VW targets Tesla with long-range battery tech

The Volkswagen Group could gain access to advanced battery cells that have the potential to increase the range of electric vehicles by 80% as early as 2024, bolstering its efforts to overtake Tesla as the segment leader.

Developed by US 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 on a large scale, the two companies could collaborate to build a 20 gigawatt-hour plant, 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 new funding round. , which would give it a roughly 20% stake in QuantumScape.

Jagdeep Singh, CEO of QuantumScape and one of its three founders, said in a presentation this month that there were two production stages planned for their production joint venture.

“Phase one will be a bit lower volume, around 1 GWh, and phase two will be 20 GWh, which is true gigafactory-scale production,” Singh said. .

The first cells could be produced in 2024 before industrialization really begins 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 said 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,” said Frank Blome, battery cell business manager at Volkswagen Group Components, during a presentation this month.

A VW spokesperson clarified that the tests were carried out at the cellular level rather than in an actual vehicle, and that their results matched those published by the company. Asked if VW would have access to the 20 GWh of a potential plant, the spokesperson said: “We will use the available capacity from the joint venture to cover our own needs initially.”

QuantumScape claims its cells are significantly safer and more compact than those using existing lithium-ion chemistries, and vehicles fitted with them could easily travel over 700 km (435 miles) before recharging in less than 15 minutes. . The company said achieving such performance metrics is the “holy grail” of EV battery development.

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