BMW Group, Ford and venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies are leading a USD$130 million (RM536 million) funding round in a solid-state battery startup, Solid Power. The move comes shortly after the Bavarian automaker said it will demonstrate the exciting new battery technology by 2025, as revealed during its Neue Klasse keynote in April.

The cash injection will put Solid Power in a position to produce full-scale automotive batteries, increase associated material output and expand in-house production capabilities for future vehicle integration. Operations are expected to begin in early 2022.

Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell said: “BMW and Ford now share leading positions in the race for solid-state battery-powered electric vehicles. Solid Power now plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company’s pilot production line in early 2022 as a result of our partners’ continued commitment to Solid Power’s commercialisation efforts.”

The BMW Group and Ford aim to utilise Solid Power’s low-cost, high-energy solid-state battery for their electric vehicles in the future. The batteries, which can be produced on existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing infrastructure, are higher in density, thus offering longer range at a much lower cost compared with today’s best-performing lithium-ion battery cells. Solid-state batteries are safer for use as well, with much reduced risk of catching fire.

Solid Power is currently producing 20 ampere hour (Ah) multi-layer all solid-state batteries on the company’s continuous roll-to-roll production line. Both Ford and the BMW Group will receive full-scale 100 Ah cells for automotive qualification testing and vehicle integration, beginning in 2022.

Ford’s manager of electrification subsystems and power supply research, Ted Miller said “solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that’s why we’re investing directly.”

“By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we’ll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes,” Miller added.

Meanwhile, Toyota is expected to unveil a prototype that is equipped with a solid-state battery pack later this year. It has over 1,000 patents involving solid-state batteries, and has teamed up with Honda, Nissan, battery manufacturers and the Japanese government to further accelerate its development.