Volkswagen Aims for Solid-State Battery Production by 2025

The automaker is increasing its stake in battery company QuantumScape.

Volkswagen is increasing its stake in California battery company QuantumScape in order to accelerate the development of solid-state batteries, which proponents claim will offer performance superior to the lithium-ion batteries used in current electric cars. VW hopes to set up a solid-state battery production line by 2025.

The automaker began investing in QuantumScape in 2012, and now plans to pour another $100 million into the U.S. company's coffers, according to a Volkswagen press release. Axel Heinrich, Head of VW Group Research, will also take a seat on QuantumScape's board.

As the name implies, solid-state batteries replace the liquid electrolyte of lithium-ion batteries with a solid material. Proponents claim this offers greater potential energy density, meaning more electricity can be stored in a given space. Volkswagen predicts that solid-state batteries could increase the range of the current e-Golf to around 750 kilometers (466 miles), up from the 300 km (186 miles) the car is currently rated at on the European testing cycle (the e-Golf gets 125 miles of range on the stricter U.S. testing cycle).

VW claims a solid-state battery pack wouldn't have to be bigger than current lithium-ion battery packs to achieve that kind of range increase. Unlike the liquid lithium-ion electrolyte, the solid electrolyte is also nonflammable. But while Volkswagen claims to have tested QuantumScape batteries "at automotive rates of power," no supplier has developed a commercial-grade version of those batteries suitable for use in production electric cars yet.

Not that companies aren't trying. BMW has partnered with Colorado-based Solid Power to develop solid-state batteries. Fisker claims this new technology will give its EMotion electric car 500 miles of range. Toyota plans to use solid-state batteries in its first mass-market electric car.

While VW aims to start solid-state battery production by 2025, the automaker isn't waiting that long to launch a wave of electric cars. A family of models based on VW's recent I.D. concepts will appear over the next few years, with the U.S. slated to get the I.D. Crozz crossover and Microbus-tribute I.D. Buzz in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Volkswagen plans to launch 50 all-electric models across multiple brands by 2025.