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Blog | VW Invests in QuantumScape: the competition for battery technology

13th July 2018 | Leave a comment

Last month Volkswagen announced that it has made an investment of $100 million in start-up QuantumScape[1]in an effort to secure its stake in the much-valorised area of solid-state batteries.

Solid-state batteries use both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. This differs to the traditional liquid or polymer electrolytes found in lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries. Solid-state batteries are capable of higher energy density due to their tolerance of higher temperatures. This allows for faster recharging in electric and hybrid cars.

VW is not the first automaker to do so. In December 2017, BMW announced a partnership with the US battery company Solid Power[2]. In addition, Honda and Nissan have both stated that they are researching into the development of solid-state batteries[3], although their specific plans remain unknown.

Whilst large automotive and electronics companies are some of the largest players in solid-state batteries, other companies are making significant progress in this technology area as well. As the chart below illustrates, there are close to 700 companies innovating within SSB, with the top 10 companies holding almost half of those innovations. But the most eye-catching by far is Toyota, which is responsible for 17% of the world’s SSB innovation.

 

 

QuantumScape itself does not focus solely on the development of solid-state batteries. The chart below shows the range of adjacent battery technologies as well as other battery types, including traditional lithium-ion batteries.

 

 

As we can see in the chart below, most of VW’s technologies are within traditional automotive technologies, which is why the investment into QuantumScape makes a lot of sense. They already hold 5 times as many SSB inventions as VW.

 

It can be concluded that VW’s investment is a timely one, acting as an indicator of the general trend of OEMs focussing more attention on electric vehicles and the technology needed to further develop them. Moreover, with the exception of Toyota, which is already ahead of the game with SSB (see first chart), a number of OEMs might follow suit.

 

 

Large companies like Honda, mentioned above with their SSB focus, appear to have only a single innovation within SS, just as VW. So, in investigating the “long tail” of companies seen in the first chart, we have chosen to highlight a few SME or specialized organisations that have been innovating within SSB in the table above. Maybe one of these will be the next target for an acquisition-hungry OEM. Identifying specialised companies across the globe is a time-consuming exercise and no data source is better than the world of patents, which covers the international innovation landscape. And when made accessible, categorised, and available online, it is makes it easy for corporate strategy teams to understand what the large players are doing and where to find potential partners or acquisition targets.

 

To read more on automotive technology patent trends, read our report.

 

[1]https://www.volkswagen-media-services.com/en/detailpage/-/detail/Volkswagen-partners-with-QuantumScape-to-secure-access-to-solid-state-battery-technology/view/7196321

[2]https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-bmw-solid-power/solid-power-bmw-partner-to-develop-next-generation-ev-batteries-idUKKBN1EC16V

[3]https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/21/business/honda-nissan-said-developing-next-generation-solid-state-batteries-electric-vehicles/#.W0Tiptj7RD8

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