From The Mobilist Inbox This Week
Pivot at Solid Power? In December, Solid Power, the Denver-based solid-state battery startup, announced a big achievement — it had scaled up its pure lithium-metal anodes to an industry-standard, 20-amp-hours, an impressive 22-layer cell with specific energy density of a whopping 330 watt-hours per kilogram. It had a couple of serious flaws — performance plunged during fast-charging and at room temperature. But the company said it was working on that, and expected better performance this year. At the time, industry darling QuantumScape had produced only a single-layer cell. And, for public confidence of its progress, Solid Power had even sent its cells for independent, third-party validation, and expected results in a couple of months.
Early this month, the company announced a big new investment — Ford and BMW were leading a $130 million infusion of cash. In part, Solid Power planned to use the money to scale up to 100 Ah cells, the size required for commercial EVs. The company said it had overcome its fast-charging and low-temperature shortcomings and was pushing ahead. One thing caught my eye — unlike prior news releases by the company, the announcement said nothing about lithium metal, which was strange since most experts view the possibility to use lithium metal and its much higher specific energy density as the biggest rationale for going to the trouble of developing solid state technology. I asked Solid Power, Ford and BMW whether the cells they were describing had lithium-metal anodes. All three responded “Yes.”
It was surprising, then, when Solid Power announced yesterday that it is now producing a silicon anode. It said it will upgrade a 2 Ah silicon-based cell (five by 10 cm in size, in 10 layers) to 20 Ah by the end of this year, and 100 Ah next year. The silicon anodes will be ready to be in cars in 2026. This is all about being a platform play, the company said — it will produce silicon and lithium-metal anodes. Will McKenna, Solid Power’s spokesman, said the company expects its lithium-metal cells to be ready for EVs in 2027, the very next year after the silicon.
Yet, to my knowledge, Solid Power had never before spoken publicly about an intention to produce silicon anodes, nor of itself as a…