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Exclusive: QuantumScape promised a revolutionary EV battery. Here's why investors are still waiting

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QuantumScape promised a revolutionary EV battery. Here's why investors are still waiting

#QuantumScape #promised #revolutionary #battery #Here039s #investors #waiting

A solid-state battery development lab for QuantumScape.

QuantumScape

The electric vehicle space has seen a handful of impressive stock market debuts in recent years, but battery start-up QuantumScape’s first few weeks of trading were remarkable even by EV stock standards.  

QuantumScape, which was founded in 2010, went public via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. Its stock soared 49% in its first day of trading in November 2020 and had surged to a high of $131.67 by Dec. 22 — a gain of over 400% in less than a month.

That run gave QuantumScape an eye-popping $54 billion valuation, fueled by investors’ excitement over the company’s solid-state battery technology, so called because it does away with the flammable liquid or gel electrolyte found in today’s lithium-ion batteries. What’s more, it didn’t hurt that auto giant Volkswagen was a major investor, or that Bill Gates had also taken a stake.

But the hype that surrounded the company in late 2020 appears to have all but dried up, with the once red-hot stock shedding about 92% of its value from that record high.

QuantumScape is standing by the lofty claims it made in 2020 and says its batteries are still on track to go into production in a few years. But the company faces a long, cash-intensive road of testing ahead. Competition is only intensifying, and Wall Street is still waiting.

Investors may have moved on, but the auto industry is still watching: In addition to Volkswagen, QuantumScape said it now has three other automaker partners who have signed on to test the company’s batteries. So far, those carmakers are unnamed.

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A little piece of flexible ceramic

It’s not hard to see why automakers are so interested in solid-state battery technology. Today’s lithium-ion batteries are generally quite reliable, but their size, weight and recharging times make them less than ideal for electric vehicles. And while EV fires are rare, they tend to be intense and difficult to put out, in part because lithium-ion batteries can burn for hours.

The batteries that QuantumScape is working to develop are called “solid state” because they don’t need the liquid or gel electrolyte found inside existing batteries. A solid-state battery pack can be smaller and lighter than a lithium-ion battery pack of similar capacity, and the absence of liquid inside makes them less likely to catch fire.

In December 2020, QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh promised a reliable solid-state battery, at scale, by roughly the middle of the decade. Here are some of the claims he made during a livestreamed presentation of early test results:

  • QuantumScape’s batteries could recharge from zero to 80% of capacity in just 15 minutes, about half the time required by most lithium-ion EV batteries.
  • An EV using the company’s batteries would have up to 80% more range than one powered by current lithium-ion batteries, with similar weight.
  • QuantumScape’s battery cells were “capable of lasting hundreds of thousands of miles” in a wide range of temperatures, including as cold as minus 22 Fahrenheit.

“If QuantumScape can get this technology into mass production, it holds the potential to transform the industry,” said Stan Whittingham, co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery and winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry, in a QuantumScape press release.

It seemed almost too good to be true. Researchers had been tinkering with solid-state batteries for decades, without success.

Inventors faced a key challenge. Such batteries were prone to failure because of dendrites — needle-like structures that form inside, often in a matter of weeks, that can short circuit them and end their life.

QuantumScape’s key innovation is a separator made of a proprietary flexible ceramic material that resists dendrites and can’t catch fire. If it works as intended, solid-state batteries should be able to survive for as long as a typical lithium-ion battery while maintaining all the hoped for benefits.

QuantumScape is still at least a few years away from being able to mass produce its batteries. But in lab testing, its technology appears to work.

In that 2020 livestream test that sent the company’s stock soaring, QuantumScape said a tiny prototype of its battery held up for over 800 cycles of charging and draining — roughly the number that an EV’s battery would endure over its lifetime.

But that test battery was a scaled-down version, and sizing up to a battery that’s ready for use in electric vehicles has been a slow process.

QuantumScape was able to repeat that 800-cycle test twice last year with slightly scaled-up batteries. A larger one made it through 500 cycles in a round of testing earlier this year. But the company is still a few more development rounds away from achieving a full-size prototype.

‘Sample’ road map

The steps needed to get QuantumScape’s batteries ready for on-the-road use will take at least two years — and likely more — to complete.

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Once the current prototype meets the 800-cycle test threshold, the company will need to build and test an “A sample” battery that’s nearly full size, but still not quite what it plans to eventually mass produce.

Singh told CNBC in an April interview that the A sample product will be ready this year to be sent to Volkswagen and the company’s other automotive partners for testing.

Then comes the “B sample,” similar to its predecessor but manufactured on a prototype assembly line, with tooling that is similar to, but smaller and simpler than, the machines that QuantumScape plans to use on its eventual full-speed production line.

“The purpose of the A sample is for the customer to be able to validate that the battery can actually work as it’s supposed to work,” Singh said. “The purpose of the B sample is to then take that battery and use it to make test cars.”

The last step would be a final prototype, a C sample, to be made for the full-scale assembly line. Singh said he currently expects QuantumScape to deliver C samples in 2024 or 2025.

But even those first test cars won’t be ready for the road, Singh said. Instead, they’ll be an important milestone for the company and its automaker partners. Afterward, test cars built using those C sample batteries will be ready for production.  

Those rounds of development, production and testing will require significant amounts of cash.

Singh said he is confident that QuantumScape has enough cash — about $1.3 billion as of the end of March — to be able to deliver those C sample batteries to its automotive partners for testing. But it’ll need to raise more money to build a factory big enough to supply automakers at scale.

By then, it may have competition.

Toyota has said it’s working to develop its own solid-state batteries in-house, and at least one other start-up — Colorado-based Solid Power, backed by BMW and Ford Motor — is on track to begin manufacturing its own solid-state versions around the same time.

Raising the amount of cash needed for a factory would be challenging to do in the current economic environment, but Singh thinks raising that money won’t be difficult once investors have had the chance to drive test vehicles powered by QuantumScape batteries.

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“The good news about the U.S. capital markets is that if you can demonstrate that you have something real and that the market opportunity is really large, then there’s a lot of capital available,” Singh said.

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Exclusive: Leading With Transparency in Times of Uncertainty – TalkOfNews.com

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Leading With Transparency in Times of Uncertainty

#Leading #Transparency #Times #Uncertainty

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While not a new concept, the importance of transparency in the workplace took on more urgency during the pandemic as our daily lives, including our work environment, were upended. Worldwide, both within the workplace and outside of it, uncertainty became the norm rather than the exception across many influential sectors: geopolitical, natural and business. And there are no signs of things calming down anytime soon.

In a volatile climate, organizational transparency becomes more essential to your business success. As your employees cope — or attempt to cope — with constant upheaval and uncertainty, helping to foster stability toward mental health is of prime importance. Any reassurances you can offer your teams will go a long way in stabilizing their anxiety levels, at least regarding the workplace since external factors are most likely beyond your control.

Ask yourself: If your management team is not leading with transparency, what is your response to the uncertainty? Are you then leading with opaqueness? What does that mean for our employees?

Related: Six Strategies To Navigate Through Uncertainty

Transparency vs. opaqueness

Transparency facilitates a more open, less hierarchical approach to management and a culture that tilts toward learning and innovation. It assumes that data and information will be of value to people. A culture of transparency helps to decentralize information, and with the right information, we’ve witnessed individuals become leaders.

The more employees connect to your company’s overall business objectives, the more room is given for inspiration to arrive. Transparency allows for ownership and alignment, enabling the business to unlock growth. In addition, it encourages individuals to take ownership of problems and mistakes, solutions and their departments. It discourages finger-pointing. It is evidence of mutual respect between the organization and its employees.

In this environment, employees stay connected to what is happening within the organization and don’t have to spend valuable time questioning the company’s direction or plans. If a problem develops, the focus stays on solving the problem versus spiraling into a perceived cover-up and becoming part of the subsequent rumor mill churn.

Organizations led by transparency foster a culture that acknowledges we don’t have all the answers and are learning together as the business grows.

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Related: Five Actions Leaders Should Take In Times Of Uncertainty

On the flip side, opaqueness assumes hierarchy. The lack of transparency permeates the organization, causing silos and territorial fiefdoms. Opaqueness facilitates a culture that guards information and knowledge and instructs people what to do instead of providing opportunities to lead. There’s no ownership by employees. There’s the leadership team and everyone else.

Here are some tactics your organization can leverage to foster a culture of transparency.

  • Document your vision, strategy and goals. Openly state these north stars, even sharing them externally, instead of having people guess or make them up for you. This level of visibility will ensure the alignment of your go-to-market strategy with your vision, mission and goals.
  • Share internally how the business is meeting its goals. Measure how the business is performing monthly or quarterly against a transparent plan that you’ve put in place. Share OKR (objectives and key results) reporting of how the company is performing. Use this information to foster a culture of learning. At PandaDoc, we understand that some of these OKRs will fail, but we let everyone know it’s okay as long as we learn from our mistakes.
  • Regularly schedule all-hands meetings. Implement these meetings at the company and at departmental levels. Schedule “ask me anything” meets with leaders so employees can voice their questions or concerns. PandaDoc’s all-hands have a cadence to them. We publish a calendar of what we’re going to discuss; for example, a monthly or quarterly business review, an OKR review, show and tell and what’s happening in various departments. We also structure time to talk about things happening in the world that impact us.
  • Schedule sprint reviews. Have departments share their accomplishments within a designated time — for example, over the past month. Record and post these on your company website so everyone in the company has the opportunity to view them. At PandaDoc, we invite our entire company to join our weekly product and engineering sprint reviews.
  • Create a culture where your employees feel safe. Not every employee feels confident enough to ask leadership-related questions during an all-hands meeting. Provide structured ways to encourage the questions. Let your employees know that they can have one of their co-workers ask the question on their behalf. It’s a simple way of letting your employees know that you have their back, and it provides a way for all employees to have their concerns addressed.
  • Take note of what other companies are doing. Software developer GitHub, for example, is implementing some innovative ways to promote transparency. Two that come to mind: They publicly expose their employee onboarding and offer a two-week CEO shadowing opportunity for employees.
  • Understand that you don’t have to share everything in real-time. You might not want to share a new development in real time; some may require a well-thought-out plan. But you do want to get in front of the rumor mill before your employees start to have that nagging feeling that something is wrong. And definitely, before the information is available on the internet. Share as quickly as possible what’s happening, and what the plan is so your employees can decide their next steps. Sharing this information helps cultivate mutual respect.

As you think about leading with transparency, it’s critical to note that your business is already transparent, even if you don’t want it to be. There’s no point in hiding negative information. It’s going to come out. And you don’t want the information shared on Twitter before you’ve shared it with your employees. A better business practice is to embrace and lead with transparency to foster a more positive working environment for everyone.

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Exclusive: Airlines, FAA spar over flight delays as crucial Fourth of July weekend approaches – TalkOfNews.com

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Airlines, FAA spar over flight delays as crucial Fourth of July weekend approaches

#Airlines #FAA #spar #flight #delays #crucial #Fourth #July #weekend #approaches

Travelers wait to board a plane at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, on April 22, 2022.

Daniel Slim | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are pointing the finger at each other over a rising rate of flight cancellations and delays, just as millions prepare for a July 4th travel weekend that officials expect to be among the busiest in three years.

On Friday, Airlines for America, which represents the country’s largest airlines, including Delta, American, United and Southwest, requested another meeting with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to discuss air traffic controller staffing for the summer and other potential obstacles like space launches and military exercises.

“The industry is actively and nimbly doing everything possible to create a positive customer experience since it is in an airline’s inherent interest to keep customers happy, so they return for future business,” Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio wrote in the letter.

Airlines have grappled with staffing shortages after travel demand bounced back faster than they were prepared for, despite government aid that prohibited them from laying off workers during the pandemic. Plus, the Covid-19 slowed training of air traffic controllers.

Both factors have made it difficult to navigate routine issues like thunderstorms during the spring and summer as Covid-19 infections continued to sideline employees and frustrate travelers eager to vacation.

U.S. airlines have reduced their June-August schedules by 15% compared with their original plans, the letter from Airlines for America said.

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United on Thursday announced it will cut 50 daily flights from its Newark Liberty International Airport hub in New Jersey starting next month in an attempt to ease congestion and delays there. Delta, JetBlue, Spirit and Frontier airlines have also trimmed schedules.

The FAA shot back at airlines for urging thousands of employees to take buyouts or leaves of absence during the pandemic, despite federal aid.

“People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they’ll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably,” the agency said in response to A4A’s letter. “After receiving $54 billion in pandemic relief to help save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”

The FAA has said it has beefed up staffing at a key air traffic control center in Florida and that it added alternate routes to ease congestion.

Brett Snyder, founder of the Cranky Flier travel website, said: “It’s hard to assign fault because everyone’s at fault.”

“Because demand is so high, the airlines are trying to fly as much as they can,” Snyder said. “People think fares are high now, imagine if airlines flew less.”

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Exclusive: Why niche markets can be big business for accountants – TalkOfNews.com

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Why niche markets can be big business for accountants

#niche #markets #big #business #accountants

John O’Donnell, a practice consultant at ICAEW Members’ Department, explains what he sees as the many benefits of specialising as an accountant. 

Finding a niche is an excellent way for accountants to unlock new, profitable opportunities. 

So it’s no surprise to hear that more and more practices are identifying and focusing on niche markets as a way of optimising budgets and boosting internal efficiency.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

What do we mean by a niche market?

Many firms will say “I specialise in SME clients” without realising that most other practices will say the same thing.

As such, their clients have little to differentiate them from their competitors.

Defining yourself as a niche firm, servicing a niche market, is a way to help you stand out from the crowd.

While brand image, good marketing and so on can help you celebrate your unique selling points, perhaps one of the most effective ways is to focus on one or more niche markets, a move that brings additional advantages too.

What are the advantages of serving niche markets?

There are two fundamental advantages to serving niche markets and specialising as an accountant:

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  • Optimised marketing
  • Internal efficiency.

From a marketing perspective, you can become one of the ‘go-to’ firms for clients in your sector and focus your marketing budget accordingly.

This will be more effective than a general ‘scatter-gun’ approach and should bring greater success.

Networking can be more targeted too. If the niche sector has conventions or meetings, you can attend these and expand your client base.

Marketing via publications (such as the magazines or articles your niche uses) can also be quite focused, to make the public aware of your firm and specialisation.

The second advantage is in the area of internal efficiency and will help improve profitability considerably.

If you’re processing accounts and tax returns for similar clients, you can use efficient processes.

This should be considered carefully in your staff recruitment, operational requirements and software choices, ideally prior to marketing yourself in this niche in the first place.

You should also consider informing clients in the sector of the way you want them to keep their records (to make both your and their job easier) and incorporate this into your engagement terms with them.

Are there other considerations?

If you focus on a transactional specialisation (such as corporate finance or strategic tax advice – as opposed to providing compliance advice), your income may not be recurring.

Therefore, you may need a good network of client providers who recognise your expertise so they provide clients referrals and ensure you have a continuing supply of new business.

Are there any disadvantages to tapping into a niche market as an accountant?

There may be, particularly with changes to tax and accounting requirements.

Concentrating all your efforts in one area may also leave you vulnerable to economic change – for example, if a particular sector is hit by a recession.

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One particular specialisation years ago (dealing with small subcontract builders) was affected quite significantly by a change in tax laws.

So your niche may lead you to need to swiftly rethink your firm strategy.

How do I turn my practice into a niche firm?

Consider areas where you are technically competent or have an interest.

We also recommend that you plan carefully in terms of resource and put together a strategic plan for expanding your practice.

We have advised accountancy practices in this area in the past (from sole practitioners upwards) in order to ensure they plan for their futures.

So consider the following: will you need to recruit additional staff? How senior do they need to be? Are they available or close to you?

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