BMW and Ford Team Up In the Most Expensive, Highest-Stakes Race in Batteries

They will battle VW, GM and Toyota to conquer the lithium metal anode

Steve LeVine
The Mobilist
Published in
5 min readMay 4, 2021

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BMW’s iNext concept electric car. Photo: Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty

For seven months, lithium-metal darling QuantumScape has enjoyed an often-fanatical following as the front-runner in the attempt to commercialize next-generation electric vehicle batteries. Now, though, its arch enemy, Denver-based Solid Power, has unexpectedly emerged with a big, $130 million investment led by Ford and BMW on the promise of an industrial-size scaleup of its technology next year.

Which is to say: It’s a race.

Only a little over four months ago, Solid Power announced that it had produced a 22-layer pure lithium-metal test cell at a size of 20 amp-hours, an attempt to capture the much higher energy density possible in such a battery, far greater than ordinary lithium-ion. The cell was relatively large — a bit bigger than a smart phone, and much heftier than QuantumScape’s most recent 2 Ah cell, about the size of a postage stamp. Still, Solid Power’s achievement did nothing to dethrone QuantumScape, which continued to hog the attention.

Yesterday, though, Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell announced a vast improvement in his company’s work: As part of the Ford-BMW investment announcement, Campbell said the company would now make even larger, 100 Ah cells — the size needed for commercial EVs — and deliver them next year. For the subsequent year or so, Ford and BMW plan to install the cells in demonstration vehicles for performance and safety validation. If successful, the cells could be fully ready for commercial use by early 2024 and sold widely in EVs by the end of the decade.

The gap between technical readiness and actual commercial deployment appears to be a cautionary stance since no one knows with certainty whether Solid Power will succeed, nor how much time it will take the automakers to design and manufacture the vehicles that will go around the batteries. But Solid Power’s results so far convinced the two big automakers, in addition to a venture capital firm called Volta Energy Technologies, to put down the $130 million. “We believe that the underlying technology and maturity may be the most advanced in this field,” Peter Lamp, BMW’s head of battery technology…

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Steve LeVine
The Mobilist

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.