Report: VW invests in QuantumScape

Volkswagen has invested in stealth battery startup QuantumScape, according to a Bloomberg report, which said VW plans to invest in battery technology as a way to boost the range of electric cars and compete with companies like Tesla Motors. Volkswagen is investigating using QuantumScape’s battery for its cars and VW America bought a 5 percent share, according to the report.

QuantumScape is an early-stage battery startup that has been working on commercializing technology from Stanford University. It was was founded and is being led by Infinera co-founder and CEO Jagdeep Singh, and is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures.

Licensing technology from Stanford, the company has been looking to create batteries that are energy dense as well as safer than standard lithium ion batteries. The company’s technology uses a new method for stacking trace amounts of materials together, which can lead to high energy and power densities, and also higher cycle life than traditional lithium ion batteries.

Several years ago the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program gave Stanford a grant for an “All Electron Battery” project which the ARPA-E described as “a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric vehicles that has the potential to provide ultra-high energy and power densities, while enabling extremely high cycle life.” The tech is supposed to be able to deliver a “quantum leap forward in energy storage,” says the ARPA-E site. That tech is being commercialized by QuantumScape.

Green Overdrive: We Drive VW’s Electric Golf! [video]

For this week’s Green Overdrive show, we take Volkswagen’s Blue-e-motion Golf for a spin. It has four driving modes to tweak the regenerative braking, which I liked, but it won’t be on the market until late 2013, or 2014, which I didn’t like.

VW Takes a Stab at Lightweight, Aerodynamic Design With “Up! Lite”

The way Volkswagen describes its latest concept car — the Up! Lite diesel hybrid coup unveiled today at the Los Angeles Auto Show — you might think the German automaker has taken some cues from the American startups Aptera Motors and Bright Automotive. VW says in its release that the Up! Lite design (variation in the same family as the electric E-Up! concept shown in Frankfurt this year), “underscores just how fascinating a car tuned to aerodynamic perfection can look,” and features ultra lightweight body construction.

But on the outside, the Up! Lite bears very little resemblance to the three-wheeled Aptera 2e or 2h (which prioritize aerodynamics) or the utilitarian Bright IDEA (a fleet van prototype based on the concepts of lightweighting and aerodynamics championed by the Rocky Mountain Institute). The Up! Lite doesn’t achieve the triple-digit miles per gallon boasted by Aptera and Bright. But the sleek and cutesy coup — which VW says “might be launched globally” — gets 70 MPG for highway driving (not too shabby for a four-seater hybrid), according to the automaker, and produces about 40 grams of CO2 per mile.
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Report: Climate Change Is Big Business

For cleantech companies, climate change has been a big deal for some time. But it’s officially become a major mainstream business issue, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “Capitalizing On a Climate of Change,” that says energy and climate policies are influencing the way all companies report their finances, raise capital, and value merger and acquisition deals.

In other words, climate change is evolving from a scientific and public policy issue to a business concern. “Until recently, the impact of climate change on the deal market was barely on the radar of most businesses,” PricewaterhouseCoopers said in the report released Tuesday. “However, national policy action on greenhouse gas emissions is requiring companies in virtually every industry to think about the impacts on energy and climate policies on their business.”

That’s good news for those developing and selling products to help businesses go green and comply with ever-changing energy and climate regulations. And PricewaterhouseCoopers expects climate change to become increasingly important to investors and to companies’ valuations.
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Why Volkswagen Wants BYD in Its Battery Mix

When it comes to potential battery partners for plug-in vehicles, Volkswagen is now a triple-timer: The German automaker has a year-old partnership with Sanyo Electric to develop batteries for plug-in vehicles, and a three-month-old arrangement with Toshiba for an upcoming electric concept — and as of this week, it’s flirting with BYD Auto for a third battery deal. What did VW see in BYD that helped the China-based, Warren Buffett-backed company snag a tentative deal to supply lithium-ion battery technology for upcoming VW cars (the two companies have committed only to exploring options for collaboration)?

According to powertrain analyst Mike Omotoso with J.D. Power and Associates, BYD has a few things that U.S.-based battery startups like A123Systems, Sakti3, Imara and ActaCell simply can’t offer at this point: a major presence in China and significant R&D resources. Omotoso told us in an email today:

China is a very important market for VW (and all other major car manufacturers), so getting their foot in the door for the EV market is crucial. BYD also has a large research capability — they have 3,000 engineers in Shanghai and plan to employ 10,000 more engineers in Shenzhen. So VW can get a head start by using BYD’s engineers instead of starting from scratch themselves.

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