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  • G. David Felt
    G. David Felt

    QuantumScape, The Next Solid-State Big Thing for EVs?

      QuantumScape has announced that they now have four large OEM Automakers signed on to use their solid-state ceramic battery in future EVs. Who is on board and what is the big deal about their Solid-state batteries?

    QuantumScape is on a mission and their mission is as follows:

    Let's get to the nuts and bolts of this battery company and answer the first question that many would want to know, "Who are the companies that have signed on to use QuantumScape's battery technology or invested in the company?".

    • Volkswagen
    • Toyota
    • Daimler
    • Ford
    • Honda
    • General Motors
    • Mitsubishi
    • SAIC Motors
    • BMW
    • Nissan

    quantumscape-will-now-sell-its-solid-state-batteries-to-a-fourth-carmaker-182980.pdf

    If we are to go by the source they have in their SEC filing, one could imply that this newest top 10 auto maker could be Stellantis, the joint merge of FIAT, Peugeot and Citroen as their global Profit verses Revenue was a healthy $205.6 Billion. You can review the SEC filing above and come to your own conclusion for the newest auto company to join the QuantumScape wave of support.

    One could say why would the newest company that has signed on to take a considerable pre-production chunk of battery supply be Stellantis? The thinking is as follows, Stellantis this newest combined company would be #3 on the list above for Profit versus Revenue. QS announcement stated the following "recently signed an agreement with a fourth automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM), a top-ten automaker by global revenues.

    QuantumScape or QS as we will call it from now on is based in San Jose, California. QS has stated that they will provide enough cells to this new OEM to allow full testing in a pre-production auto for 2024 when these new cells and BEVs will go on sale.

    QS moves forward in America and Europe with the Auto Industry; the Asian rim is not being forgotten as QS has opened R&D center in Kyoto working with Honda and a complete subsidiary unit in South Korea. 

    Mullen Automotive on February 28th, 2022, via a press release stated the following about their testing on the QS Solid-State batteries.  Per CEO and Chairman of Mullen Automotive.   “The test data collected shows an impressive outcome and future for solid-state batteries. To sum up, we tested our 300 Ah (ampere-hour) cell which yielded 343 Ah at 4.3 volts, and the results surpassed all expectations. We can say with almost certainty that this technology, once implemented on the Mullen FIVE, will deliver over 600 miles of range on a full charge. The future is bright for Mullen Automotive.”

    Mullen's testing of solid-state polymer cells reveals that potential for a 150-kilowatt-hour battery pack that delivers over 600-plus miles of range and highlights an 18-minute DC fast charge which can yield over 300 miles of range. Mullen is working towards utilizing solid-state polymer battery packs in its second-generation Mullen Five EV Crossovers, with in-vehicle prototype testing set for 2025. Mullens First-generation FIVE EV Crossover, due in late 2024, is planned to launch with traditional lithium-ion cell chemistry.

    You can check out the Mullen BEVs here: Shaping the Road Ahead in Electric Automobiles | Mullen (mullenusa.com)

    At this point, one would understandably ask what is so great about their solid-state battery? What is the special sauce compared to other companies we have read about here:

    QS solid-state battery starts with the following:

    • Energy - Significantly increases volumetric and gravimetric energy densities by eliminating graphite/silicon anode host material
    • Fast Charge - Enables <15-minute fast charge (10-80%) by eliminating lithium diffusion bottleneck in anode host material
    • Life - Extends useful lifetime by eliminating capacity loss at anode interface
    • Safety - Eliminates organic separator and replaces with a solid-state separator that is nonflammable and noncombustible
    • Cost - Lowers cost by eliminating anode host material and manufacturing costs

    The benefit here that QS has to offer is that their performance data demonstrates that their proprietary, patented solid-state separator can resist dendrite formation at automotive rates of power. Dendrite formation being one of the biggest problems that reduces battery life in current Lithium-ion cells.

    With this solid-state technology, QS posted the following answers to some of the most common questions people have.

    • What is a solid-state lithium-metal battery?
      • A solid-state lithium-metal battery is a battery that replaces the polymer separator used in conventional lithium-ion batteries with a solid-state separator. The replacement of the separator enables the carbon or silicon anode used in conventional lithium-ion batteries to be replaced with a lithium-metal anode. The lithium metal anode is more energy dense than conventional anodes, allowing the battery to store a greater amount of energy in the same volume. Some solid-state designs use excess lithium to form the anode, but the QuantumScape design is ‘anode-free’ in that the battery is manufactured anode free in a discharged state, and the anode forms in situ on the first charge.
    • What exactly is different about QS separator material?
      • The QuantumScape separator material is a ceramic capable of meeting the key requirements of high conductivity, stability to lithium metal, resistance to dendrite formation, and low interfacial impedance.  These are the key requirements to make a lithium-metal anode, which in turn enables high energy density, fast charge, and long life.  The ceramic itself is non-combustible, making it safer than conventional polymer separators, which are hydrocarbons and so can burn.  The formulation of QuantumScape’s material is proprietary, but it uses earth abundant materials with a continuous-flow manufacturing process, which we believe will make it cost-effective at commercial volumes.
    • What are the main benefits of solid-state lithium-metal batteries compared to lithium-ion batteries?
      • Relative to a conventional lithium-ion battery, solid-state lithium-metal battery technology has the potential to increase the cell energy density (by eliminating the carbon or carbon-silicon anode), reduce charge time (by eliminating the charge bottleneck resulting from the need to have lithium diffuse into the carbon particles in conventional lithium-ion cell), prolong life (by eliminating capacity fade that results from the unwanted chemical side reaction between the carbon and liquid electrolyte in conventional lithium-ion cells), improve safety (by eliminating the combustible organic porous separator and organic anolyte material in conventional cells) and lower cost (by eliminating the anode materials and manufacturing costs).
    • If there is a car accident, how robust is the separator?
      • Ceramics in general are stable to very high temperatures, and our ceramic separator is no exception.  In addition, even at very high temperatures, it does not burn (since it is already oxidized), therefore we believe that it will provide a thermally stable barrier between the anode and cathode.  Our architecture reduces the fuel content of the cell by removing the conventional polymer separator, graphite and anolyte.  Note that we have not completed the development of our multilayer commercial battery cell, and so have not yet conducted safety tests on commercial target batteries and packs.
    • What is the potential for QS battery technology to increaser the range of EVs?
      •  The higher energy density of QuantumScape solid-state lithium-metal cells, at our target of 1,000 Wh/L, would translate to more range in electric vehicles, potentially 50-80% improvement vs today’s leading electric vehicles, depending on the vehicle design.  Thus, for example, a vehicle that gets 200 miles of range could get between 300 and 400 miles of range.
    • Has QS shared cycle life data and if so, what is it?
      •  We have tested our single layer cells to over 1,000 charge and discharge cycles and they have maintained approximately 90% capacity.  If we are able to generate the same level of performance in our commercial battery cells at the targeted level of energy density, this would be the equivalent of approximately over 300,000 miles for a vehicle with a 300-mile pack, or even greater range given the fact that higher target energy density of the QuantumScape cells (1,000 Wh/L) enables even greater range than 300 miles.
    • Is QS truly solid-state? Is there a liquid catholyte?
      •  Most of the benefits of solid-state stem from the ability to use lithium metal as the anode.  Using lithium-metal as the anode requires a solid-state separator that prevents dendrites and does not react with lithium.  Once you have such a separator, you can use lithium-metal as the anode and realize the benefits of higher energy density, faster charge, and improved life and safety. QuantumScape has developed such a separator based on its proprietary ceramic material and uses a pure lithium-metal anode with zero excess lithium to deliver the above benefits.  QuantumScape couples this solid-state ceramic separator with an organic gel electrolyte for the cathode (catholyte).  The ceramic separator also enables our battery design to use a customized catholyte material, better suited for the voltage and transport requirements of the cathode.  The requirements for the ceramic separator are different from that of the catholyte.  The former requires dendrite resistance and stability to lithium-metal.  The latter requires high conductivity (given the thicker cathode), high voltage stability (given the cathode voltage), and the ability to make good contact with the cathode active material particle.  It is difficult to find materials that meet both these requirements and attempts to do so often result in a material that meets neither requirement well, resulting in cells that can fail from dendrite formation while also not providing sufficient conductivity to run at high power.
    • How does QS think about the ability for other technologies to coexist? What else is out there that can have a place in the market?
      • Solid-state lithium-metal cells offer benefits on many major performance dimensions so we expect they will be very popular with the world’s automakers.  However, if we are successful in our development efforts, we believe that the potential demand for our batteries will far outstrips our ability in the short term – and indeed any single vendor’s ability — to produce them.  So, we do expect there will be multiple technologies co-existing in the industry for some time to come.  When one considers other markets such as stationary storage for the grid and consumer electronics, the market is even bigger, so the world will need all its battery factories producing at full capacity to meet the potential future demand.
    • What are the weight and volume benefits of QS Lithium batteries?
      • Specific energy is the term physicists use to refer to gravimetric energy density, i.e., Wh/kg, whereas energy density is the term they use to refer to volumetric energy density.  A cell with higher specific energy will save weight in the batteries themselves and provide additional weight savings in the battery system.  Less weight in the car from a lighter battery system can then reduce chassis weight, tires, brakes, and more, which can improve vehicle performance and efficiency. 

        A cell with higher volumetric energy density will reduce the size of the modules and pack.  This, too, has follow-on benefits at the system level, requiring fewer connectors and cables, and allowing for safe design of the vehicle with more room for crumple zones, as well more comfort with more room for passengers and cargo.

        QuantumScape’s solid-state lithium-metal battery technology is designed to provide both high specific energy and high energy density.

    • What materials are your competitors utilizing to try to enhance EV battery performance?
      • ​​​​​​​Over the years, people have tried to develop solid-state batteries with materials such as polymers, sulfides, oxides, liquids, and composites (which are a mix of other materials, such as polymers and ceramics).  We are not aware of any of these efforts being successful on the metric of delivering long cycle life at high rates of power without requiring elevated temperatures.  Most importantly, to our knowledge none of the competing approaches have presented data showing they are able to prevent dendrites (lithium growths that short circuit batteries) at room temperature and automotive current densities.  To date, the principal way that these competing approaches have avoided dendrites is by compromising test conditions (i.e. low power, short-cycle life, raising the temperature, etc.).  It took us over 10 years, over two million tests, and over $300 million to get to the level of performance we have demonstrated, so we believe this is a very hard problem and will be difficult for competitors to solve. During our development process we also created over 200 patents and applications to protect our unique approach.

    QS has a complete deep dive paper on fast charging performance versus long range driving and how their solid-state battery is delivering on both compared to having one or the other. White paper: A deep dive into QuantumScape’s fast-charging performance - QuantumScape

    While QS has plenty of science for the nerd in all of us at the link above on this white paper about range/fast charging, some of the few things to point out is that they are based on the science delivering in comparison to a company that uses the Panasonic cells in the model 3 & Y.

    The excitement that comes with these battery break throughs is that we see some amazing changes in how EVs will truly benefit society and not just from less noise, pollution from the tail pipe, less heat, etc. QS battery technology aims to deliver on the one biggest complaint people make about EVs, the amount of stops and charging time spent sitting.

    Here is the latest independent 3rd party testing of the QS cells proving they have delivered on their goals for battery performance.

    FINAL-20211027-Q1-1695-Cell-Cycle-Life.pdf

    For those that like science and want a deep dive into the QS battery look here for more white papers covering this technology.

    Blog - QuantumScape

    How big is this one might ask? Just look to what Volkswagen is doing with the conversion of diesel engine plants into EV battery production plants.

    https://www.wsj.com/video/series/in-depth-features/how-vw-is-turning-engine-factories-into-ev-battery-plants/2154BC2F-A246-42E1-9E28-B221CD194678

    Overall history of batteries was a slow glacial pace for some time and then started to pick up as computers helped in the deep science that went into making better batteries.

    From the above we are arriving at the latest 21st century battery cell. The QuantumScape.

    As we move forward in 2022 with many more EVs coming from traditional and startup EV builders, the future would seem bright for the EV revolution and even brighter as Solid-State batteries enter the game field reducing battery death, increasing performance without any penalty and so much more. I leave you with this final comparison image of Conventional Liquid Battery to a QuantumScape Solid-State Battery and ask you, DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR SOLID_STATE EVs?

     

    Building the Best Battery — QuantumScape

    Newsroom - QuantumScape

    Resources - QuantumScape

    Blog - QuantumScape

    Technology - QuantumScape

    Volkswagen, Ford, Other Big Auto Makers Push to Make Solid-State Batteries the Next Big Thing for EVs - WSJ

    QuantumScape partners with 'large' automaker to test battery prototypes | Reuters

    Car Brands by Revenue in 2021 - Global Cars Brands

    EV Manufacturer Mullen Announces Progress on Solid-State Polymer Battery Pack Development (mullenusa.com)


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