Solid Power is new Pilot Line is a groundbreaking moment in the advance of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles. But don’t count on a revolution in lithium-ion battery chemistry on the line itself. It’s designed that way.
The new facility, unlike the company’s previous pre-pilot line, will be “highly inflexible,” said Doug Campbell, CEO of Solid Power. In the battery world, an inflexible pilot line is a good thing – it means the company is sharpening its manufacturing skills with a view to commercialization. After all, mass production relies on repeatedly performing a series of refined steps without surprises.
The pilot line will make cells between 60 and 100 Ah (ampere-hours), depending on customer requirements — “a fairly large cell,” Campbell said. “That’s all it’s going to produce, and it will produce them at a relatively high throughput — high throughput enough to get multiple OEM partners through a full design freeze, otherwise known as a B-sample validation phase conclusion. “
Think of the B sample as a beta test: the big kinks will be worked out and the top specs will be fixed. However, Solid Power still needs to make some refinements for this, as all battery companies are doing in this phase.
“I don’t want to promise that tomorrow we will get phenomenal performing cells from the band,” said Campbell. “There will be some debugging. There will be some process optimization. Everything scales up, and every time you do, you have to tweak and iterate to replicate what you did on the previous scale. So we have incorporated that into the planning.”
Solid Power aims to deliver the B samples in the first half of 2024, in just two years. After that, the march to production begins in earnest. According to Solid Power’s very realistic timeline, we may have the option of buying a solid-state battery EV as early as 2028.
But Solid Power’s advancement represents more than just a potential incremental change in range and power in the EV world. It probably marks a new phase in the US battery industry.
“We’re in early planning for our next stage of production,” Campbell said, “and here in the United States, this is generally being looked at.”