In 2010 the first Nissan Leaf electric vehicles were delivered to excited customers across the United States, and the only model in Tesla’s showroom was the Roadster. Back then the future of electric vehicles (EV) was promising yet complicated. Most EVs didn’t have much range and battery charging took so long that many customers had to plug in their cars overnight. If electric vehicles were going to compete with traditionally powered cars, then massive work needed to be done to improve the range and charging times of batteries. Luckily, 2010 also saw the formation of QuantumScape, a company focused on improving EV batteries for a more sustainable future. Ten years later, QuantumScape promises to have a high-powered, fast-charging solid-state battery in mass-production by 2025.
Founded by CEO Jagdeep Singh and Stanford professor Fritz Prinz, QuantumScape saw the potential for EVs to replace internal combustion engines. They dedicated themselves to improving EV batteries, and soon automaker Volkswagen (VW) saw the potential in them, investing a total of $300 million over the past eight years. Bill Gates, Continental, and many others also fund the enterprise, and their investment might pay off soon. QuantumScape is going public, with a $3.3 billion valuation, through a merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. (KCAC). KCAC is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) operated by automotive industry professionals. SPACs are a popular way to raise money in public markets in 2020, and this deal is the latest SPAC merger since EV company Nikola went public in June, according to Business Insider.
QuantumScape is set to receive one billion dollars from the deal, and Singh told CNBC that he will use the funds to construct factories enabling them to mass-produce their new solid-state battery. Future Car noted that this announcement follows the 2018 joint venture with Volkswagen to prepare and manufacture solid-state batteries on a mass scale. What makes solid-state batteries so special? Solid-state batteries are the next stage of evolution after the lithium-ion battery that we’ve become familiar with. Solid-state batteries are more energy-dense, less flammable, last longer, charge faster, and cost less than a lithium-ion battery. These next-generation solid-state batteries achieve this performance largely from a use of solid electrolytes, instead of the liquid electrolyte solution in lithium-ion batteries.
The performance of QuantumScape’s solid-state battery is truly shocking. Jagdeep Singh told CNBC that their batteries will give EVs between 50% to 100% increased range in the same size battery pack and that the batteries can be fast-charged in under 15 minutes. These advancements would certainly make electric vehicles more competitive against their fossil-fueled rivals, and QuantumScape hopes it will lead to a more sustainable future. Before you think it’s too good to be true, Singh shared with CNBC reporters that VW has already tested QuantumScape’s batteries in their labs in Germany, and VW announced that the samples were producing automotive rates of power.
Solid state batteries have been around since the 1950’s and are used in devices such as pacemakers, RFIDs, and other wearable devices, but in the past, they had trouble producing the higher rates of power required to drive automobiles. Through obsessive research, QuantumScape found the secret to high-powered, solid-state performance. “We’ve addressed most of the science risks that were ahead of us when we started the company,” Singh told CNBC, “and we feel like we’re ready to actually go public.” Singh also shared that the product will take 5 years to reach consumers, not because the research is still in progress, but because the automotive industry is extremely careful about the technology they put in cars. QuantumScape will go public by the end of 2020 and will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “QS.”