2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Limited EditionEnlarge Photo
Volkswagen will soon decide whether to pursue an entirely new type of battery technology for its future electric cars.
The German carmaker has acquired a small stake in battery startup QuantumScape, and could make use of the company's solid-state batteries.
Like many other makers, VW is expected to launch a battery-electric vehicle that at least doubles the 83-mile range of its current Volkswagen e-Golf, most likely in 2018 or after.
VW will decide whether to get more involved with the new technology before the middle of this year, according to Bloomberg.
The carmaker already owns 5 percent of QuantumScape, but could increase its stake if it decides solid-state batteries are viable for electric cars.
Volkswagen e-Golf (European model) test drive, Berlin, March 2014Enlarge Photo
As the name implies, solid-state batteries replace the liquid electrolyte found in other cell types with solid material.
Proponents of the technology claim the solid electrolyte can greatly increase energy density--meaning more electricity storage capacity for a given battery-pack size.
The solid materials proposed so far are also supposed to be fireproof, which could perhaps abate public concerns over electric-car fires.
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Back in November, Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said he saw "great potential" in solid-state batteries.
In an optimistic moment, he said solid-state batteries could potentially boost the range of an electric car to over 430 miles per charge.
QuantumScape isn't the only solid-state game in town, either.
Volkswagen e-Up test drive, Berlin, March 2014Enlarge Photo
Another U.S. company called Sakti3 is working on solid-state batteries for electric-car applications.
Founded in 2008, Sakti3 has claimed it can double the energy density of today's lithium-ion cells--at just one-fifth the cost.
That would allow batteries to cross the fabled $100-per-kilowatt-hour line, the point at which electric cars become cost-competitive with internal-combustion models.
Sakti3 received an investment from GM Ventures--the U.S. automaker's venture-capital arm--in 2010.
For now though, the Volkswagen and QuantumScape pairing looks like the one to watch, as VW mulls over whether to commit to this new battery technology.