Volkswagen Group could get access to advanced battery cells that have the potential to increase electric vehicle ranges by 80 percent as early as 2024, bolstering its efforts to surpass Tesla as segment leader.
Developed by the U.S. startup QuantumScape, the second-generation cell technology relies on a solid rather than liquid electrolyte and lithium metal instead of graphite for the anode. If it can be industrialized at scale, the two companies could collaborate to build a 20 gigawatt-hour factory, QuantumScape said.
In June 2018 the companies first agreed to form a joint venture, and VW announced this summer that it would increase its initial $100 million investment by an additional $200 million following a further finance round, giving it a stake of about 20 percent in QuantumScape.
Jagdeep Singh, the CEO of QuantumScape and one of its three founders, said at a presentation this month that there were two stages of output planned for their production joint venture.
“The first phase will be somewhat lower volume, on the order of 1 gWh, and the second phase will be 20 gWh, which is a real gigafactory scale production,” Singh said.
The first cells could be produced in 2024 before industrialization begins in earnest by 2026. According to its plans, QuantumScape estimates that full capacity would be reached two years later.
Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess wants the automaker to eclipse Tesla in electric vehicle sales and has said that whichever automaker acquires second-generation cells first will have a major competitive advantage.
“At our center of excellence in Salzgitter, Germany, we have successfully tested various QuantumScape cells. The results look very promising,“ Frank Blome, head of the battery cell business at Volkswagen Group Components, said in a presentation this month.
A spokesman for VW clarified that the tests were carried out at a cell level rather than in an actual vehicle, and their results corresponded with those published by the company. Asked whether VW would have access to the full 20 gWh from a potential factory, the spokesman said, “We will utilize the available capacity from the joint venture to cover our own needs initially.”
QuantumScape says its cells are significantly safer and more compact than those employing existing lithium-ion chemistries, and vehicles equipped with them could easily drive farther than 700 km (435 miles) before being recharged in less than than 15 minutes. The company said achieving such performance metrics represented the “holy grail” of EV battery development.