The Battery Show catches up with Doug Campbell of Solid Power Inc as he discusses key trends within the industry, current challenges & opportunities and keeping up with market demands.
Doug Campbell is a start-up business veteran with more than 15 years of experience in transitioning early-stage research and development into new product solutions within the cleantech, aerospace, and military markets. Campbell co-founded Solid Power in 2012 based on technology licensed from the University of Colorado Boulder, and this IP portfolio was expanded upon in 2015 with an additional licensing agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Today, the company is a leading innovator in bulk, all solid-state rechargeable batteries.
Which customer or market demands were the biggest drivers of your company’s growth during the past three years
Over the past three years, automotive, aerospace, and niche industrial and DoD applications have driven Solid Power’s growth. In particular, the niche markets mentioned have driven early development of the technology into working prototypes – for example, devices of meaningful scale – which has further driven interest from much larger markets, primarily automotive.
Do you anticipate that those demands will continue to be your biggest growth drivers for the next three years, or are you anticipating new trends?
I expect the demand in the automotive market to continue the trajectory we have seen over the past few years where early interest was largely academic or exploratory in nature, whereas now we see multiple large OEMs claiming solid-state battery technology will be integrated into their EV platforms in the next five to 10 years and beyond. The development of this interest and confidence in solid-state batteries as a replacement for lithium-ion chemistries common in today’s EVs will only continue as the technology is able to realize the performance and safety improvements over conventional chemistries at scale.
What are your areas of R&D focus, and what timeline do you anticipate for bringing your next new products to market? Can you tell us anything about those products?
Solid Power’s main areas of R&D focus are centered on the solid electrolyte material as an enabler of high-capacity electrodes in a rechargeable format. We put a considerable amount of resources towards optimizing both the electrolyte base material and the electrolyte separator as a discrete layer in the cell in addition to the research needed to gain a deep understanding of how our materials interact with the electrodes through cycling. As for bringing new products to market, we expect the first commercial solid state batteries for niche industrial applications to be available in approximately two years. These are products we are jointly developing with our partners in this space.
What new trends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?
The automotive battery space will be a very interesting one to watch over the next five years. I expect to see the emergence of more innovation around the available chemistries, and at the module and pack level as EV adoption increases and more automakers come to seriously compete for growing demand. Further, we will continue to watch emissions policy develop both in the US and abroad in addition to infrastructure development in these markets, as these will be important indicators of market development and demand.
What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry?
Key challenges include an immense downward pressure on cost across the value chain, from OEMs all the way back to base materials suppliers and even mining operations. Additionally, manufacturing scale and transportation regulations represent significant barriers to market entry and profitability in some ways. Where opportunity exists here for Solid Power will be in proving that we can provide an inherently safer product that may allow for new transport classifications to reduce transport burden. Additionally, the existing technology continues to improve incrementally. We’re seeing market leaders in this space developing truly innovative technologies to incorporate lithium-ion chemistries in their EV platforms. Our opportunity will be in providing a solution that can leap ahead in terms of performance over what is available today.
What is your company’s approach to strategic partnerships or joint ventures, and what kinds of partnerships are you most open to exploring?
At this stage, we have engaged in joint development efforts to advance the technology towards automotive-relevant prototypes. This model is consistent with our approach for other, smaller markets as well. While our footprint today and through the next three-to-five years may serve some of these smaller markets quite well, we need to engage very closely with incumbents in the automotive value chain to address this large-market application that is encumbered with both significant development time for new technology integration and the level of regulatory assurance needed to prove a safer and higher-performing solution.
What products will you be featuring at the show this year and what response are you expecting?
Solid Power is pre-product; however, we will be sharing and discussing recent data on our all solid-state cells. We expect the response to be highly encouraging as our results move closer to the USABC standard.
Why are you exhibiting, and what connections do you hope to make at the show?
The Battery Show has been a great event for us over the past several years. We find that nearly all of the automotive stakeholders we are working with or would like to work with maintain a presence at the event. We find that by exhibiting, we can engage with existing and prospective customers in this space all in the same place.
Solid Power Inc will be exhibiting at The Battery Show at booth 1823.
View the full exhibitor list here.