Ford and BMW Invest $130 Million in EV Battery Development

Our Daily Planet

Ford and BMW are leading a $130 million investment in EV battery start-up Solid Power, the companies announced Monday. Solid Power makes solid-state batteries, which don't use the liquid electrolyte found in the lithium-ion batteries used to power most electric vehicles. The batteries can be lighter and hold more energy, but they cost more than traditional lithium-ion batteries and are still in early development. The new round of investment gives Ford and BMW testing and in-house manufacturing. Both Ford and BMW aim to have solid-state batteries in cars within the next decade.

Why This Matters

Car companies have long been allies of the fossil fuel industry. Now they are pivoting and expanding into EVs, not only pledging to reduce emissions but to go fully electric in coming decades. And they are investing in technology development, making it clear that this is more than just marketing. It helps that the Biden Administration is investing $174 billion to encourage Americans to buy EVs and meet with industry leaders to discuss EV infrastructure. Still, some experts say that won't be enough to convince the public. The tech that offers drivers the best EV experience possible while also making production a breeze, might just do the trick.

The Way of the Future

Solid-state batteries work by using a solid polymer to carry power throughout a battery instead of a liquid lithium solution. This process allows more lithium ions to be packed into a smaller, lighter space. These batteries can extend how far one vehicle can go on a single charge. This design could lessen pressure on budding charging infrastructure while also increasing the attractiveness of EVs, but the technology isn't yet ready for the road. That's where Ford and BMW come in. Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer, believes that solid-state will overtake lithium-ion batteries in the near future, telling CNBC, "We think it's realistic that by the end of this decade, there's a good chance that this is something we can go into production with." BMW also hopes to have its first solid-state demonstrator vehicle out by 2025.

Tech Bang!: Why Solid State Batteries Could Become The New Standard, April 13, 2021.

Despite Ford's continued investments in Lithium-ion batteries, the company also has $185 million in a new battery lab to manufacture batteries on-site. Tesla currently manufactures its batteries in-house, and General Motors has invested $4.6 billion in EV battery plants for its growing EV fleet. Nearly every car company is entering the EV game, and many are competing to see who can build the best battery (and best supply chain). But experts say they have a long road ahead of them. "Battery innovations are not overnight," said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne National Laboratory's Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. "It can take you many years. All sorts of things can happen."


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