Will one or more breakthroughs in battery chemistry be the biggest key to end the reign of fossil fuel–powered vehicles?
In June, I had the opportunity to interview Doug Campbell, the founder and CEO of Solid Power, a developer of solid-state rechargeable batteries. He brought me up to speed on solid-state battery technology and future plans for the company and its battery technology. Campbell told me then that they would have some exciting announcements regarding automaker partnerships in the coming months.
Today, Solid Power announced The BMW Group is partnering with the company to jointly develop its solid-state batteries for use in BMW’s future electric vehicle models. BMW will assist Solid Power to advance its technology to achieve performance levels demanded by its customers.
Seeno, Fisker, Dyson, and Toyota, among many others, are also working on solid-state battery innovations. Toyota, for example, has stated that they hope to “commercialize them (solid-state batteries) by the early 2020s.”
Campbell couldn’t share an exact timeframe when BMW would bring one of its “xEVs” with solid-state battery packs to market, but offered that “We are confident we can field solid-state batteries in commercial vehicles within 5–10 years.”
Expected Range Increases of 2–3 Times Current Li-ion Batteries
Campbell told me that in the near term, Solid Power expects to see a 150–200% range increase with its first-generation cell. With its second-generation cell, the company hopes to reach range increases of 200–300%. If achieved, these increases would clearly be game changing for electric vehicles.
Campbell also expects to be cost competitive with Li-ion batteries, which are headed toward a cost trajectory of under $100/kWh in three to four years (battery cells, at least … if not battery packs). “We have to be there as well,” he says.
The Promise Of Solid-State Batteries for Electric Vehicles
Solid Power’s technology is based on combining an exceptionally high-capacity cathode with a high capacity lithium metal anode and in combination with a high ionic conductivity solid separator. While traditional lithium ion batteries contain liquid electrolytes, Solid Power’s solid-state batteries are comprised of proprietary inorganic materials (sulfides) producing cells with higher energy density and without volatile or flammable components.
Campbell says that their batteries provide substantially higher energy than conventional lithium ion, as much as 2-3 times greater, while also enabling lower-cost systems due to the potential for eliminating many of the expensive safety features typically associated with lithium-ion systems. Two of Solid Power’s key strengths and competitive advantages are in the solid materials they use and their ability to do roll-to-roll coating in house, according to Campbell.
Battery packs are estimated to comprise as much as 25% of the cost of a BEV, and while current Li-ion batteries continue to decline in cost each year, a breakthrough in cost and range would be a game changer for EVs. Incremental improvements in Li-ion batteries, primarily through manufacturing scale and process improvements, will continue to drive prices down each year, but likely at a slower rate in the future (see chart below).
The main problem with solid-state battery technology (and other emerging types of battery chemistries), is that it is still several years away from being commercially available in electric vehicles. However, research firm IDTechEx forecasts the market for solid-state batteries, across all devices, not just electric vehicles, to be $7 billion between 2017–2027.
Background on Solid Power
The company was established in 2012 as a spinout from the University of Colorado Boulder, based on research in solid-state battery technology. The company plans to commercialize its technology for not only battery-powered electric vehicles but also portable electronics, aircraft, and satellites.
As reported in CleanTechnica back in September, the lithium-ion battery technology firm A123 Systems invested an unspecified amount of money into Solid Power.
For a summary of recent EV battery developments, read CleanTechnica editor Zachary Shahan’s article “What Changed In The EV Battery Market In November?,” and check out these previous CleanTechnica articles:
- EV Battery Prices: Looking Back A Few Years, & Forward Yet Again
- Has Samsung SDI Cracked The Graphene Battery Puzzle? New Study Raises Questions
- Toyota & Panasonic May Create Joint Venture For EV Battery Development
- SK Innovation To Invest ~$777 Million Into EV Battery Production Facility In Hungary
- Mercedes Snubs LG & Panasonic & Samsung, Goes With SK Innovation For Future Batteries
- Toyota Exec: Our Solid-State Battery Tech Could Be Game-Changer For EVs, But We Aren’t Backing Away From Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles
- Fisker Aims To Unleash The Potential Of Solid-State Batteries, & Stun With EMotion