BMW Gets Ready to Test Solid-State Batteries for EVs

  • BMW and battery developer Solid Power are expanding plans to work together on solid battery technology, with plans to begin testing vehicles using these cells in 2023.
  • The automaker is preparing to build a prototype line at its Cell Manufacturing Competence Center (CMCC) in Germany to test solid-state battery production.
  • BMW says a working prototype with solid-state batteries will be offered before 2025, but the timing of the market launch remains fluid for now.

Several automakers and tech startups have been working on solid battery technology, with the promise of lighter weight and longer range in EVs being just two of the benefits. The race to offer solid-state batteries in production vehicles is probably the single most important one when it comes to EV technology this decade, with a number of developers pursuing different battery combinations and working to scale them up from the lab to production. line.

Battery developer Solid Power, backed by Ford and BMW, is working to use a sulfide-based solid electrolyte in place of the traditional liquid electrolyte in its battery design, with the same goal of providing a lighter battery and a higher energy density, compared to traditional lithium-ion designs.

BMW revealed this week that Solid Power plans to deliver full-scale automotive cells for testing this year. The two companies also expanded their joint development agreement, which allows BMW to build a prototype line in its Cell Manufacturing Competence Center (CMCC) located in Parsdorf, Germany, near Munich.

This expanded agreement will allow BMW and Solid Power to conduct cell development and manufacturing activities at locations owned by both companies.

Before the prototype production line gets rolling, BMW Group staff will work with the startup’s engineers to fine-tune cell manufacturing processes. The automaker says a demonstration vehicle with a solid battery on board will appear before 2025.

“The expansion of our relationship with BMW is further evidence that both companies believe in Solid Power’s technology development and the value of solid-state batteries,” said David Jansen, interim CEO, president and chairman of Solid Power.

Other German automakers are also in the race, with Mercedes-Benz backing solid-state startup Factorial Energy, based in Boston and also backed by Stellantis and Hyundai, as well as solid-state developer ProLogium.

solid power lab

Solid Power has developed sulfide-based solid electrolytes on a pilot scale, but they will soon be ready to test in real cars.

Fixed power

But BMW’s Neue Klasse EVs, due in 2025, won’t benefit from solid-state technology right away. The automaker plans to introduce the next generation of cylindrical lithium-ion cells, called Gen6, in Neue Klasse models, promising a 30 percent improvement in range in the WLTP cycle. So solid-state batteries are not rather around the corner according to BMW’s estimates, though the automaker will begin testing them in prototypes later this year.

“The new BMW round cells have a diameter of 46 millimeters and two different heights of 95 mm and 120 mm,” the automaker said regarding its next-gen lithium-ion cells. “Compared to the prismatic cells of the fifth BMW battery cell generation, diesel’s volumetric energy density will improve by more than 20 percent.”

However, BMW refrained from merely predicting when we will see solid state batteries in its production cars, including the Neue Klasse models. BMW expects 50 percent of its sales to come from battery-electric models before 2030, but whether most of these will be its next-gen lithium-ion designs or solid-state lineups remains to be seen. BMW certainly knows that other car manufacturers also want to be the first to offer this technology in their cars.

But Solid Power has a more definitive estimate, indicating that it expects to scale its electrolyte production to power 800,000 vehicles annually by 2028.

“BMW remains committed to the pursuit of solid-state batteries, a technology that we believe has significant potential for the future,” said Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management for BMW, Development.