BMW invests in solid-state batteries with ‘2-3X’ energy capacity for next-gen electric cars

BMW becomes the latest major automaker to invest in bringing automotive grade solid-state batteries to production after announcing a new partnership with Solid Power.

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, but now they are announcing a partnership with BMW to bring their technology to electric cars.

Doug Campbell, founder and CEO of Solid Power, commented in a press release today:

“Since the company’s inception, the Solid Power team has worked to develop and scale a competitive solid-state battery paying special attention to safety, performance, and cost. Collaborating with BMW is further validation that solid-state battery innovations will continue to improve electric vehicles. We’re looking forward to working with BMW on pushing the limits on developments around xEV batteries.”

The startup recently moved into a bigger facility and it has increased its hiring effort in order to deliver a new round of battery cell prototypes. With the help of BMW, they will validate those cells to bring them up to automotive level for the automaker’s next generation of electric vehicles.

Electrek’s Take

BMW is adding itself to a rapidly growing list of automakers betting on solid-state batteries as the next step for electric cars.

The biggest proponents so far have been Hyundai and Toyota. The latter of which confirmed today its plan to bring the technology to production as soon as 2020, which could be the most aggressive timeline at this point.

Fisker also claimed an important solid-state battery breakthrough, but commercialization is not expected until 2023.

Bosch and Dyson are also working on the technology with similar timelines.

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 in large-scale and at an attractive price point competitive with li-ion.

It’s an important technology to follow, but 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.

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