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Photo: Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

Two companies today are disclosing a multi-million dollar investment in the solid-state battery startup Solid Power: chemical company Albemarle (a major lithium supplier) and Korean auto supply company Hanon Systems.

The big picture: This is another sign of the intensifying race to develop solid-state batteries for use in electric vehicles. It's a major technological challenge but holds the promise of developing safer and more energy-dense alternatives to today's lithium-ion batteries that have liquid electrolytes.

What they're doing: Albemarle and Hanon are investing through Volta Energy Technologies, a relatively new venture that has an agreement with Argonne National Laboratory to help develop and validate promising energy storage technologies.

Why it matters: The announcement signals interest in Colorado-based Solid Power essentially across the EV supply chain.

  • Heavyweights Hyundai, Samsung and battery company A123 Systems have been previously disclosed as backers in Solid Power's $20 million Series A investment round.
  • “Solid Power’s technical advantages — higher energy, improved safety, and lower cost — make them particularly attractive to Volta’s strategic investors,” Volta's chief technology officer Dave Schroeder said in a statement.
  • Volta did not disclose the amount of their contribution to that $20 million.

The intrigue: A123, Hyundai, Samsung and Volta are also among the backers of a the Massachusetts-based solid state battery startup Ionic Materials, which is using a separate, polymer-based tech.

“They are probably hedging their bets. Although both companies are developing solid state batteries, they are using fundamentally different materials...”
“There is no consensus as to which material will eventually be commercialized first or at the largest scale.”
— Christopher Robinson, senior analyst, Lux Research, tells Axios

What's next: Robinson estimates that solid-state batteries are roughly a decade away from commercial deployment in EVs, but notes "in the battery industry and in the automotive industry, 10 years isn’t really that much time."

  • Solid Power is creating a small manufacturing facility for its lithium-metal batteries in Colorado. It's initially eyeing what the company has called "beachhead" markets.
  • Quartz, in an in-depth item on the company last month, notes they have "secured contracts with companies in the pharma, defense, and oil and gas sectors to test batteries for different applications."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.