Doug Campbell credits the success of Solid Power to a combination of a great idea and dumb luck, which is a bit of a downplay of the work it’s taken for the company to get where it is.
The great idea is that the company is well-poised to make buying electric cars more affordable as well as more powerful. To make that happen, Solid Power’s goal is to replace ion-lithium batteries — a $24 billion market — with its solid-state battery technology.
“Lithium-ion is probably as good as it can get right now. It’s 20-year-old technology and it’s been engineered to death,” Campbell said. “There’s a recognized need to look at an alternative to increase performance.”
That’s when Solid Power steps from behind the curtain with its solid-state rechargeable battery. As a spinoff from the University of Colorado Boulder, the company plans to commercialize its next-generation solid-state rechargeable batteries.
The automotive industry is one of the primary target markets for Solid Power’s technology. Solid state has recently emerged as a leader from a technology standpoint, according to Campbell.
“Safety with lithium ion is a concern. It has to be engineered to be safe, which adds to its cost,” he said. “With solid state, safety is inherent, which means lower cost. Battery cost is 25 to 40 percent of the cost of a vehicle.”
Automakers expect what Campbell calls the tipping point — when they’ll be selling more electric cars than combustion engine cars — to arrive in about 10 years. Since there is a long development cycle for them to be ready to roll safe, affordable options off the assembly line, those automakers are looking seriously at getting ready right now.
“That’s why I attribute our success to luck,” he said. “Market forces are driving the need.”
It will take at least five to 10 years before solid-state batteries can be commercialized, Campbell added. Developing the technology as well as getting through the qualification process and protocols will take most of that time.
From 2014 to 2015, Solid Power started ramping up its staff numbers and now is at a pause point in preparation of a Series A equity investment round. The company will be looking for $3 million to $4 million or go as high as $10 million to $15 million. Its commercialization process is as in-flux as the automotive industry, so the final decision on amount still is in process.
Recruiting new team members is one of Campbell’s current challenges since areas such as San Francisco and Boston are the hotbeds for battery research and development.
“There aren’t a lot of other battery companies around here for people to jump ship and go to if we don’t work out for them,” he said, “but that’s going to change.”
Solid Power Inc.
500 S Arthur Ave, Unit 300
Louisville, CO 80027
Douglas Campbell, president and chief executive
Primary service: A CU-Boulder spinoff business and developer of solid-state rechargeable batteries. Target markets include automotive, consumer electronics, aerospace and military.
Growth: 2067 percent (First place, Flight II)