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Ford & BMW Boost Investments in Solid Power, a Company Developing Solid-State EV Batteries

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【Summary】Ford Motor Co and BMW announced on Monday they are boosting their investment in solid state battery startup Solid Power, a developer of solid-state batteries for EVs. The two automakers are contributing to a $130 million Series B investment round in which the BMW Group becomes an equal equity owner along with Ford. Ford said its making its additional investment to help accelerate further development of solid-state vehicle battery technology.

Eric Walz    May 03, 2021 9:15 AM PT
Ford & BMW Boost Investments in Solid Power, a Company Developing Solid-State EV Batteries
Solid-state EV batteries have no liquid electrolyte and can be made smaller, lighter and more energy dense.

Ford Motor Co and German automaker BMW announced on Monday they are boosting their investment in battery startup Solid Power, a developer of solid-state batteries for EVs. The new investment follows Ford's initial investment in the company in 2019 and BMW's separate investment in 2017.

The two automakers are contributing to a $130 million Series B investment round in which the BMW Group becomes an equal equity owner along with Ford. Ford said its making an additional equity investment to help accelerate further development of solid-state vehicle battery technology.  

Also participating in the funding round was Volta Energy Technologies, a venture capital firm spun out of the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory that's focused on investing in breakthrough energy storage and battery innovations. 

Ford and BMW have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to supply solid-state batteries for their future electric vehicles.

"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing in it directly as well as accelerating Ford's in-house R&D on next-generation battery technology," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer. 

Solid-state batteries do not use liquid electrolyte found in conventional lithium-ion batteries. As a result, the battery can be made smaller and lighter with greater energy density, giving EVs a longer range.

"By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume and ultimately deliver lower costs and better value for customers," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of electrification subsystems and power supply research. 

Colorado-based Solid Power uses sulfide-based solid-state battery cells and the company has demonstrated its ability to produce and scale the next-generation all solid-state batteries using existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing lines.

The solid state batteries developed by Solid Power use lithium metal as the anode (conductive) material. However lithium metal anodes are not typically used in rechargeable batteries due to their tendency to short-circuit due to "dendrite" growth. 

Dendrites are tiny, rigid tree-like structures that can grow inside a lithium battery. The needle-like projections are called "whiskers" which can pierce the separator inside a battery leading to a short circuit or battery fire. Dendrites also increase unwanted reactions between the electrolyte and the lithium, which eventually leads to premature battery failure.

To overcome this challenge, Solid Power's batteries have a solid electrolyte-separator layer, which allows for uniform plating and stripping of Li metal without formation of dendrites or consumption of the electrolyte. The result is an energy dense, highly reliable all solid-state battery capable of delivering high power and a longer range for EVs.

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Solid Power's solid-state battery development and manufacturing has been confirmed with the delivery of hundreds of production line-produced battery cells that were validated by BMW and Ford late last year, formalizing Solid Power's commercialization plans with two automotive partners.

Under the new agreement, Ford will receive full-scale 100 ampere hour (Ah) cells from Solid Power for testing and integration into its future vehicles starting next year. Solid Power already is producing 20 Ah solid-state batteries on a pilot manufacturing line using lithium-ion production processes and equipment.

Ford also has a separate joint development agreement with Solid Power to develop and test its specific battery cell design and help streamline Ford's integration into future vehicles.

BMW first partnered with Solid Power in 2017 on solid state EV batteries. BMW Group will also receive full-scale 100 Ah cells for automotive qualification testing and vehicle integration beginning in 2022. 

"Being a leader in advanced battery technology is of the utmost importance for BMW. The development of all solid-state batteries is one of the most promising and important steps towards more efficient, sustainable, and safer electric vehicles. We now have taken our next step on this path with Solid Power," said Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management BMW AG, Development. "Together we have developed a 20 Ah all solid-state cell that is absolutely outstanding in this field."

Both Ford and BMW are ramping up their EV plans. BMW Group said it will have around a dozen all-electric models on the road as early as 2023.

Ford's all-electric Transit van is set to go on sale late this year and the all-electric F-150 arrives by mid-2022. Ford will be the first automaker in the U.S. to offer commercial customers fully electric van and full-size pickup choices.

In Europe, Ford is moving to an all-electric lineup by 2030. The automaker is also investing $1 billion in a new electric vehicle manufacturing center in Cologne to build a high-volume all-electric passenger vehicle for European customers starting in 2023.

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