BMW Group and solid-state battery start-up Solid Power are expanding their joint development partnership.
Solid-state battery technology is being worked on widely and is seen as a potential game-changer because, compared to popular lithium-ion or lithium iron phosphate chemistries, it theoretically offers greater range, less mass, and faster charging.
They use solid electrolytes instead of the liquid or polymer gel electrolytes found in current chemistries, including lithium-ion and lithium polymer.
This broadened relationship between the two companies will include BMW Group opening a pilot production line for Solid Power’s prototype sulfide-based solid-state battery cells in Germany.
This follows Solid Power opening its own pilot solid-state battery production line at its own US-based facility earlier this year.
Prior to the installation of this German pilot production line, BMW Group “personnel” will be working “hand-in-hand” with Solar Power employees at its facilities to optimise cell manufacturing processes.
The expanded agreement also includes sharing of Solid Power’s proprietary “all-solid-state electrode and cell manufacturing know-how”, but doesn’t include a license to the company’s intellectual property.
Solid Power expects to provide the sulfide-based solid electrolyte material for the BMW Group’s pilot production line once it’s up and running.
As a result of this expanded partnership, the BMW Group has agreed to pay Solid Power $US20 million (~$A30 million) through June 2024. This is subject to Solid Power achieving “certain milestones” though.
“Expanding our relationship with BMW is further evidence that both companies believe Solid Power is on the right track with its technology development,” said Solid Power interim CEO, president and chair David Jansen.
“I am encouraged by the progress our team continues to make toward achieving our company’s goals. Over the past several months, we began delivering 20 Ah cells to our partners, including BMW, for initial testing and commenced production of our initial EV cells.
“We look forward to bringing our electrolyte manufacturing facility online and commencing the formal automotive qualification process,” Mr Jansen added.
Solid Power was founded in 2011 and was initially funded by Hyundai, among other investors.
In addition to the BMW Group, the company has an exisiting partnership with Ford.
A month ago rival battery startup StoreDot said solid-state battery technology is still at least a decade away.
“It’s crucial that leading battery developers like StoreDot give global automotive manufacturers a realistic and hype-free roadmap for the introduction of extreme fast-charging battery technologies,” said StoreDot CEO Dr Doron Myersdorf in November this year.
“Right now, despite some of the bullish claims by our rivals, all-solid-state batteries are still at least 10 years away. They are certainly no silver bullet for any vehicle maker currently developing fast charging electric vehicle architectures.”
Despite this, a number of suppliers and automakers are gearing up to produce solid-state batteries.
Nissan recently unveiled its prototype solid-state battery production facility at its Research Centre in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.
The Japanese carmaker is leading solid-state battery development for its alliance partners – Renault and Mitsubishi – and plans to launch an electric vehicle (EV) with its proprietary all-solid-state batteries (ASSBs) in fiscal year 2028.
Toyota also said that it has been testing solid-state batteries since 2020 and plans to first introduce them in its hybrid vehicles, before rolling them out in upcoming EVs.
It says a short service life is the primary concern with the solid-state batteries, and is therefore continuing its development of solid electrolyte materials. Colder-temperature performance is also an issue.
Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz announced in late 2021 they signed joint agreements with US-based Factorial Energy to develop solid-state batteries for their vehicles.
Hyundai and Kia have also partnered with Factorial Energy to test its solid-state batteries in their EVs.
In December 2020, Volkswagen-backed company QuantumScape announced it’ll have its solid-state batteries ready for production in 2024, while GM’s battery development centre in Warren, Michigan will develop solid-state batteries among other battery types, including silicon.