Volkswagen AG acquired a five-percent stake in QuantumScape Corp., a battery startup, in a bid to develop technology that could more than triple the range of its electric cars, sources privy with the matter told Bloomberg. The sources disclosed that VW is mulling using energy-storage technology for vehicles for its VW, Porsche and Audi brands.
Tests aimed at demonstrating the viability of the technology on vehicles will be completed in mid-2015. The VW of America unit has options to raise its holding in QuantumScape.
Larger battery capacity and improved safety could enable Volkswagen to gain a technological edge over Tesla Motors Inc. QuantumScape, a closely held company, is currently working on solid-state batteries that could become a viable option to liquid electrolytes like the lithium-ion technology used in electric cars presently.
Compared to liquid electrolytes, the solid ones are burn-resistant and could possibly store more energy and provide more power, thereby allowing EVs to travel a longer distance on a single charge. According to the job listings in QuantumScape’s LinkedIn profile, it is “working on a fundamental disruption in the field of energy storage.”
VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn said in a speech last month at Stanford University in California that he sees “great potential” in the solid-state battery technology that could boost the range of its EVs to up to 700 kilometers (430 miles), which is over three times the range of the electric version of the VW Golf.
On the other hand, the Tesla Model S could travel up to 265 miles on a single charge. Despite the still low demand for EVs, these vehicles would allow carmakers, especially luxury ones, to comply with stiffening emissions regulations.