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Solid-state battery startup secures backing from several automakers as it claims breakthrough for electric vehicles

Several automakers interested in electric vehicles are turning to solid-state batteries for next-gen electric cars in the “post Li-ion era.”

Now a startup developing all solid-state batteries (ASSB) secured backing from several high-profile investors, including several automakers, as it claims a breakthrough for the technology that will enable better electric cars.

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.

Now they are announcing this week the addition Hyundai, Samsung and several others to the list as they close a $20 million series A round of financing.

They are now working with two automakers and two battery cell suppliers for the auto industry.

Co-founder and CEO Doug Campbell commented on the announcement:

“We are at the center of the ‘electrification of everything’ with ASSB technology emerging as the clear leader in ‘post lithium-ion’ technologies. Solid-state batteries are a game changer for EV, electronics, defense, and medical device markets, and Solid Power’s technology is poised to revolutionize the industry with a competitive product paying special attention to safety, performance, and cost.”

In a press release, the company listed a bunch of advantages that they claim their technology has over current batteries:

  • 2 – 3X higher energy vs. current lithium-ion
  • Substantially improved safety due to the elimination of the volatile, flammable, and corrosive liquid electrolyte as used in lithium-ion
  • Low-cost battery-pack designs through:
    • Minimization of safety features
    • Elimination of pack cooling
    • Greatly simplified cell, module, and pack designs through the elimination of the need for liquid containment
  • High manufacturability due to compatibility with automated, industry-standard, roll-to-roll production

Solid Power said that it plans to use the funds from its Series A investment to “scale-up production via a multi-MWh roll-to-roll facility, which will be fully constructed and installed by the end of 2018 and fully operational in 2019.”

The battery cells produced at this new facility “will be utilized for preliminary qualification of the company’s solid-state cells for multiple markets including automotive, aerospace and defense.”

They have the ambitious goal to “displace lithium-ion as the battery of choice for high performance, mobile power applications.”

Electrek’s Take

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.

Some automakers, like Hyundai and Toyota, seem to be waiting for it in order to invest big in EVs and that seems like a mistake to me.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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