QuantumScape, the 10-year-old Silicon Valley battery startup backed by Volkswagen Group, said Thursday it plans to go public through a reverse merger with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. with an enterprise value of $3.3 billion.
San Jose, Calif.,-based QuantumScape, a 2010 spinout from Stanford University, said it will form a joint venture with VW to produce solid-state battery cells, starting in 2024, for VW's electric vehicles, and eventually for other automakers.
"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 startup to tie up with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Among the recent SPAC-backed transactions: 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 to buy a private operating company, typically within two years.
VW has committed more than $300 million to QuantumScape. Other corporate investors include Shanghai Auto, which is partnered with VW in China, and German auto supplier Continental.
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, QuantumScale raised $500 million 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 percent 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 J.B. Straubel, CEO of Redwood Materials, a Silicon Valley battery recycling startup.
Kensington is a SPAC headed by longtime investment banker Justin Mirro, a specialist in transportation-related deals who will join QuantumScape's board. Kensington's directors include Tom LaSorda, former vice chairman of Chrysler; Don Runkle, former vice chairman of Delphi, and Matt Simoncini, former CEO of Lear Corp.