(Bloomberg) — QuantumScape Corp. is appointing a key Panasonic Corp. executive to its board, beefing up crucial manufacturing expertise at the electric-vehicle battery company as it attempts to build its cells at scale.
Celina Mikolajczak, vice president of engineering and battery technology for Panasonic Energy of North America, is also the first woman to join its current 10-member board, which includes venture capitalist John Doerr and Tesla Inc.’s former chief technology officer, J.B. Straubel.
QuantumScape is among a group of companies developing solid-state batteries, which could dramatically speed up EV adoption by providing automakers with a safer, cheaper alternative to current lithium-ion technology. After clearing a technical hurdle in February, the company is building a 200,000-square-foot (18,600-square-meter) pilot line in California to make prototype cells for partner Volkswagen AG and possibly other automakers.
“We’re going to use her beyond a director. We’re going to have her looking at our tool decisions, process decisions,” QuantumScape Chief Executive Officer Jagdeep Singh said in an interview. “She can save us a ton of trouble. Instead of having to make the mistakes and learn on our own, we can learn from her mistakes.”
Before joining Panasonic in 2019, Mikolajczak worked on battery development for ride-sharing vehicles at Uber Technologies Inc. She was also an engineer at Tesla, where she helped develop battery cells and packs for the Model S, X and 3 vehicles.
QuantumScape determined it can bring on Mikolajczak while she remains at Panasonic without creating conflicts of interest or endangering either company’s trade secrets.
“We compete in two different segments of the market and we thought the expertise that Celina brings is so helpful to us,” Singh said. “She’s a known quantity.”
QuantumScape is trying to make lithium-metal batteries, which represent a leap in lithium-ion technology. Panasonic isn’t yet attempting that feat and is sticking with the conventional lithium-ion batteries that are standard in the automotive industry.
Read more: QuantumScape’s $20 Billion Leap From SPAC to Battery Future
Mikolajczak’s appointment also gets QuantumScape one-third of the way to complying with a California law that requires public companies with at least six board members to have three female directors by the end of this year.
While QuantumScape says its batteries could offer about 50% more range than current commercial battery technology, the company has yet to demonstrate it can manufacture its new battery on a mass scale. The company must prove it can to become commercially viable.
That uncertainty, combined with the stock’s surge, has drawn attacks from short sellers and made the shares volatile. Shares of QuantumScape plunged as much as 16% Thursday after hedge fund Scorpion Capital published a report saying the company was a “scam.” The startup pushed back against that allegation, offering a 10-point rebuttal.
“QS stands by its data, which speaks for itself,” the company said in a statement, which it also tweeted. “We have provided higher transparency than any other solid-state battery effort we are aware of.”
The company raised more than $700 million by going public through a reverse merger last year with blank-check company Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. QuantumScape raised another $463 million last month to build its new battery pilot line in California, dubbed QS-0.
(Updates with company response to short seller report in penultimate paragraph.)
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