VW-backed US battery maker QuantumScape to go public at $3.3bn valuation

Dr Herbert Diess, chairperson of the board of management of Volkswagen AG. Volkswagen has committed more than $300m (roughly R5,038,785,000) to QuantumScape.
Dr Herbert Diess, chairperson of the board of management of Volkswagen AG. Volkswagen has committed more than $300m (roughly R5,038,785,000) to QuantumScape.
Image: Supplied

QuantumScape, the 10-year-old Silicon Valley battery start-up backed by Volkswagen AG, said on Thursday it plans to go public through a reverse merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp, with an enterprise value of $3.3bn (roughly R55,426,635,000).

San Jose-based QuantumScape, a 2010 spinout from Stanford University, said it would form a joint venture with VW to produce solid-state battery cells, starting in 2024, for VW's electric vehicles, and eventually for other car makers.

“Our ambition is to be a (battery) supplier to the industry as a whole,” QuantumScape founder and CEO Jagdeep Singh said in an interview.

QuantumScape is the latest transportation start-up to tie up with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Among the recent SPAC-backed transactions are Lidar maker Luminar, electric truck maker Nikola, electric shuttle maker Canoo and electric carmaker Fisker.

A SPAC is a shell company that raises money through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) to buy a private operating company, typically within two years.

VW has committed more than $300m (roughly R5,038,785,000) to QuantumScape. Other corporate investors include Shanghai Auto, which is partnered with VW in China, and German auto supplier Continental AG.

Venture backers include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. The Qatar Investment Authority also participated in the latest funding round.

Ahead of the merger announcement, QuantumScape raised $500m (roughly R8,399,475,000) from institutional investors, led by Fidelity Management & Research.

The SPAC deal is expected to close in late 2020, when the new company will trade on the NYSE under the ticker symbol QS.

Singh said QuantumScape's lithium-metal battery uses a solid ceramic electrolyte which he said is safer than using a conventional liquid electrolyte. It also eliminates the need for an anode, allowing the battery to charge more quickly - up to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes. Also, its energy density is much higher, exceeding 400 watt-hours per kilogram, which far surpasses 250 Wh/kg for the best current lithium-ion batteries.

“The company has an opportunity to redefine the battery landscape,” said Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, CEO of Redwood Materials, a Silicon Valley battery recycling start-up.

Kensington is a SPAC headed by long-time investment banker Justin Mirro, a specialist in transportation-related deals who will join QuantumScape's board. Kensington's directors include Tom LaSorda, former vice chairperson of Chrysler, Don Runkle, former vice chairperson of Delphi, and Matt Simoncini, former CEO of Lear Corp.


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