May 4, 2021 - Economy

Auto giants play the long game on solid-state batteries

illustration of a battery with a dollar bill on its exterior.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ford and BMW, along with the VC firm Volta Energy Technologies, are investing $130 million in the solid-state battery startup Solid Power.

Why it matters: Solid-state batteries hold the promise of more energy density, durability and safety than existing battery tech with liquid electrolytes, but successful and widespread commercialization remains a challenge.

The intrigue: The funding also signals how the world's biggest car companies are looking years ahead as they increasingly electrify their fleets.

  • Per the announcement, beyond the funding, the automakers have also expanded their separate joint development agreements with Solid Power.
  • CNBC reports that their interest in solid-state tech is a long game — they note that Ford and BMW are eyeing integration of solid-state batteries into mass-produced EVs by the end of this decade.
  • The two automakers now have equal equity stakes in the Colorado-based startup and will each have representatives on its board, Ford said.

The big picture: The new funding and development agreement comes a week after Ford announced a $185 million to create a battery R&D lab in Michigan.

  • It's an initial step toward potential large-scale manufacturing in the future.
  • Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs said the two developments help to show how automakers are positioning themselves in the increasingly intense competition for batteries.
  • "They are realizing they need to be vertically integrated to some degree on batteries," she said. Krebs also said the chip shortage plaguing the industry has been "eye-opening for a lot of companies."

Go deeper: The mad scramble for electric vehicle batteries

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