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QuantumScape, a starter battery backed by Bill Gates and Volkswagen, said its new technology is on track to be able to power inexpensive, long-range electric vehicles within four years.
The company’s lithium-metal battery offered greater testing capacity than current lithium-ion batteries of similar size, could recharge faster, and operate at lower temperatures, the company said on Tuesday. The battery could also be recharged repeatedly without degrading, thus avoiding a common problem with the batteries.
QuantumScape argued that its technology would be cheaper for automakers and provide power to cars over a longer period of time. If the company can manufacture the new batteries in large numbers, they could replace the lithium-ion batteries currently used by companies like You’re here and Chevrolet.
“It’s really our goal, to build a battery that could help electric vehicles become more mainstream,” said Jagdeep Singh, CEO. Fortune. “The potential now exists for this technology to find its way into real cars on real roads over the next few years.”
Still, the demonstrations were performed on a small version of QuantumScape’s battery, the size of a thick playing card, instead of the heavy batteries used in cars. The company has yet to prove that it can manufacture larger batteries and in large quantities.
Volkswagen agreed to invest up to $ 300 million in the startup, took a stake, and also agreed to partner with QuantumScape on a manufacturing joint venture. Volkswagen has said it wants to produce car batteries with QuantumScape technology in 2025.
For QuantumScape, ramping up production will take time. If all goes according to plan, he expects revenue to gradually increase from $ 39 million in 2025 to $ 275 million in 2026 to $ 3.2 billion in 2027.
“We wish it were faster than that, but the reality is you can’t,” Singh said. “Where we are today, we have the materials, we’ve shown that they work, and now we need a good team that knows what they’re doing to increase production and build factories.”
QuantumScape seems to be taking the lead in a crowded area. A number of startups are working on improving batteries, as are the big automakers. Tesla said in September it was planning to change its batteries reduce costs and increase reach without requiring new technology. However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has has already made big promises on batteries and failed to deliver on them.
One of the main innovations of QuantumScape is to replace the liquid in current lithium-ion batteries with a metal strip. This makes batteries smaller and is believed to make them safer, as today’s battery fluid is combustible.
During its demonstrations, QuantumScape said it was able to recharge an 80% depleted battery in just 15 minutes, about a third of the time required by today’s EV batteries. It has also operated the battery in temperatures as low as –30 degrees Celsius. And the company has often recharged the battery over time to show that it can power a car for hundreds of thousands of miles, just as good as current battery technology.
QuantumScape went public last month when it merged with a special purpose acquisition company called Kensington Capital Acquisition. This drew further scrutiny, as other companies that used the technique, such as zero-emission vehicle maker Nikola, later encountered problems.
But QuantumScape appears to be on more solid ground since it has already worked with Volkswagen for several years and has filed copies of its signed agreements with the main manufacturer with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Nikola had not signed an agreement with General Motors when he announced his partnership, and GM ultimately gave up investing in the startup.
Also, unlike other popular startups who later encountered problems, outside experts were able to assess QuantumScape’s new technology.
Stanley Whittingham, professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for its lithium-ion battery development work, approved the demonstration of QuantumScape. The company’s data, he said, backs up his claims and is “something that has never been reported before. If QuantumScape can bring this technology to mass production, it has the potential to transform the industry, ”noted Whittingham.
Other researchers have been working for decades to develop lithium-metal batteries, but without demonstrating all the necessary characteristics, said Venkat Viswanathan, professor at Carnegie Mellon, who advised QuantumScape. “More remarkable, the results of fast charging are unprecedented for lithium metal batteries and even for traditional EV batteries,” he said. Fortune.
QuantumScape CEO Singh said Bill Gates, one of the 10-year-old company’s early investors, gave him advice. “I honestly didn’t think he knew anything about chemistry, and we’re all about chemistry,” Singh said. But “when he thinks that something is important, he can dive really deep and become an expert in it … He went very deep in this field.”
QuantumScape’s board includes Tesla co-founder and former chief technology officer JB Straubel, the well-known venture capitalist of Kleiner Perkins, John Doerr, and Frank Blome, who oversees battery research at Volkswagen.
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