By Kim Seung-yeon
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- The U.S.-based battery plant run by South Korea's SK On Co. is a possible site that can be considered for the mass production of all-solid-state batteries once they are ready for vehicle use, a U.S. battery developer said Thursday.
"There is no gigafactory work happening currently, right now, we're still at the pilot scale, but that's certainly the intention in the long term," Will McKenna, marketing communications director of Solid Power Inc., said in an interview on the sidelines of CES 2023.
"We need to get the technology to a level where it's ready for vehicle use. And then at that point, SK, Solid Power and its other partners will have discussions about when and where we'll make them," McKenna said.
"(The SK plant) can be a possible site," he said, adding that it's a decision to be made depending on the development progress.
Solid Power, a Colorado-based company, is working to develop and commercialize solid-state batteries for electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries are billed as a game changer for the potential to overcome the weaknesses in lithium-ion batteries widely in use today.
Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte instead of the liquid or gel electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries. That lowers the risk of fire and offers higher energy density than lithium-ion cells, providing a longer range and quicker recharging.
No companies have succeeded yet in the mass production of solid-state batteries due to technological challenges and high costs.
Solid Power, an industry-leading player, began pilot production of its sulfide-based solid state batteries on a small scale in its facility in Colorado, but the company intends in the long term to supply the cell design and materials needed to a partner that can mass produce.
In October 2021, SK Innovation Co., a South Korean energy company, announced a US$30 million investment in Solid Power to work together on cell development and production. BMW and Ford are also among its investors.
"The partnership with SK is really about proving that the technology is suitable for electric vehicles but then also suitable to be produced on a large scale in a gigafactory environment," McKenna said.
SK On, a subsidiary of SK Innovation, has two battery plants in Georgia -- one in operation and the second one to start operating this year. SK On plans to boost the total production capacity to over 150 gigawatt hours annually by 2025.
Solid Power is aiming for a target energy density of at least 930 watt-hours per liter, which would offer a driving range of 930 kilometers on a single charge.
If achieved, it will mean higher performance by about 33 percent than that of lithium-ion batteries, according to SK.
At this year's CES, Solid Power and SK put on display an early prototype of Solid Power's sulfide-based all-solid-state battery with a silicon anode and high nickel cathode.
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