Early this month, QuantumScape, an ultra-secretive, $4.3 billion battery startup, startled the battery and electric vehicle communities with an announcement: In the fourth quarter, it would go public on the New York Stock Exchange. If everything went right, there would be the prospect of substantial profit for investors including VW and Bill Gates on some $500 million in bets on the company. That was on top of the transformation that the IPO would help bring about in the mass commercialization of EVs.
The surprising thing was that the whole thing rested on a still-uncertain matter: A blockbuster assertion by QuantumScape, not verified by outside scientists, that it was on a short path to a solid state EV battery using pure metallic lithium, a prized material that has been the subject of a decades-long global technology race.
Now, QuantumScape was out with a slide deck that said its battery would propel a mass-market EV about 90% further than conventional lithium ion, charge up in a lightning fast 15 minutes, and cost less than vehicles with current batteries.
To carry out the IPO, QuantumScape said it would use an increasingly fashionable financial arrangement called a SPAC, a fast-lane strategy that speeds a listing while avoiding the usual disclosure requirements. The data-skinny approach was fully in keeping with QuantumScape’s long reputation for obsessive stealthiness, and did not necessarily imply anything sketchy. But it did force experts, not to mention outside investors and everyone else, to more or less simply trust QuantumScape and its new partner, an already-listed shell company called Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp., with which, in line with the rules of SPACs, it would merge. Wall Street, accustomed to the IPOs of no-revenue startups, seemed unfazed to encounter a company with no evidence of revenue or a product…