Lithium-metal solid-state battery company QuantumScape (QS) announced that it is working closely with a prospective launch customer in the automotive sector for the first commercial QS product. QS previously disclosed customer sampling agreements with six automakers and a stationary storage provider as well as product tests with some of the largest consumer electronics players in the world, but this is the first time the company has revealed that it’s actively engaging with a launch partner.
The company’s Q2 Fiscal 2023 Letter to Shareholders also included the projection that its launch product, a ~5 Ah cell newly dubbed QSE-5, is capable of offering an unmatched combination of energy density and power performance of better than 800 Wh/L with the ability to charge from 10% to 80% in ~15 minutes.
Additional highlights of QuantumScape’s progress against its four key 2023 goals include:
New Customer Shipments: Shipped high cathode-loading cells to multiple automotive partners—a significant step towards delivering a commercial product. These cells increase cell energy by packing more cathode material into the same area.
Manufacturing Scale Up: Completed the installation of the first of two phases of QS’ fast separator production process that offers the potential for dramatically better throughput. Initial production is expected to begin before the end of the year.
Fast Charging: Demonstrated unit cells capable of meeting the 15-minute fast-charge target, even with a high-loading cathode.
QuantumScape’s technology platform is designed to pair with a variety of cathode chemistries, with the potential to improve the energy densities of today’s Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP)-based battery cells significantly, by pairing those cathodes with Li-metal anodes.
Although some solid-state designs use excess lithium to form the anode, 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.
QuantumScape also uses a proprietary ceramic separator coupled with an organic gel electrolyte for the cathode (catholyte). 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.
The anode-free design enables not only higher energy density via higher cathode loading and a thinner anode, but also higher power density as a result of shortened ion-transport paths. Because the lithium ions in the QS system have a shorter distance to traverse and don’t incur the diffusion penalty of intercalating into a graphite host material—as is the case in a conventional cell—the QS system can plate lithium as fast as the cathode can deliver it. This, in turn, supports the fast charging capabilities of the cell.