Solid Power and BMW’s R&D deal offers a sneak peek into the battery industry’s future

Solid Power, one of the leaders in the race to commercialize all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries, has been stumbling of late. But a new deal with BMW might give it the boost it needs.

After going public via SPAC in late 2021, Solid Power’s share price followed the all-too-familiar SPAC bump then bust, trading for much of this year at a discount to its $10 debut. Then, in late November, its co-founder and CEO, Douglas Campbell, announced that he was stepping down, hastening the stock’s slide.

Campbell said that while the company had been able to deliver sample cells to partners BMW and Ford on time, it was having trouble finding talent to staff its facilities and high-quality materials to make its batteries.

Solid Power was founded in 2011, the year before battery pioneer A123 Systems collapsed. The larger company’s bankruptcy undoubtedly left an impression on the founding team. Instead of trying to compete with large battery manufacturers like LG, CATL, and SK Innovation, Solid Power has long sought to supply larger companies with battery materials that would enable denser, lighter cells.

Still, to win those large, long-term contracts, Solid Power still has to prove that its materials can be mass-produced. Hand-crafting a breakthrough cell in a lab is one thing; making hundreds or thousands of them in short order is another.

Solid Power has been making progress, unveiling a pilot production line in June that went on to make the cells for BMW and Ford. But that line apparently hit a few snags, and production hasn’t been proceeding as quickly as the company would like. It still has plenty of money — over $370 million in cash and securities, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — but it needs manufacturing expertise to surmount whatever barriers it’s encountered.

Enter BMW: Today, the two companies announced an expanded joint development agreement in which BMW pays Solid Power $20 million in exchange for the company’s manufacturing know-how. BMW will replicate Solid Power’s pilot production line in Germany, and it will also send battery and manufacturing experts to Colorado to help troubleshoot the original pilot line.

Solid Power and BMW’s R&D deal offers a sneak peek into the battery industry’s future by Tim De Chant originally published on TechCrunch

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