Ford might build batteries as soon as 2025, invests in solid-state innovator with BMW

Ford could start manufacturing its own electric-car batteries by 2025, an executive said in a CNBC interview Monday, indicating a change in attitude regarding battery supply at the Blue Oval.

The automaker doesn’t have the scale justify its own battery factory now, but that will change in the next few years with launch of more EVs for the North American market, such as the F-150 Electric pickup truck and E-Transit van, Ford product development and purchasing boss Hau Thai-Tang said on the same day the automaker announced an additional investment in Solid Power, a company developing much-discussed solid-state batteries.

Ford won’t discuss a more specific timeline, but last year Thai-Tang put that breakover number for justifying a battery factor at about 100,000 to 150,000 EVs annually.

2022 Ford E-Transit

2022 Ford E-Transit

However, discussion of production volumes that would justify a factory marks a major shift, as in-house battery production is something Ford wouldn’t previously consider.

Previous CEO Jim Hackett didn’t see an advantage in Ford making its own batteries, but in November 2020, current CEO Jim Farley said the company was considering it. Again, Farley’s comment were tied to volume. He said it would be “natural” for Ford to begin battery-cell manufacturing as EV production volume grows.

The latest comments by Thai-Tang are the first to put a target date on Ford battery production, and a fairly aggressive one, at that. While the Ford Mustang Mach-E is meeting sales expectations, it’s still early days for the automaker’s EV ramp-up.

Solid Power solid-state battery cells

Solid Power solid-state battery cells

Ford last week announced a new battery lab, followed quickly by announcement of its participation—alongside BMW—in Solid Power’s $130 million Series B funding round. BMW becomes an equal equity owner with Ford, with representatives from both automakers joining the company’s board. This follows initial investments by BMW and Ford in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

Colorado-based Solid Power is one of a handful of firms developing solid-state batteries for automotive applications. These companies—and the automakers backing them—expect to achieve benefits like greater energy density and quicker charging compared to current lithium-ion cells.

Under the agreement, Solid Power will provide full-scale 100-ampere-hour cells to Ford and BMW for testing next year. BMW has said it plans to have prototypes solid-state batteries ready by 2025, and production versions by 2030. This was announced before the deal with Soild Power was made public.

Other automakers have plans for solid-state batteries as well. Partnering with QuantumScape, Volkswagen has indicated these batteries could make it into some vehicles, on a limited basis, by mid-decade. Toyota is doing development work in-house, and also seems to be aiming for a mid-decade launch.

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