What is the vison? Why the Greek names for products?
Today, pioneers with 2018 ideas are limited by 1990 battery technology. Although they are often ridiculed for having outlandish ideas, we believe they are the creative geniuses who will push the entire world forward. SolidEnergy wants to help unlimit their creative freedom by providing a new source of energy. We want to transform transportation and connectivity both on land and in air.
From education to entertainment, the benefits offered by our battery technology are far-reaching. For example, high-altitude pseudo satellites flying at the edge of space can provide free access to Wi-Fi™ and education to children in rural areas; shared autonomous electric flying taxis can reduce the commute between downtown and airport to 10 minutes; swarms of drones can light up the night sky in beautifully choreographed light shows; longer-lasting smartphones can enable powerful information networks that can build upon themselves and make society more efficient; clean electric cars can reduce pollution and enable safer, smarter and better connected transportation networks.
SolidEnergy is humbled by the challenge of providing a battery technology for these applications. It is partnering with large battery manufacturers and leveraging existing manufacturing infrastructure and expertise to realize this vision as quickly as possible.
We also want to change the way people look at batteries, period. The battery industry faces a lot of skepticism because it’s a category filled with overpromising and underdelivering. And the batteries that are actually proven are seen as “old power”. They are perceived as limited, static, dirty and controlling. People in general lack interest in batteries because it’s a boring category. They never think about them until they stop working. Then, they are worse than boring, they are annoying.
We don’t want to be another battery company that supplies a boring and static ingredient to our customers. We want to unlimit the potential of energy by collaborating with our customers and developing real, vibrant and exciting products to final users.
We chose Greek names because 3,000 years ago Greek mythology unlimited the collective imagination and connected heaven and earth. In a similar spirit, we want to unlimit creative progress through a new source of energy–an energy where, quite literally, the sky is the limit.
What is the difference between SES cell and conventional Li-ion?
Conventional Li-ion cells use a graphite or silicon anode, and SES semi-solid Li-Metal cells use an ultra-thin and light lithium-metal anode, and a semi-solid electrolyte system. The biggest advantage of SES cells compared to conventional Li-ion is energy density, both volumetric and gravimetric. Conventional Li-ion cells are around 250Wh/kg and 600Wh/L with graphite anode, and 300Wh/kg and 700Wh/L with advanced silicon based anode. Currently, SES cells are 450Wh/kg and 1200Wh/L and have a realistic roadmap to >500Wh/kg and 1400Wh/L.
I see many news articles about “emerging battery technologies” including Li-sulfur, solid-state ceramics, solid-state polymer and silicon that all claim exciting features but don’t have real products. Help me understand what is real and what is fake news?
It’s exciting to see many emerging battery technologies out there. It’s an exciting race to see which technology will become the dominant one and set the new standard for the next 30 years the same way that Sony set the standards for the past 30 years with the introduction of Li-ion in 1990. There are a few very capable young companies out there that are making true breakthroughs.
The trick with battery technologies is that it’s easy to improve some parameters at the expense of other parameters–and really easy to demonstrate something exciting in computer simulation or small coin cells. For example, a professor just claimed to have developed a battery technology that can make electric cars go 500 miles on a single charge when, in reality, the professor only had a few grams of materials. The hypothetical solutions that dominate the media are exciting, but they’re only that: hypothetical.
To determine what’s real and what’s fake, the devil is truly in the details. The best way is to request a sample, not a coin cell but a real cell, and test the core parameters yourselves, including energy density, cycle life, rate capability and safety. Samples won’t be as perfect as commercial products, but they will give valuable insights in terms of how real and promising a technology truly is.
What is your roadmap for entering different markets?
2018: Enter small-scale high-altitude pseudo satellites and eVTOL
2019: Enter mainstream consumer drones
2020: Enter mainstream consumer electronics with a larger-scale rollout for high-altitude pseudo satellites and eVTOL
2021: Enter electric cars
These are not different markets, they are aligned with our technology and business model roadmap. First, we demonstrate our technology in small markets. Then, we demonstrate our business model in mainstream markets and continue to improve technology to enter more rigorous markets.
What is your plan for large scale production for high volume mainstream markets?
SolidEnergy’s semi-solid Li-Metal cell can be manufactured by a conventional Li-ion manufacturing process. SolidEnergy will supply key materials, including electrolyte and anode and key IPs around separator, cell design and assembly, to large Li-ion manufacturers that are already manufacturing high-volume cells for mainstream markets such as consumer drones, consumer electronics and electric vehicles.
Where is your product manufactured? Is the manufacturing process very different compared to conventional Li-ion? Are you open to outsourcing your production to increase volume and reduce cost?
Today the key components including electrolyte, anode, cells and packs are developed and built in our state-of-the-art pilot facility in Woburn, MA. We also import a few components such as cathode and separator and packaging materials.
The SES semi-solid Li-Metal cell manufacturing process is very similar to the conventional Li-ion cell manufacturing process. It’s designed specifically to be so. We are open to anything that helps to unlimit potential, turning vision into reality as quickly as possible.
While we have processes for making these key components in-house, we are aware of their limitations, especially around quality and throughput at large scale, and are eager to partner with larger chemical, material and cell manufacturing companies to develop more scalable and robust processes.
For us, it’s not just about high volume and low cost when we work with companies overseas. It’s to learn from the best in the industry and build a better product, from which more people around the world can benefit.
Does SES make custom battery designs and power solutions?
Absolutely. SES prides itself in collaborating with customers, both cell manufacturers and integrators, to custom design and develop battery solutions. SES’s products are dual use, and we do not specifically develop technology for defense applications.
How can I request a sample?
Please kindly send us an email in the Contact page with a brief description of your application, technical requirements, volume, timeframe and your story. Please understand that while we would love to send sample cells to you, we have a limited production capability, and must prioritize our demand. Please accept our apology if we don’t respond in time.
Many other battery companies in North America have failed, why is SolidEnergy different?
While America invented lithium batteries in the 1980s, it was really the Asians that improved, perfected and commercialized the technology. First, the Japanese with Sony and Panasonic; then, the Korean, with Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK Innovation; and now the Chinese with ATL/CATL, BYD, Lishen, Coslight and Wanxiang.
A combination of environmental needs and government mandates have made China the most aggressive large country when it comes to electric transportation. The desire to leapfrog its Korean and Japanese competitors and dominate the EV market and to be part of the most exciting revolution since the smartphone has led to a gold rush for cutting-edge battery technology in China. In contrast, we don’t see anything remotely similar to this kind of effort in terms of size of funding and longevity of political support in North America.
After almost three decades of development and hundreds of billions of dollars invested in Asia with the large Japanese, Korean and Chinese cell manufacturers, there now exists an extensive ecosystem in terms of skilled labor, generations of accumulated expertise, training programs, supply chain, customers, machine and component service providers, and shipping logistics, etc. that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world. Even Tesla is heavily relying on Japanese engineers from Panasonic for its gigafactories, and GM is relying on Korean engineers from LG Chem for its cell production.
Many former large battery companies in North America failed to realize the scale of challenge they had to face competing head-to-head with large Asian battery companies. A123 tried but failed after a billion dollars and 10 years.
Many younger and smaller battery companies in North America are so focused on specific technology development, that they lose sight of the overall cell performance and are unable to deliver real samples after many years while they remain in R&D mode and lose momentum and speed.
SolidEnergy was founded when A123 went bankrupt and they spent their first three years within the A123 incubator learning the lessons from A123. SolidEnergy realizes the challenge of competing with Asian cell makers and designed its semi-solid Li-Metal manufacturing process to be a drop-in to conventional Li-ion manufacturing process. So rather than competing with Asian cell makers, SolidEnergy can now partner with them and leverage their existing infrastructure and expertise to get the technology fast.
SolidEnergy’s mindset is also different from that of other younger companies. While it invests heavily in R&D, it doesn’t focus on individual technology development. Instead, it rigorously focuses on overall cell performance. Whatever exciting new technology we develop, we must demonstrate it in real pouch cells. A technology can’t be advanced just for the sake of being advanced. It has to improve a core parameter that customers care about; it has to improve the final-user experience.
SolidEnergy understands the importance of speed, especially delivering products to customers fast. Customers are impressed by exciting new technology. At the same time, they also want something that they can use reliably today. The list of contracts we’ve won has been growing consistently, based not only on technology, volume and cost, but also the ability to deliver quickly. The first mover has a lot of advantage in the battery industry. And we’re determined to retain that leadership position.
SolidEnergy’s board and employees are very diverse. While the company is based in Massachusetts, almost no one is actually from Massachusetts. This brings a broader global perspective to SolidEnergy.
SolidEnergy still has a lot to prove, and only time will tell if it will write a new chapter for the battery industry. With our unwavering vision for progress and proven team of experts, we’re confident it will.