QuantumScape’s all-solid-state battery development lab.
In the field of electric vehicles, some impressive stock markets have debuted in recent years, but the start of the battery QuantumScape The first few weeks of trading were also noteworthy on EV stock prices.
QuantumScape, founded in 2010, was unveiled in a merger with a special acquisition company (SPAC). The company’s share price surged 49% on the first day of trading in November 2020 and soared to a high of $ 131.67 by December 22nd. This is an increase of over 400% in less than a month.
In doing so, QuantumScape is backed by investors’ excitement for its all-solid-state battery technology to eliminate the flammable liquids or gel electrolytes found in today’s lithium-ion batteries, with a stunning $ 54 billion. I got the evaluation of.Moreover, it did not hurt that car giant Volkswagen He was a major investor or was also invested by Bill Gates.
But in late 2020, the hype surrounding the company seemed almost exhausted, and the once ferocious stock lost about 92% of its value due to its record height.
QuantumScape supports the lofty allegations made in 2020, stating that the battery will be in production within the next few years. However, the company faces a long-term, cash-intensive testing path. Competition is only intensifying and Wall Street is still waiting.
Investors may have gone ahead, but the automotive industry is still paying attention. In addition to Volkswagen, QuantumScape said it currently has three other automaker partners who are signed on to test its batteries. So far, those car makers have no name.
It’s not hard to understand why automakers are so interested in all-solid-state battery technology. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are generally very reliable, their size, weight, and charging time make them less than ideal for electric vehicles. Also, EV fires are rare, but lithium-ion batteries can burn for hours and tend to be violent and difficult to extinguish.
The battery that QuantumScape is working on is called “solid state” because it does not require the liquid or gel electrolyte found in existing batteries. All-solid-state battery packs can be smaller and lighter than lithium-ion battery packs of similar capacity, and because there is no liquid inside, they are less likely to catch fire.
In December 2020, QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh promised a reliable all-solid-state battery on a large scale by almost the middle of the decade.This is he Livestreaming Presentation of initial test results:
- The QuantumScape battery can be recharged from 0 to 80% of its capacity in just 15 minutes. This is about half the time required for most lithium-ion EV batteries.
- EVs that use the company’s batteries have a range of up to 80% wider than EVs that use current lithium-ion batteries of similar weight.
- QuantumScape battery cells have “capacity to last hundreds of thousands of miles” over a wide range of temperatures, including temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
“If QuantumScape can incorporate this technology into mass production, it has the potential to transform the industry,” said Stan Whittingham, co-inventor of lithium-ion batteries and winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Said in the press release.
It seemed almost too good to be true. Researchers have been tinkering with all-solid-state batteries for decades, but with no success.
The inventor faced an important challenge. Such batteries are prone to failure due to dendrites (often needle-like structures that form inside in a few weeks) and can short-circuit and shorten their lifespan.
An important innovation in QuantumScape is a separator made of a unique flexible ceramic material that is resistant to dendrites and does not ignite. If it works as intended, the all-solid-state battery should last as long as a regular lithium-ion battery, while retaining all the expected benefits.
QuantumScape will still have at least a few years before it can mass produce batteries. But in lab testing, the technology seems to work.
QuantumScape said in a 2020 livestream test that surged the company’s stock price, a small prototype of the battery withstood more than 800 cycles of charging and discharging. This is about the same number that an EV battery can withstand over its lifetime.
However, the test battery was a reduced version, and it took time to upsize it to a ready-to-use battery in an electric vehicle.
QuantumScape was able to repeat 800 cycles of testing twice last year with a slightly scaled up battery. The bigger ones went through 500 cycles in the test round earlier this year. However, the company still has some development rounds before it can achieve a full-size prototype.
The steps required to get a QuantumScape battery ready for use on the road can take at least two years, and in some cases even longer, to complete.
Once the current prototype meets the 800-cycle test threshold, the company will need to build and test a near-full-size “sample” battery, but it’s still not going to be mass-produced in the end.
Shin told CNBC in an interview in April: Sample products are ready to be sent for testing to Volkswagen and other automotive partners of the company this year.
Next comes the “B sample”. It’s similar to its predecessor, but similar to the machine manufactured on the prototype assembly line and planned to be used by QuantumScape on the final full-speed production line, but with smaller and simpler tools. ..
“The purpose of the A sample is to allow customers to verify that the battery works as expected,” says Shin. “The purpose of the B sample is to take the battery out and use it to make a test car.”
The final step is the final prototype C sample created for a full-scale assembly line. Shin said he is currently expecting QuantumScape to provide C samples in 2024 or 2025.
But even those first test cars wouldn’t be ready for the road, Shin said. Instead, they will be important milestones for the company and its automaker’s partners. Then, the test cars manufactured using these C sample batteries are ready for production.
These development, production and testing rounds require a lot of cash.
Shin said he is confident that QuantumScape has enough cash (about $ 1.3 billion as of the end of March) to provide these C sample batteries to car partners for testing. .. However, more money needs to be raised to build a factory large enough to provide a large supply to automakers.
By that time, it may be competitive.
Toyota In-house developing its own all-solid-state battery, at least one other start-up (based in Colorado) Certain powerSponsorship BMW When Ford motor — It’s going well Started manufacturing original solid-state version Almost at the same time.
Raising the necessary funds for a factory will be difficult in the current economic environment, but Shin is not difficult to raise funds if investors have the opportunity to drive a test vehicle equipped with a QuantumScape battery. thinking about.
“The good news about the US capital markets is that if you have something real and you can prove that the market opportunities are really big, you have a lot of capital available,” Shin said. rice field.