently producing 20 Ah solid-state batteries on a pilot basis with standard lithium-ion equipment.
Unlike the 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 even more layers, the spokesperson for Solid told TechCrunch. Power, Will McKenna. (“ Layers ” refers to the number of double-sided cathodes, McKenna explained – so the 20 Ah cell has 22 cathodes and 22 anodes, with a fully solid electrolyte separator between each, all in a single cell. )
Unlike the manufacture of Solid Power, traditional lithium-ion batteries must undergo electrolyte charging and cycling in their production processes. Solid Power claims that these additional steps represent 5% and 30% of the capital expenditure in a typical lithium-ion installation at the GWh scale.
This is not the first time that Solid Power has obtained investments from car manufacturers. The company’s $ 20 million Series A in 2018 attracted capital from BMW and Ford, as well as Samsung, Hyundai, Volta and others. It’s part of a new wave of companies that have caught the attention of OEMs. Other notable examples include QuantumScape, backed by Volkswagen, and General Motors, which put their money on SES.
Ford is also conducting independent research into advanced battery technologies and plans to open a $ 185 million R&D battery lab, the company said last week.