BMW, like many other automakers, is looking to crack the solid state battery problem and get the technology to market (and in its EVs) quicker than the competition. The manufacturer entered a joint partnership to develop solid state batteries for automotive use with Solid Power, which is also working with Ford towards the same goal.
Now BMW has announced that it will “start the next phase of joint research and development,” and that it wants to use cell pilot production lines from Solid Power at its own Cell Manufacturing Competence Center, which it opened last year. The goal behind this was obviously to hasten the development of automotive solid state batteries and get them in a series production vehicle.
According to Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management BMW AG, Development,
BMW remains committed to the pursuit of all-solid-state batteries, a technology which we believe has significant potential for the future. We look forward to working even more closely with Solid Power and adding the capability to produce solid-state cells based on Solid Power’s designs at our own pilot facility. We expect this agreement to accelerate the installation of our solid-state prototype line and our companies’ mutual goal of commercializing this promising cell technology.
Before BMW begins operating this prototype production line, though, the manufacturer will first send send personnel over to Solid Power for training purposes. And even once it is operational, the press release doesn’t make it sound like the automaker will be able to produce its own solid state cells for automotive use - these will come directly from Solid Power, which plans to send the first ones to BMW for testing this year.
And solid state batteries won’t feature on the automaker’s Neue Klasse line of bespoke EVs the first of which will debut in 2025. Powering those will be a refined Gen6 version of the lithium-ion batteries it uses in its current electric models, offering a 20 percent improvement in energy density.
These new cells ditch the Gen5 cells’ prismatic design and become cylindrical, with heights varying between 95 millimeters and 120 millimeters - this suggests Neue Klasse battery packs may not be flat on top, allowing the manufacturer to vary the height of the pack to, for instance, lower the floor where occupants feet would sit so as to not push their knees up like in many current EVs.
BMW doesn’t state its plans once the time comes to phase out the Gen6 cells, and whether it will keep trying to improve lithium-ion tech or if it then plans to move to solid state. It probably all depends on how quickly it and Solid Power will be able to bring about breakthroughs that would shorten this type of batteries’ path to being viable for an automotive use.