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QuantumScape's Solid State Batteries Have Significant Technical Hurdles To Overcome

Brian Morin profile picture
Brian Morin


  • QuantumScape's science is very good.
  • But their batteries are small and unproven - not yet as big as an iWatch battery, and never tested outside a lab.
  • There are significant risks associated with solid state batteries that have not been overcome - a list below.
  • They will likely never achieve the performance they claim.

Author's Note (January 13, 2021): In response to questions below, I have made the following clarifications to the text:

  • "Overstated Successes -> Power": Clarified cycle references.
  • "Other Significant Challenges -> Lithium Autoignition": Added references for autoignition of lithium metal.
  • "Other Significant Challenges -> Vibration and Dendrites": Added a reference on garnet electrolytes that discusses dendrite formation at cracks.
  • "Overstated Successes -> Low Temperature": corrected a mistake where I had misread the units on a QS graph. The conclusions are the same.

Given QuantumScape's (NASDAQ: NYSE:QS) recent IPO and the subsequent runup in their stock, it is interesting to discuss both their considerable successes as well as the significant challenges that remain in order for them to achieve their stated performance. In this article, I will discuss mostly the technical aspects related to the possibility of achieving a successful product. In later articles I may revisit the possibility of QuantumScape achieving a business success, and also under what circumstances an investor can achieve a financial return. These three outcomes (working product, business success, investment return) appear completely decoupled.


Let's start by saying that building a solid state battery that will function at the rates and temperatures needed for real world applications is hard - very, very hard. So hard, in fact, that nobody has done it. I've read many dozens of research papers where scientists have tried, and tout their ability to get one or more features to behave, but then apologize for the lack of a complete working battery, and lay out the significant challenges ahead. Much of the below is an interpretation of their technical presentation, which can be found here, and the webinar, which is stored on YouTube here. So far, they have:

  • Electrolyte: a free standing, thin solid electrolyte that will sit between the anode and

This article was written by

Brian Morin profile picture
Dr. Brian Morin is currently CEO of Soteria Battery Innovation Group, a company has technology to make all lithium ion batteries inherently safe, and is taking it to market through a consortium of companies who are dedicated to lithium ion battery safety. Brian also serves as Director and Vice President of the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries. Brian has a PhD in materials physics from the Ohio State University, and has authored over 250 global patent applications on subjects including molecular magnets, plastics additives, textiles, advanced fibers, textiles and lithium ion batteries.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are long TSLA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

I've owned Tesla since 2016, and have been selling slowly for a year. However, the stock keeps going up so my holdings increase. :-)

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

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Comments (459)

Dr Investor profile picture
BREAKING NEWS: QuantumScape ($QS) announces over 800 cycles at more than 80% capacity retention with one-hour (1C) charge/discharge rates in their commercial area format at zero externally applied pressure (atmospheric pressure only).

This is a true industry first. No other solid-state-battery contender has been able to make a solid-state battery that works without an externally applied pressure, which typically makes solid-state batteries impractical for commercial EV use.

Other developments:

They have now increased their layer count to 16.

They are installing new automated continuous flow engineering lines, which will increase their capacity for the production of the ceramic separator film four-fold. The highlights of this new automation system are high-throughput metrology equipment, highly scalable digital architecture, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. This investment will create the manufacturing blueprint for the QS-1 joint venture with Volkswagen and separator production facilities.

They are receiving the long-lead-time tools for the QS-0 prepilot facility. It will go into production in 2023 for the first commercial prototypes (B samples) to be installed in OEMs' field-test EVs.

They will deliver the first commercial cells (A samples) by the end of 2022.

Commercialization is expected in 2024–2025.

They now have over 550 employees.


A samples (final commercial format, ⪆ 10 Ah): late 2022
B samples (mass-produced final commercial format for OEM EV field-testing): 2023
Commercialization: 2024–2025

@Dr Investor Thanks for the link and the update. QS is making progress. This release had significantly more granularity than the last one, though it completely failed to present a precise roadmap through the commercialization process. Its new "milestones" are more detailed, but remain vague.

There's plenty of room in the BEV market for two entrants. We'll learn more about SLDP soon.

I can't believe that QS wants to compete with the gigafactories that have a two decade head start by making batteries. That adds magnitudes more capital requirement and introduces a whole other set of execution challenges. I would have thought it would have its hands full just getting its products through processes that would make them viable to OEMs.
Skaterdude profile picture
@Dr Investor "over 800 cycles at less than 80% capacity fade"
I think you meant "over 800 cycles at less than 20% capacity fade"?

It's a pretty gcompelling report, as you noted.
Dr Investor profile picture
@Skaterdude Thanks. I corrected it as "at more than 80% capacity retention."
Dr Investor profile picture
Re: The upcoming QuantumScape class-action lawsuit.

I talked to the general counsel of a large firm today. He is a very smart, experienced, and knowledgeable. Here is what he said: The judges [in general] are very stupid. They are in no capacity to understand technical subjects. The orders issued by the judges are written by their clerks. The judge then skims through them for ten minutes and signs them. When I told him the name of the judge, he said that the clerk was probably a first-year Stanford Law graduate.

This young clerk who wrote this order for the judge has based his/her entire knowledge on QuantumScape on this Brian Morin article and the Scorpion Capital short "report," both of which caused $QS to plunge. The former was written by an envious QuantumScape competitor and the latter by a short-seller sleazeball. Should they be the ones to be sued when QuantumScape puts hundreds of megawatt-hours of their prototype batteries in hundreds of EVs of three already-signed-up or more OEMs next year? They are the ones who hurt the investors after all.

For what it's worth, the following is the judge's order—written by his young clerk—to deny the motion to dismiss the case—the opinion is solely based on this Brian Morin article and the Scorpion Capital "report." In fact, it really is not worth anything. The lawsuit will go away in a year when the OEMs start large-scale field-testing of QuantumScape commercial prototype cells.

Skaterdude profile picture
@Dr Investor Thanks for posting that link. Whether or not the decision was written by a "young clerk," the reasoning appears sound from my reading. I don't think this lawsuit is going away anytime soon, but of course that's just my opinion.
RickJensen profile picture
Great point.
How does anyone know that this "young clerk", won't end up solving the issue of requiring separate rules for how quantum objects behave when we’re not looking at them, and how they behave when they are being observed.
Young doesn't equal stupid.
Those are words meant to minimize, not to increase accuracy.
PT Larry profile picture
Thanks for the article.
Have you considered updating this article , Brian?
What a useful article. Thanks

I've found QS' investor material decidedly less useful than its SSB competitor SDLP. I've speculated that it may prove to have more advanced performance, but that that can't be known until further refinement & development takes place, At that point, the trek toward commercialization can commence. I think it is unlikely that it will have the first products in this market.
Dr Investor profile picture
@jarratta Solid Power ($SLDP) does not have a working cell to date. Their latest performance data shows coin cells at undisclosed pressures (probably too high to be commercially practical) struggling to maintain cycle life at C/5 (5-hour charging). They had no new development since they went public months ago when this data was published. If you look at their commercialization date on their presentation, it is years after QuantumScape's ($QS) late-2024 date, but I doubt they will ever achieve that. If you are invested in $SLDP, chances are that you will lose it all. QuantumScape has a lithium-metal cell vastly superior to any lithium battery in the market today, and so far, they have been ahead of schedule with their plans for late-2024 commercialization. This article by the battery competitor Brian Morin spreads misrepresentations and falsehoods.
RickJensen profile picture
@Dr Investor
You know that's not correct.
Yet, you continue to lie about it.

"Then on August 7, 2021, three engineers donned protective Tyvek “bunny suits,” entered the dry room, and drew voltage from the largest prototype lithium-metal battery to date."


And that was last year.
Here's where SK-I has paid SLDP to make the new batteries.

You have no facts, just falsehood.
Dr Investor profile picture
@RickJensen These are links to useless news articles and blogs, not real performance data.

Men in bunny suits holding large battery pouches in their hands reminds me of Nikola ($NKLA) displaying pictures of empty EV shells as if they were prototypes. These pouches may well have cardboard inside them instead of battery materials because if they were working cells, Solid Power's ($SLDP) latest data on their website wouldn't be for coin cells.

The partnership with South Korea's SK is merely a small venture investment by SK in Solid Power. Every battery start-up out there has some company throwing a little cash for them as a venture investment. For these companies, this is the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket.
Dr Investor profile picture
This outdated article is an entire nonsense written by a QuantumScape competitor. The author Brian Morin should be ashamed of himself for purposely spreading false information. There should have been legal action against him, but in time—in less than two years—he will be proven entirely wrong.

QuantumScape is currently building their prepilot plant at their new headquarters they just moved in. They are ahead of schedule on their way to become one of world's largest EV-battery manufacturers.
RickJensen profile picture
@Dr Investor
They have to get a workable cell first. They haven't validated anything but one small cell, certainly not a battery.
Dr Investor profile picture
@RickJensen Not true. QuantumScape has achieved ten layers of their commercial format ahead of schedule (late 2021). They are currently adding more layers, and by the end of 2022, they will reach their planned number of layers for their final commercial cell. Therefore, Brian Morin has proven wrong in claiming that QuantumScape wouldn't be able to produce a multilayer cell.
@Dr Investor

I don't see anything in the article that states QS wouldn't be able to produce a multilayer cell. The author only said (a year ago) that QS hadn't yet produced a multilayer cell. Thats a very different statement.
Wired has a good article on QS...

Did QuantumScape Just Solve a 40-Year-Old Battery Problem?
Earlier this year, the startup claimed to have a revolutionary solid-state lithium-ion cell that could change EVs forever. Now it has data to prove it.
RickJensen profile picture
Yet they can't prove it. They can only prove a small "lab cell".
That's it, just one small cell supported by a lab.
And quote Yoda,......that a battery,..... does not make.

I very much doubt Wired would write they can now prove it when they can't. They check their sources. Perhaps you are wearing a pair of those short shorts Elon was talking about?
RickJensen profile picture
Go back to October of 21.
They could have submitted their 10 layer for validation, but, they didn't.
They stuck with the same old single cell.
Because they can't stack without external cell support.
(Never let someone do your thinking/research for you, unless you trust them with your money)
Peeps stop BS’ing when they run a real EV biz! :)

Dr Investor profile picture
@HaveNoClue You are uninformed again. Fisker has dropped solid-state battery research because they got caught having stolen QuantumScape's technology and a lawsuit was filed against them. Former QuantumScape employee Anna Choi stole QuantumScape's trade secrets and moved to Fisker with a folder of secret documents and a bunch of sample cells. They were on their way at Fisker to build a solid-state battery using QuantumScape's technology until they were caught and a lawsuit was filed.

Dr Investor profile picture
Brian Morin is the CEO of both Dreamweaver International and Soteria Battery Innovation Group, which are focused on developing a new separator material for conventional lithium-ion batteries in order to improve their performance and safety, and they hope to make money by providing worldwide licenses for their product. Obviously, a solid-state battery, which will eventually make lithium-ion batteries obsolete, is the biggest threat to his business, and he used this article to bash QuantumScape's technology purely on speculation and without any facts; however, he portrayed his biased speculations as facts.
@Dr Investor Right, and we are getting news that Quantum scape has successfully layered their technology and now are testing additional layers. If that is successful, they release batteries early next year for testing, bringing them one step closer to production release. Should be interesting to watch.
RickJensen profile picture
@JoeQPublic , Uh,...No they have not. What they have done is make a 4 layer "lab" battery. It's useless as is.
They "hope" to have 8-10 layers by the end of this year.
Dr Investor profile picture
@RickJensen So far, they have been ahead of schedule and all performance metrics have been successful beyond expectations. They are hoping to deliver these 8–10 layer cells to their OEM customers by early 2022 for testing. They aren't disclosing who their OEM customers are, except for their main, nonexclusive partner Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche Group, but virtually everybody, including automotive OEMs, drone makers, utility companies, consumer electronics companies, etc. is interested in their cells, as they will make lithium-ion cells obsolete.
This Brian guy has his own inferior technology and is clearly trying to downplay how Quantumscape will make his technology obsolete.
RickJensen profile picture
@Brian Dipshit Morin And you took the time and energy to create an account, just to blatantly insult him and likely have your post deleted for being a troll. I'm sure who has the issues here.

As the CEO of QuantumScape suggested today, there is no scientific data available to the public indicating that any other company is closer to mass producing SSBs. Hence if you think otherwise please provide a proper link.. Sorry but a link to an article saying "It's not yet available, but the Chinese company is confident .." doesn't do it. Same for a picture with a nice red car..

RickJensen profile picture

@Kt_QSW He'd say that, but he doesn't even believe that. Solid Power has fully function 20Ah packs that are currently being tested by F and BMW. Meanwhile QS has a bench battery, that they haven't even stacked, or packaged.

Singh would say that because that's the ONLY way the QS will catch up with Solid Power. Push the definition to it's most extreme timeline.

But that won't matter, Solid Power will beat them to mass production (late this year) and in autos by 23-24.

Lets hope QS gets their "lab" battery layered into a pack at some point in time. Until then, it's not a battery, it's a cell.

@RickJensen "Being tested": running 1000 cycles takes a few months. Has Doug Campbell shared any performance data? Otherwise one can only speculate..

RickJensen profile picture

@Kt_QSW He has stated on occasions some of the attributes:

"In addition to enabling continuous discharge rates (up to 5C) that go beyond electric vehicle acceleration performances, Solid Power’s 10-layer 2Ah pouch cells are showing stable early cycling at near room temperature while the corresponding double layer pouch cells have already surpassed 250 stable cycles. Further advancements are anticipated before entering the formal automotive qualification process.

Solid Power has also demonstrated even more impressive results with the company’s latest electrode compositions, which will move to the production line in 2021, including:

-10 °C operation

50% fast-charge in 15 minutes at room temperature

Separator thickness as low as 25 microns.

The transition of Solid Power’s new electrolytes, binders and electrode designs to the company’s continuous roll-to-roll production line will result in further improvements to specific energy, energy density, cycle life and charge rates. These improvements will translate into increasingly larger capacity cells culminating in full-scale cell demonstration by the end of 2021, the company said.

At least 2 companies (one is CATL) are much closer to mass producing SSBs. The QS' CEO sounds fishy and I've no interest in investing in this company.insideevs.com/...

RickJensen profile picture

After coming back to digest this, I'd say the author was almost completely correct about this as an investment. Just looking at this as simple as possible, you have QS with a "single" cell. Much tweaking can be done to a single cell. When you get a full production stack come tell me and I'll wake up.For now Solid Power, has a solid lead. 20Ah packs and they are out there in real-world testing. The QS battery is very much a "lab" baby. It may never get out of the lab.We shall see but I'd not buy into this based on a single cell, still in the lab, not stacked, with no production template even designed.

For the average investors, QS faces no hurdle in becoming a penny stock. No anodes or cathodes (but perhaps more hot air) could make a difference! :) 

This article is solid - pun intended! :) Here’s another one! Enjoy! seekingalpha.com/...
The author has published inaccurate information. In the YouTube video Jagdeep Singh clearly states there is no anode. Yet the author has published:

"Electrolyte: a free standing, thin solid electrolyte that will sit between the anode and cathode. While we don't know much, it does deliver some relevant performance."

I would disregard his conclusions.
ransim7222 profile picture
@Objective See This is a quote from the article. "Lithium Metal Anode: They are using a thin lithium metal anode, which will help them achieve high energy density...someday." I hope this helps the misconception of a battery without an anode.
@ransim7222, both you and Objective See are correct. There is no anode in the Quantumscape cell as constructed, but the lithium anode appears and grows (up to 20 microns at 4 mAh/cm2) during charging, but then can disappear after full discharge.
The author made a good point that QS could potentially make batteries for portable electronics. It's low hanging fruit relatively speaking. Being able to charge your phone in 15 mins and only having to do so once every few days seems like a game changer, and may be overlooked when valuing the company. Considering 1.5 Billion phones were sold in 2019 with 5G potentially accelerating this number to 2 Billion by 2024, if QS can get just 5% of this market, and assuming a $20 revenue per phone battery, that's $2 Billion for just phone batteries, not to mention tablets, watches, drones, etc. Maybe someone can model this better but I think just portable electronics are enough to justify a $20 Billion valuation, and then there are EVs....
Regarding dendrites, I would urge all readers to research the miracle of aluminum oxide, which Quantumscape is using inside its patented LLZO separators, at concentrations I have not seen anywhere else. This is just one of many tools the Quantumscape technology offers to fight dendrites. Ion Storage Systems, a company that could actually become a serious competitor for Quantumscape, also uses aluminum oxide, although their tech (which they claim is low-cost) looks more expensive to me.
Himalayani profile picture
@torridgrowth the structure looks similar as QS, but does it share formal experimental data to public with known conditions?
Dr Investor profile picture
@torridgrowth Thanks for the heads-up. We will probably see a lot of attempts to infringe QuantumScape's patents in the next few years. One such example was Fisker, with a former QuantumScape employee taking their trade secrets with her to make a solid-state battery for them. QuantumScape successfully sued and Fisker has given up.

Mr. Morin has made some changes to his article. Regarding his updated comments on low temperature operation, he compares the Quantumscape (QS) low temperature material performance to NMC 811, which he states as having an energy capacity of 200 Ah/kg. NMC 811 is a recent development (VW announced less than a year ago they would be rolling it out over the next year), and I doubt that QS used that material in its test cells. In fact, a recently published Quantumscape patent application (US 20200395584A1), NMC 622 material is used for testing. NMC 622 has a capacity of about 180 Ah/kg, and this number probably applies to more idealized (lower) C rates than Quantumscape used (C/3). If you extrapolate QS' low temp data to 30 C, it appears that 160 mAh/g (equivalent to 160 Ah/kg) may be possible, not too far from the 180 Ah/kg maximum capacity of the material. The difference could be due to charge/discharge rates, limitations of the Quantumscape technology, or it could be related to catholyte contained within the Quantumscape cathode (as mentioned in QS patent filings).

The low temperature limit for automotive operation is generally stated as -25 C, which is probably why QS showed -25 C data for C/Si Li-ion on its low temp material performance chart. Interpolating and integrating the QS low temp data, I arrive at approx 320 Wh/kg for the QS active specific energy capacity for C/3 rates at -25 C. This is just slightly under half of the low 700-ish ideal energy capacity of NMC 622 raw material, not anywhere near an 80% loss. At a temperature of 0 C, possibly a more realistic level of steady state automotive conditions in cold weather without battery heaters, the QS cell delivered active specific energy capacity of 480 Wh/kg, about 2/3 of the ideal room temp performance.
Tech note from Quantumscape CTO: www.linkedin.com/...
Unfortunately IMO repeats the same obfuscations as the original data ppt. Reports only energy "retention" and energy "targets" instead of actual energy density data, says the DSC graph represents "safety" even though it does not include their liquid catholyte (which he never mentions).

"We believe that safety in our cell will be improved relative to lithium-ion because we have replaced the combustible polymer separator with a non-oxidizable (i.e., non-combustible) separator that is thermally stable to much higher temperatures than polymers, so it will act as a more effective barrier between anode and cathode."

Yep, they're a separator company. No mention that their tech is even a solid electrolyte. Refers only to it as a "barrier", not as an ionic conductor.
Quantumscape's SEC filings discuss the catholyte as being part of the cathode, and hence that could be why they do not spend a lot of disclosure on it. A recently published Quantumscape patent app described tests of a cathode swollen with liquid catholyte, in which the NMC binders and additives were added to the catholyte itself, further obscuring the boundary between catholyte and cathode. In truth, there should be no need for free liquid catholyte in a true solid state battery, and I don't recall any of Quantumscape's diagrams including any free liquid. Quantumscape can use sealing methods (provided in that same patent) to maintain conductance between the solid separator and the cathode. Link to patent app: www.freepatentsonline.com/...
15 Jan. 2021
@KHinn You suggest you understand solid-state batteries better than the inventor of Li-ion batteries. Then explain how the QS battery cell could possibly function if the solid separator would not be an ionic conductor. Please refrain from commenting on technical aspects if you do not understand how a battery functions at the fundamental level.
There's an excellent thread on solid-state battery cost analysis by James Frith at Bloomberg NEF here: twitter.com/...

Note that they model a sulfide system like that of SolidPower, not an oxide system like QS, as oxides are expected to be considerably more expensive. There is also some commentary relative to the TSLA 4680.
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