Electric vehicle battery startup QuantumScape said Tuesday that it has begun shipping prototypes of its batteries to automotive customers, a key milestone that it had aimed to hit by year-end.
The company’s shares rose in premarket trading immediately following the news.
QuantumScape said it has begun shipping “A0” samples of its battery cells to its automaker clients. These samples are nearly full-size prototypes that will allow the automakers to test and begin the process of validating the company’s technology for automotive use.
QuantumScape didn’t name the automakers receiving prototypes, but German auto giant Volkswagen is a longtime investor in the company.
The news that QuantumScape is shipping prototypes is an important milestone for the startup, but actual commercial production is still at least a few years away.
QuantumScape has been working for several years to develop a viable “solid-state” battery for electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries are so called because they don’t need the liquid or gel electrolyte found inside existing batteries. A solid-state battery pack can be smaller and lighter than a lithium-ion pack of similar capacity, with much less risk of catching fire.
The technology holds much promise for EVs, but researchers have struggled for years to make a solid-state battery that will hold up over years of recharging. QuantumScape has developed an innovative component – a battery “separator” made of a proprietary flexible ceramic material – that, in lab tests, has given its batteries the ability to survive more than 800 charging cycles.
That’s about the number that an EV’s battery pack would be expected to endure over its lifetime – but scaling up that technology from the laboratory bench to something usable in an EV has been a slow process. Even after today’s milestone, the company isn’t expected to deliver production-ready prototypes to its clients before 2025.
“While this milestone brings us closer to our ultimate goal, there’s still a lot to do before this technology becomes a commercial product, and we now turn our attention to this important work,” CEO Jagdeep Singh said in a statement on Tuesday.
Through Monday’s close, QuantumScape’s shares were down over 73% in 2022.