Written by Theo Koenig – May 26, 2021
Reviewed by Kfir Kedem
The viability of electric vehicles (EV) may yet lie in a field that is entirely isolated to automobiles: that of batteries. This critically important area of EV manufacturing is currently dominated by lithium-ion batteries (roughly 90% of market share). These currently power almost all our laptops and cellphones and although they have experienced remarkable drops in prices, they have only seen marginal increments in technological improvements in recent years.
There are others, who hold an entirely different vision for the future of batteries. One such player is Solid Power – a leading producer of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles.
The difference between solid-state and lithium-ion batteries lies in the conductive chemical mixture that allows for the flow of current between electrodes. Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte to transfer current from the negative to the positive electrode whereas traditional batteries, such as lithium-ion, use a liquid electrolyte. For lithium-ion technologies, this restricts the shape and size that they can possess. It furthermore allows for the possibility of runaway heating, and in extreme cases, can lead to explosion. Solid-state batteries’ lack of liquid electrolyte allows for the possibility of complex internal designs that can potentially allow for more storage and faster charging. Additionally, they are more stable across all temperatures.
The problem with solid-state batteries is that it’s competition, lithium-ion, is becoming cheaper than ever (an incredible 97% decrease in price since 1991), meaning that many new ventures into the field have been unsuccessful. This is not the case for Solid Power. The company started off with a $30 million Series A funding in 2018 and last month announced a Series B funding of $130 million. The company’s future is bright enough to attract the attention of Ford Motor Company and the BMW Group, who have not only participated in the Series B funding but have also agreed to secure solid-state batteries for their future electric vehicles. Both companies expect to receive 100 ampere hour (Ah) cells for automotive testing beginning in 2022. Solid Power states that their batteries are not only safer and more stable than current lithium-ion batteries, but also offer a 50-100% increase in energy density compared to the best currently available rechargeable batteries.
Solid Power have a rather interesting business-model approach. Rather than aiming to produce automotive battery packs themselves, the business is hoping to perfect the production method itself. The standardized process could then be scaled according to each partner, who could license the manufacturing methods and produce its own batteries.
Auto Trendy’s take:
The battery production industry is remarkably cut-throat due to the incredibly high research and development costs. Beyond that, the technologies are incredibly complex and sometimes just not economically viable. Especially considering the all-time low cost of lithium-ion batteries, it seems almost absurd to try and enter the market as a competitor. Yet Solid Power clearly believe in the virtues of a solid-state technology, and they now have the money to back it up. Their innovative business-model also gives them a very realistic shot at succeeding by focusing almost all their attention on R&D instead of on mass-production. They have a huge mountain to climb, but they have every reason to believe that their future is bright, especially having now attracted the attention of major automotive players.