VW-Partner What can the miracle batteries from Quantumscape do?

VW-Partner What can the miracle batteries from Quantumscape do?

VW-Partner What can the miracle batteries from Quantumscape do?

It is the holy grail of battery research: a power storage device that can be charged quickly, works in freezing temperatures, is extremely durable and also has a long range, at the same time light and heat-resistant. Which also does not have to be cooled and can also be produced cheaply. The start-up Quantumscape from Silicon Valley, founded by Stanford scientists, now claims, after ten years of detailed work, hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and more than two million tests, that it has not only located this grail. But to be able to manufacture it in larger quantities by 2024 with the help of. And that in conventional battery factories whose systems only need to be modified slightly. At a plant in Salzgitter, experiments are already being carried out with the batteries.

On Tuesday, Quantumscape CEO Jagdeep Singh and his team presented test data for the first time. This means that your battery can be charged to 80 percent of its capacity in under 15 minutes instead of an hour. It also works at temperatures of minus 30 degrees without a major drop in performance and withstands extreme internal heat development without catching fire. It would be a breakthrough for electromobility, not just for cars but also for airplanes. Almost too good to be true.

Stan Whittingham, co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, is always skeptical about major advances in battery research. “At first I don’t believe anything that is written about batteries,” says the chemistry professor who teaches at Binghamton University in New York. “This is now something like snake oil as a supposed miracle cure.” But the data from Quantumscape impressed the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry: “This is a breakthrough,” he says.

This is made possible with a so-called solid-state battery, which consists of lithium metal and does not require a classic anode made of graphite. The idea is clever: the anode is formed from lithium metal when the battery is being charged. Because the material allows a high energy density, the capacity should be twice as high as that of the current lithium-ion batteries.

Whittingham knows lithium metal batteries well. He has been researching them himself for over half a century. He would have developed such a battery with the highest energy density at ExxonMobil back in the 1970s. However, he stopped efforts because the battery only lasted a few charging cycles. So-called dendrites, the smallest electrochemical deposits that form during charging and discharging and cause short circuits, cause problems.

“We got this problem under control with a special ceramic material,” explains Quantumscape boss Singh. However, the start-up still has to prove that it can produce the cells coated in this way in large numbers and with a low reject rate. Because during production it is important to avoid even the smallest impurity.

If that succeeds, it would have a major impact on the balance of power in the vehicle industry. Quantumscape is the boldest and most important bet of the Volkswagen group, which, with its cordless tsar Frank Blome and the former head of research Jürgen Leohold, sent two top managers to the start-up’s supervisory board. Quantumscape wants to supply all interested parties with the technology in the long term. But Volkswagen, which owns a third of the start-up, has the right, as Singh confirmed to WirtschaftsWoche, to be the first company to use this technology.

In 2024, said Jürgen Leohold on Tuesday, we could be that far. The recently retired VW research manager initially sees the Quantumscape battery in high-priced vehicles. From his point of view, it is extremely important that the battery is fireproof so that it can be used in the mass market.

Incidentally, the start-up has no shortage of big names. In addition to Volkswagen, which has invested almost $ 400 million, Bill Gates and well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalists such as Kleiner Perkins are relying on Quantumscape. Kleiner Perkins boss John Doerr, known as the discoverer and financier of, personally takes care of the company.

The investment has already paid off financially for the shareholders. and currently operates on the New York floor. On Tuesday, Quantumscape passed a market value of $ 21 billion. For comparison: Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, closed on Tuesday at $ 92 billion.

The hype also has to do with the fact that electric car icon JB Straubel sits on Quantumscape’s board of directors, who until recently was chief technology officer of and is now head of the battery recycling company Redwood Materials. Straubel, who is considered more sober, also praises Quantumscape in the highest tones. “I find it particularly appealing that the Quantumscape battery can be recycled even better,” says Straubel.

His long-time companion Elon Musk is skeptical about solid-state batteries. Mainly because of the many failures with her. Contrary to his nature, he prefers to use gradual improvements in traditional lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolytes.

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For example on anodes that are more heavily enriched with silicon. , which wants to manufacture classic lithium-ion batteries more cheaply with an improved design and innovative production methods.

But Musk makes no secret of the fact that he’s flexible when it comes to solid-state batteries. “We’re agnostic about that,” he says. If they actually keep what they promise in reality,

Especially when they can keep up with improved traditional lithium-ion batteries in terms of cost. The latter should fall below the magic threshold of 100 dollars per kilowatt hour in the next three years. Then electric cars will catch up with combustion engines when it comes to component costs.

Quantumscape and Tesla agree that the price of the batteries will determine which technology prevails. It is quite possible that both will exist side by side for the time being. But for that, Quantumscape has yet to make some breakthroughs.