BMW plans to make a demonstration car that runs on a Louisville company’s experimental batteries within two years, accelerating the startup’s pace toward commercial production.
The German auto giant, an investor in Solid Power Inc. (Nasdaq: SLDP), revealed Friday that it will use its innovation center outside Munich to speed the development of vehicle-scale batteries designed by Solid Power and to have a driving demo car by 2025.
“BMW remains committed to the pursuit of all-solid-state batteries, a technology which we believe has significant potential for the future,” said Frank Weber, board member of the management group for BMW AG, Development, in a statement. “We expect this agreement to accelerate the installation of our solid-state prototype line and our companies’ mutual goal of commercializing this promising cell technology.”
The demonstration vehicle announcement included a target of Solid Power making cells for vehicle-sized batteries by end of this year.
The announcement adds to last month’s partnership deal with BMW allowing the automaker to build a pilot battery production line in Germany for its vehicles after working with Solid Power on developing the solid-state batteries.
“Expanding our relationship with BMW is further evidence that both companies believe in Solid Power’s technology development and the value of solid-state batteries. We look forward to working side-by-side with BMW’s world-class battery team,” said David Jansen, interim CEO, president and chairman of Solid Power.
Solid Power, which is opening a production facility in Thornton, is developing solid-state batteries that use layers of solid electrolyte made from sulfides to replace the liquid electrolytes typically used in lithium-ion car batteries today.
Solid-state batteries are expected to be safer than the liquid electrolyte, less prone to catching fire in accidents or when they overheat from malfunctions. They’re also expected to be lighter, faster-charging and able to power cars longer distances between charges, Solid Power says.
The company has been delivering 20 amp-hour battery cells to BMW and other partners for testing in recent weeks, a prelude to putting together the first EV battery cells using the technology.
The BMW demonstration car is likely to use batteries around the 70-amp-hour size, said Will McKenna, Solid Power spokesman.
BMW’s plan to work on the demonstration car’s batteries at BMW’s electric vehicle manufacturing competency center outside Munich will essentially lend the large manufacturer’s resources and expertise to Solid Power’s battery development, McKenna said.
“It’s super exciting for us,” he said.
Solid Power continues to work on battery technology with other automotive partners such as Ford.
Ford and BMW invested $130 million in Solid Power in 2021, joining funds associated with Hyundai and Samsung and battery maker A123 Systems as some of its major investors.
SK Innovation, a South Korean battery maker that supplies batteries to Ford, bought a $30 million stake in Solid Power as part of the reverse-merger SPAC deal that took the company public just over a year ago.
The company’s business model is to establish the production process and design for solid-state batteries and then license that to automakers while becoming a supplier of the sulfide-based electrolyte powder needed to produce the batteries on a large scale.
Solid Power’s factory in Thornton will quadruple its manufacturing footprint and give it 25 times more production capacity for the electrolyte powder than its Louisville headquarters and research site can make.
Nine-year-old Solid Power grew out of technology licensed from the University of Colorado-Boulder and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Solid Power employed 127 people this spring and planned to expand its staff by dozens of positions this year.
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