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.
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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 2014
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 2014
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.
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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.