Volkswagen-backed Quantumscape, the company that hit the news in December hailing a “major breakthrough” in its quest to commercialise solid-state batteries, says it has cleared another important hurdle.
Solid-state batteries are something of a holy grail for the electric vehicle industry and have the potential to substantially increase driving range and charging speed. But to date, solid-state cell degradation under normal operating conditions (eg temperature) has kept the technology from commercial success.
Having achieved “automotive performance” in a single-layer cell in 2020, Quantumsape says it has now achieved the next step towards overcoming this hurdle, having made a multilayer cell that can cycle 800 times.
In a shareholder letter accompanying its first-ever earnings call, Quantumscape CEO Jagdeep Singh went into technical details to explain why this is important.
“We are pleased to report for the first time that we have made 4-layer multilayer cells in the 30x30mm form factor, and we have now seen close to 800 cycles at 30°C with over 90% capacity retention at both C/3 and 1C rates – substantially similar to the single-layer cells we reported in December.
“We believe these results demonstrate that it is possible to stack our single-layer unit cells, and to do so without adversely impacting the cycle life and capacity retention performance of the cells, i.e., while maintaining performance similar to single-layer cells,” Singh and CTO Kevin Hettrich wrote.
“In summary, we believe better batteries are a critical part of the emerging transformation of the automotive powertrain from a combustion-engine based one to a cleaner electrified version, and more broadly, the transformation of the energy sector in general from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable sources.
“This transformation is, of course, key to creating a more sustainable future, and in the process, we believe tremendous value will be created by those companies who are able to successfully enable this transition.”
Trading after the results were announced saw Quantumscape’s value jump 31.36% to $US66.52 ($A85.73). While this is not yet a return to its $US131.67 ($A169.70) high in December, it would seem that Quantumscape is yet another EV industry-related company that has potential to take advantage of an EV boom.
The company does, however, admit there is some way to go, but says it could have a commercially viable form factor by 2022.
Its recent $US730 million ($A940 million) cash injection via a merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition (KCAC) to list on the New York Stock Exchange plus $US388 million ($A500 million) in a Series F funding round will combine with a further $US100 million ($A1.29 million) from Volkswagen if it reaches a further technical hurdle by the end of the first quarter 2021.
Quantumscape says it believes this will see it through to 2024 when it expects to commence commercial production.
“While there is still a lot of work to be done and we could encounter new challenges as we increase our layer count, this is an incredibly important result, and we are excited to have this so early in the year.
“We now need to make these multilayer cells using our commercial area 70x85mm layers, increase the number of layers, aiming first for 4 layers and subsequently for 8 to 10 layers by year end, optimize the manufacturing processes, and address any new challenges we find.
“We believe that achieving these milestones this year will enable us to deliver our targeted multilayer battery cell as planned, with dozens of layers in the commercial form factor, next year,” Singh and Hettrich wrote.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.