The Volkswagen Group just increased its stake in QuantumScape with an investment of up to $200 million in the U.S. solid-state battery developer. This funding comes two years after VW invested $100 million in the secretive battery startup and makes Volkswagen its largest automotive shareholder.
QuantumScape began in 2010 as a Stanford University spinoff and was originally funded by ARPA-E for its “all-electric battery.” That idea was soon abandoned for a lithium metal solid-state approach.
According to VW: “This battery technology has advantages over the present lithium-ion technology: higher energy density, enhanced safety, better fast charging capability and — above all — they take up significantly less space.”
“Solid-state’ is synonymous with ‘lithium metal anode,’” according to battery expert David Snydacker, in an earlier interview. He notes that “many generations of battery scientists have tried and failed to create a commercial viable lithium metal battery that is rechargeable.”
Other investors in QuantumScape include Kleiner Perkins, Prelude Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Capricorn Investment Group, and Khosla Ventures. QuantumScape’s CEO Jagdeep Singh is the successful founder of Lightera and Infinera. Dipender Saluja, managing director at Capricorn Investment Group is on QuantumScape’s board, as is VW’s Axel Heinrich. Bruce Sohn, former president of First Solar once served as president of QuantumScape.
Other companies working on solid-state batteries include Ionic Materials and Solid Energy (GM is an investor). Sakti3, acquired by vacuum builder Dyson for an ill-fated EV, was developing solid state batteries, as was the Bosch-acquired Seeo with its polymer electrolyte. Toyota has made significant investments in solid-state battery development.
Volkswagen has been working with QuantumScape since 2012 and been in a joint venture to enable industrial-level production of solid-state batteries since 2018. It’s a testament to the difficulty of developing a new battery technology that it has taken more than a decade to bring this product to the edge of industrial production.
Greater energy density is the most important driver of solid-state lithium metal batteries as it enables longer driving range and a smaller cheaper battery pack. The world’s automotive giants are in an expensive technology race for the lead in electric vehicles — and they are not slowing down.