Solid Power is expanding its facilities and the capacity to produce solid state batteries for use in electric vehicles.
The Louisville-based company is moving into a 75,000-square-foot building in Thornton, giving it the ability to greatly increase the production of the sulfide-based electrolyte material needed for the batteries.
The expansion comes as the company prepares to go public. In June, Solid Power announced a merger valued at $1.2 billion with Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. III.
The new building will allow Solid Power to produce about 2,500 kilograms, or 5,511 pounds, of the electrolyte per month, up from the current 100 kilograms per month.
The company will then have space in its Louisville facility to double the footprint of its cell production, said Doug Campbell, Solid Power CEO and co-founder. The company is producing 20 amp hour cells and soon will start producing 100 amp hour cells, which are used in car batteries.
For reference, a cell in a phone is probably three amp hours, Campbell said. “So, 20 is big, but it’s not automotive big.”
Once the company is producing the larger cell, about the size of an iPad, it will start three to four years of formal testing to qualify to provide cells for electric vehicles. Hundreds or thousands of the cells make up a battery pack in a car.
“The qualification process is intended to confirm that the cells do indeed meet automotive specifications and that the manufacturing quality is sufficient at appropriate volumes,” Campbell said.
Solid Power has agreements to supply Ford Motor Co. and BMW Group solid state batteries. Campbell said the company is in discussions with other potential partners.
Development of a solid state battery for electric vehicles has been called “the holy grail” by some industry experts. Instead of liquids, as in a lithium ion cell, a solid state version uses solid materials such as ceramics or polymers through which the charge moves from one electrode to another.
Successful commercial production of solid state batteries, still a work in progress, is seen as essential to achieving widespread use of electric vehicles. The state of Colorado has a goal of getting nearly a million electric vehicles on the roads by 2030 in the drive to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and address climate change.
Roughly 27% of the heat-trapping pollution in Colorado comes from vehicles burning gas, according to state data.
Two big factors in making a switch to electric vehicles are the range of the battery and the cost of the vehicle, Campbell said. The auto industry wants to push the range from the current 350 or so miles to “north of 500 miles,” he added.
“Given that there’s a general recognition that lithium ion has gotten really about as good as it’s going to get, the industry has done a phenomenal job in eking out all the performance gains,” Campbell said. “You really have to look at more energy-dense chemistries, and that’s where solid state comes into play.”
Solid state batteries are faster charging. They don’t contain liquid electrolytes, which are volatile and can be flammable at high temperatures. The batteries are designed with safety in mind, according to Campbell, but the engineering adds costs.
“Solid state is an inherently safer chemistry,” Campbell said.
The challenge has been making a solid state cell in which the ions move as easily as they do through a liquid solution.
In August, General Motors recalled its Chevrolet Bolt electric car after fires were reported, raising concerns about potential defects in the lithium ion battery packs. Hyundai Motor issued a recall earlier this year after reported fires in its Kona electric vehicles.
Several companies, including Toyota, are working to develop solid state batteries. The aim of Solid Power, a spinoff venture of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s engineering school, is to be a leading producer of the electrolyte for the cells.
“We don’t plan to be cell producers long term,” Campbell said. “Rather, we’re going to work with commercial partners to achieve mass production.”
This content was originally published here.