German battery start-up High-Performance Battery (HPB) claims to have reached a breakthrough in battery technology by lifting its solid-state technology to production readiness. It’s one of the biggest hurdles of these promising battery packs. While nothing technological seems to be holding back solid-state, ramping them up from laboratory prototypes to commercial level is particularly challenging. But not impossible.
HPB now claims that it has beaten anyone else to the game. And anyone else is a long list of players with QuantumScape, SolidPower, Storedot, and OEM brands like Toyota racing to bring the technology to market as fast as possible. According to CEO of HPB Sebastian Heinz, a Gigafactory is planned in Switzerland “that will cover the Swiss market and produce for further licensees.”
Not the most obvious location, in the sense that Switzerland, with a BEV penetration of 17,5%, isn’t one of the leading electrification countries in the world. Norway can parade itself on a share of more than 80%. The Netherlands and Germany have a higher share also.
However, planning a factory to assemble solid-state packs means that HPB has overcome the difficulties of higher volume production, which is a hopeful sign for the sector. Whether the company will outpace the competition shouldn’t be taken for granted. Experienced companies like Tesla can raise these factories in record time, in less than twelve months, but usually it takes two to three years.
This would coincide more or less with Toyota’s deadline for market introduction of solid-state technology in 2025 if HPB starts building today. But the Bonn-based start-up doesn’t provide a starting date. Furthermore, assembly lines of solid-state technology already exist in Europe. BMW, for instance, has replicated the pilot line from SolidPower in Germany. But SolidPower’s main objective is to produce the electrolyte used in the cells rather than manufacturing batteries.
HPB states that the interest in their technology is great: “We are already holding intensive talks – not only in Germany and Europe. In India, too, people are very open to implementing our technology”, adds Heinz.
Benefits of solid-state
Compared to current lithium-ion technology, the world’s most used battery chemistry for electric cars, the benefits of solid-state technology are higher safety, better longevity, improved conductivity, and a reduced environmental impact.
These are also the qualities that are being stressed by HPB when it refers to “outstanding properties”. Without a liquid electrolyte, these battery cells are less prone to catching fire, and they can handle ten times more charging cycles than lithium-ion cells. They also perform better under cold climate conditions, guarding more of their power because of the improved conductivity, which does away with the necessity of preheating. The much longer lifecycle, finally, reduces the stress on raw materials availability.