Ford Invests in ‘Breakthrough’ Solid-State Battery Startup Already Backed by BMW and Hyundai

Solid Power, a startup promising a breakthrough solid state battery, announced today that it is teaming up with Ford to develop batteries for their “next-generation electric vehicles.”

As we reported last year, Solid Power is a Colorado-based startup that spun out of a battery research program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The company claims to have achieved a breakthrough by incorporating a high-capacity lithium metal anode in lithium batteries — creating a solid-state cell with an energy capacity “2-3X higher” than conventional lithium-ion.

They have already attracted investments from important companies, like A123 Systems and more recently BMW, which planned to validate their battery technology for the automotive market.

Last year, they announced the addition Hyundai, Samsung, and several others to the list as they close a $20 million series A round of financing.

Now, they are adding Ford to their growing list of investors with an undisclosed investment.

Ken Washington, vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, and chief technology officer at Ford, commented on the announcement:

“Solid-state battery technology has the potential to help us deliver electric vehicles that are even safer and more capable. Our involvement with Solid Power enables us to further collaborate in an important emerging technology that could truly transform the design and integration of smart electric vehicles into tomorrow’s smart world.”

Solid Power’s co-founder and CEO Doug Campbell also commented on the announcement:

“Companies like Ford are part of the movement that is changing the automotive industry and we are honored to be working together. ASSBs have the potential to provide greater energy, which translates to greater run-time per charge or in the case of an electric vehicle, greater range from a fully charged battery. By combining state-of-the-art cathodes with metallic lithium anodes, ASSBs can achieve up to a 50% increase in cell level energy vs. current lithium-ion cells while even greater energy improvements are possible with more advanced cathodes, which is an additional area of development for Solid Power.”

The company lists some “potential benefits” of their solid state battery technology:

Fifty percent higher energy vs. current lithium-ion, which can increase at the module- and pack-level due to design simplicity
Substantially improved safety due to the elimination of the flammable liquid electrolyte as used in lithium-ion
Low-cost battery-pack designs through:
Minimization of safety features
Simplified thermal management
High manufacturability due to significant compatibility with automated, industry-standard, roll-to-roll production
Electrek’s Take

Solid-state batteries had some downs in recent years with companies like Bosch backing away from the technology after investing millions and not seeing a clear path to mass production.

But a company like Solid Power attracting so many high profile investors is certainly interesting.

Solid-state batteries are thought to be a lot safer than common li-ion cells and could have more potential for higher energy density, but they also have limitations like temperature ranges and electrode current density. Not to mention we have yet to see a company capable of producing them at large-scale and at an attractive price point competitive with li-ion.

As usual, it’s important to be skeptical when companies announce “battery breakthroughs” because they rarely amount to anything.

That said, most experts agree that it’s not a question of “if” solid state batteries will take over, but when.

While it’s an important technology to follow, I like to remind everyone that an important step, like solid-state, is not required to enable electric vehicles to be competitive with petrol cars. Those technologies will come and push EVs forward, but in the meantime, current incremental improvements on li-ion batteries are enough to make EVs highly competitive.

But it’s still exciting to think about the next-generation of batteries pushing electric vehicles to a whole new level…