2022 ALL STAR | EV INNOVATION
Battery materials scientist, Voltaiq
The spark for Nicole Schauser’s interest in batteries came from a full-on fire.
As a college student, she served as project manager and drove the University of California, Berkeley’s entry into the World Solar Challenge in 2011. In the Northern Territory of the Australian Outback, a competitor’s battery pack caught fire. Their car was engulfed in flames.
The incident resonated.
“What it said to me was that ‘batteries aren’t safe yet,’ ” Schauser said. “Here we are 11 years later, and we still have the same problems.”
Upon returning to school, she joined a research laboratory where she could study lithium metal and dendrite growth. Schauser, 30, now works as a battery materials scientist at Voltaiq, a California company that provides battery intelligence software that can provide real-time and predictive assessments of safety and performance.
With the auto industry transitioning to electric vehicles, recalls associated with concerns in either area can be costly. Yet few automakers have a thorough understanding of the richness of data and tools now available to help avoid those setbacks, she said.
Voltaiq recently added another dimension to its business, offering customers Mercedes-Benz and others a benchmarking index that provides data on various battery chemistries. The data can provide insights that lead to faster decision-making.
“I like that I can take all this work that’s been done in analytics and machine learning and drill it down into something that’s really a tangible product,” said Schauser, who joined Voltaiq in February 2021.
She kickstarted her career with an internship at Sila Nanotechnologies Inc., where she worked on the composition and design of anode material. She then went to University of California, Santa Barbara to complete her graduate studies.
It also proved to be the perfect location for an outdoor enthusiast. Schauser surfs, scuba dives and backpacks. In July, she hiked the 211-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada. It was a trip that motivated her to get back to work.
“We have this amazing planet, and I’d like to keep it livable,” she said. “For myself and for future generations.”