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Solid-state battery developer QuantumScape has shared its latest milestone, delivering prototype samples to OEMs en route to commercialization and EV implementation one day. By delivering the Alpha-2 cells, the company has already fulfilled one of its 2024 goals, and it’s only March.

Today’s milestone is merely another step forward in a decade-plus journey QuantumScape ($QS) has been on to develop scalable, energy-dense solid-state battery cells that can one day achieve cost parity with traditional lithium-ion cells popular in current EV models.

The past four years of QuantumScape’s progress have been particularly exciting, as it developed a proprietary ceramic separator that enabled single-layer prototype cell testing, followed by 10-layer cells, then 16-layer prototypes.

By Q2 2022, QuantumScape’s solid-state technology had expanded to 24 layers in an A0 cell – part of a three-step journey of A, B, and C prototype cells to undergo internal and customer testing before entering commercialized production.

By the end of 2022, QuantumScape began delivering the first 24-layer A0 prototype cells to automotive partners, and by Q1 2023, testing had been completed by at least one unnamed EV OEM.

Those samples returned better-than-expected results, paving the way for the next wave of solid-state prototype cells called Alpha-2 before fully evolving into QuantumScape’s first commercial product – the QSE-5 (seen below), seemingly destined for EV platforms. Per news today, those Alpha-2 prototypes are now reaching customers for testing.

QuantumScape Q3
A mockup of QuantumScape’s QSE-5 solid-state cell with FlexFrame / Credit: QuantumScape

QuantumScape’s EV cells enter next testing phase

According to an update from QuantumScape earlier today, customer shipments of the Alpha-2 prototype cells to customers are now underway, giving those OEMs the opportunity to test much of the progress the solid-state battery developer has made in the past year since delivering A0 cells.

Even at six layers, the Alpha-2 is more energy-dense than the 24-layer A0 prototype, enabled by higher-loading cathodes (more active material) and more efficient packaging, according to QuantumScape.

The battery developer shared that its latest Alpha-2 cells feature the main functionality of the QSE-5 end product and were developed as another opportunity for customers (assumedly some in the EV space) to “test key performance parameters and prototype-level reliability.” QS president and CEO Dr. Siva Sivaram elaborated on the process:

The Alpha-2 shipments represent an important milestone on our path to commercialization. Customer feedback is the most critical input in the product development cycle as it provides insight into areas that need improvement and strengthens collaboration. The faster we can get new product iterations into customers’ hands, the faster we get to production. We are very encouraged by the initial Alpha-2 performance results and excited about the first QSE-5 cells we expect to manufacture later this year.

QuantumScape explained that the Alpha-2 prototype cells act as a bridge between the A0 and QSE-5 B0 prototypes Sivaram mentioned above. While automakers test these new prototype solid-state cells, QuantumScape says it will continue developing and integrating component-level improvements into the next iteration, utilizing electrolyte separators produced using the company’s much faster “Raptor” equipment and process.

If and when it comes to fruition, QuantumScape’s scaled production of QSE-5 solid-state cells could be a game changer in EV mobility. Company co-founder and CTO Tim Holme shared excitement about the potential of the technology:

The improvements in energy and power densities demonstrated by the Alpha-2 prototypes indicate that QSE-5 can push the boundaries of solid-state battery performance. We continue to advance our anode-free, solid-state battery in performance and maturity with methodical execution on our milestones.

With its initial delivery goal for 2024 now fulfilled, QuantumScape says it will begin ramping up the Raptor production process, starting small build samples of the QSE-5 prototypes. Simultaneously, it will begin gearing up for high-volume production of its solid-state electrolyte separator using its “Cobra” equipment and process. That phase is expected to start in 2025.

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First Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader delivered to Australia




First Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader delivered to Australia

The electrification of the commercial job site continues with news that the first Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader has been delivered to a customer in Australia!

The first Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader in Australia was delivered to Allworks WA Pty Ltd, and the company’s own Melker Jernberg, Head of Volvo Construction Equipment, was on-hand to deliver the the machine to Allworks, together with the brand’s dealer, CJD Equipment.

“We are proud to demonstrate that sustainable solutions are not just a promise for tomorrow, but a real innovation for today,” said Bertrand Collette, Head of Market Area Oceania at Volvo CE. “Having already proved their strength in other global regions, these reliable electric solutions are set to ensure customers in Australia can deliver on their decarbonization ambitions without any impact on productivity.”

The company took to LinkedIn to announce the news, and posted these images (below) showing the L25 meeting its new owners for the first time.

Volvo CE says its L25 Electric wheel loader “combines the proven Volvo compact wheel loader platform with battery power.” Unlike machines like the Cat 301.9 shown at CES that use an electric motor to power both its drive and conventional hydraulic oils, the Volvo L25 Electric uses two, a 29.5 hp electric drive motor and a smaller, 18.7 hp unit to push the oil. The result is more consistent, predictable performance while multitasking.

The L25 Electric also offers charging functionality beyond the scope of many equipment offerings, which “top out” at L2 charging. Volvo CE offers full CCS DCFC support, just like Volvo Cars, enabling grid-supported jobsites with appropriate infrastructure to repower during lunch breaks and between shifts and keep the dirt moving all day.

And, if you’re not on a grid-supported job site, Volvo is working on solutions for that, too, along with Rolls-Royce. You can check that out here, and explore the L25 Electric’s full specs, below.

Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader specs

Electric motor driveline (net) 29.5 hp
Electric motor working hydraulics (net) 18.77 hp
Standard bucket capacity 1.17 yd³
Kinematics with attachment bracket design Z
Tipping load (ISO/DIS 14397-1) 7,385 lbs
…at full turn 38 degree
Breakout force 12,252 lbf
Hydraulic lifting capacity, max 12,364 lbf
Fork payload 80% 4,409 lbs
Max. dump height 0″ ft in
Operating weight 10,802 – 11,618 lbs
Maximum travel speed – Standard 12 mph
Battery voltage 48 V
Battery capacity 40 kWh
On board charging time 400 VAC 16A ~6
Off board charging time 400 VAC 32A ~2
Indicative runtime (depending on application) Up to 8 hours
Via Volvo CE.

Electrek’s Take

The Volvo L25 Electric comes as standard with an on-board charger compatible with standard protocols used on wall boxes and charging stations*. It supplies a 3kW power output to the batteries, allowing the machine to charge from 0 to 100% overnight. It also comes with 3 plugs/adapters to charge from a wall socket or wallbox; via Volvo CE.

As the electric equipment market evolves, the winners will be the manufacturers who deliver one of two things: either bulletproof, seamless operation, or modular construction and easy accessibility for fast, on-the-fly repairs as needed. Moog and ZQuip are taking the modular route, while Volvo seems to be going for the seamless option, delivering vehicles that offer charging experiences familiar to anyone who’s experienced a road-going EV.

Time will tell which approach will eventually win out.

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Illinois to spend $25.1 million on public EV charging infrastructure




Illinois to spend .1 million on public EV charging infrastructure

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director John J. Kim has announced plans to spend more than $25 million on new EV charging infrastructure under the Driving a Cleaner Illinois program.

That $25.1 million of Illinois EPA money ($25,152,259.44, to be exact) is being awarded to 20 applicants, and will eventually fund 643 new Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) ports at 141 locations throughout the state. These awards come in addition to $12.6 million the Illinois EPA awarded in Volkswagen Settlement funding (read: Dieselgate penalties) for more than 300 new EV fast charging ports in 2023.

“Through these grants, Illinois will increase the number of fast charging ports by over 100 percent, resulting in nearly 1,000 more fast charging ports available for Illinois’ EV motorists and visitors,” said Director Kim. “This is significant progress in building out EV charging infrastructure throughout Illinois, with more opportunities on the way.”

The money is geared towards putting DCFC charging stations at publicly accessible locations like malls, grocery stores, gas stations, and hotels (etc.). Additional “points” (translation: funds) were awarded to projects in Equity Investment Eligible Communities.

“In Illinois, we’re strategically turning our vision for a clean energy future into a reality,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Thanks to recent grant awards, my administration will double the number of publicly available fast charging ports — putting us one step closer to our goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2050.”

The complete list of award winners is listed, below.

Grantee Award Amount Location(s) of EV Chargers Location Type
3216N Inc $320,000.00 Elk Grove Village
Stone Park
Gas Stations
Adams Electric Cooperative $277,814.00 Quincy (2) Community College
Amoco Food Shop Number 1 Inc $320,000.00 Chicago (2) Gas Stations
BP Products North America Inc $8,320,000.00 Addison
Aurora (2)
Chicago (2)
Crystal Lake
Des Plaines (2)
Effingham (2)
Elk Grove Village
Glen Ellyn
Joliet (2)
Lake in the Hills
Mt. Vernon
Naperville (2)
Round Lake Beach
Round Lake Park
Third Lake
West Chicago
Gas Stations
Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association $320,000.00 Carbondale
Gjovik Ford $400,000.00 Plano
Car Dealerships
GPM Investments LLC $319,751.44 Edgewood
St. Elmo
Gas Stations
ITSM Software Consultants Inc $1,810,000.00 Algonquin (2)
Arlington Heights (2)
Buffalo Grove
North Chicago
West Chicago (2)
Lanman Oil Company $480,000.00 Charleston
Gas Stations
OBE Power Networks 1 LLC $320,000.00 Ottawa (2) Parks/Recreation
OSF Healthcare System $320,000.00 Peoria (2) Healthcare
Pilot Travel Centers LLC $1,440,000.00 Decatur
Gas Stations
PowerPort EVC LLC $320,000.00 Ashkum
Red E Charging LLC $2,079,402.00 Arcola
Loves Park
Richton Park
Villa Park
Gas Stations
Rivian Automotive LLC $920,000.00 Normal
Oak Brook
Road Ranger LLC $1,600,000.00 Bourbonnais
Gas Stations
Shiner Management Group Inc $320,000.00 Gurnee
Sustainable Energies Corporation $1,760,000.00 Country Club Hills
East Peoria
Melrose Park
Round Lake Beach
Waukegan (2)
Universal EV LLC $2,945,292.00 East Peoria (2)
Princeton (2)
Granite City
Ottawa (5)
Hoffman Estates
Elk Grove Village
Victory Lane Ford Inc $560,000.00 Carlinville
Car Dealerships
TOTAL $25,152,259.44
Via Illinois EPA.

Electrek’s Take

Mercedes charging hub
Mercedes-Benz Chargepoint charging hub; via Mercedes-Benz.

More EV charging infrastructure is undoubtedly a good thing, and these funds are going to help encourage business and public sector entities in the state to keep doing the right thing here and invest in the future of transportation.

It’s also worth noting that these Illinois EPA funds can “stack” with similar Make-Ready EV charging infrastructure rebate programs from ComEd, a utility company that provides service in northern Illinois. The first phase of the ComEd rebate program has a $77 million budget over two years.

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Ukraine’s attacks on Russian oil refineries shows the growing threat AI drones pose to energy markets




Ukraine’s attacks on Russian oil refineries shows the growing threat AI drones pose to energy markets

Smoke billows after Ukraine’s SBU drone strikes a refinery, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Ryazan, Ryazan Region, Russia, in this screen grab from a video obtained by Reuters, March 13, 2024. 

Video Obtained By Reuters | Via Reuters

Ukraine’s campaign of attacks against Russian oil refineries is demonstrating how relatively cheap drones that utilize artificial intelligence could pose a major threat to global energy markets.

Ukraine-launched drones have hit 18 Russian oil refineries this year with a combined capacity of 3.9 million barrels per day, according to report published by JPMorgan earlier this month. Some 670,000 bpd of Russian refining capacity is currently offline due to the strikes, according to the bank.

Ukraine’s capabilities are growing with its drones now demonstrating a substantially longer range. Earlier this month, Kyiv hit Russia’s third-largest oil refinery, Taneco, which is located up to 1,300 kilometers — roughly 800 miles — from the frontlines, according to JPMorgan.

Ukraine is increasingly using drones that are enabled with AI, which helps the weapons navigate and avoid jamming, according to the bank.

“The AI guidance also delivers strike precision, maximizing the impact of the strikes by targeting specific areas like distillation towers, repairs of which requires Western technology,” Natasha Kaneva, head of global commodities strategy at JPMorgan, told clients in the April report. “This makes the repairs costly and often require equipment that the country is not able to produce.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made clear Tuesday that the Biden administration is worried about the strikes in a rare airing of public disagreement with U.S. allies in Kyiv.

“Certainly, those attacks could have a knock-on effect in terms of the global energy situation,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Quite frankly, I think Ukraine is better served in going after tactical and operational targets that can directly influence the current fight.”

The U.S. has urged Ukraine to stop the attacks on Russian energy infrastructure out of concern that they could drive up crude oil prices and instigate retaliation from Moscow, three people familiar with the discussions told the Financial Times last month.

The losses to Russian refining capacity could worsen as Ukraine aims to build a full-fledge drone industry and produce a million units domestically this year, according to the JPMorgan report. If Kyiv is able to extend the drones’ range to 1,500 kilometers (about 932 miles), they could potentially hit 21 refineries with more than 4.4 million bpd of refined capacity, according to the report.

“There’s room for this to become a bigger problem, because we’ve come to count on Russian supply getting to the global market, which allows other non-Russian supply to go to other places,” said John Kilduff, an energy expert and founding partner at Again Capital.

The deployment of AI drones also has broader implications for global energy markets, according to Bob Brackett, a senior research analyst at Bernstein. The drones are cheap to produce compared to the millions of dollars in damage they can cause and could empower nonstate actors to challenge superior fighting forces, Brackett told clients in Friday note.

“These drones can easily and asymmetrically disrupt global seaborne trade,” Brackett wrote, warning that oil exporters such as Russia aren’t the only countries that need to be worried. Oil importers, like China and India, will now have to worry about disruptions to crude flows from drone attacks, he said.

Impact on oil, gasoline prices

Ukraine’s campaign of drone strikes comes at the same time as tensions are running red hot in the Middle East, with OPEC member Iran and Israel now teetering on the brink of a direct confrontation.

U.S. crude oil has rallied nearly 20% this year, while the global benchmark Brent has gained 17% as the wars in Middle East and Eastern Europe rage against the backdrop of rising crude demand and tightening supply. Gasoline futures have surged about 33% since the year began.

Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy, said the drone strikes are not a major issue for oil prices right now because the attacks on refineries are primarily affecting Russia’s production of diesel at a time when the market is already glutted.

But Russia is also major exporter of a gasoline feedstock called naphtha. If naphta markets were to tighten because of the attacks it could have an impact on gas prices and balances, said McNally, who served as a senior energy official in the George W. Bush administration.

Goldman Sachs said in a research note last month that the strikes are bullish for diesel prices, but the impact on crude oil is mixed. Outages can lead to reduced oil demand from refineries, which is bearish for prices. But the market is worried Ukraine could increasingly hit oil production and transportation infrastructure, which would weigh on Russian crude exports, according to Goldman.

Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Securities, said the current strikes could have an indirect effect on oil markets. As Russian fuel exports decline due to the attacks, countries that rely on those exports then need to source fuel from refineries in other jurisdictions, Melek said. Those refiners need more crude to meet the demand which can stress oil supplies, he said.

Russian production already poses a problem for the Biden administration. Moscow has pledged to cut its oil output and exports by an additional 471,000 barrels per day in the second quarter to meet its commitments to OPEC+.

Those cuts could push the price of Brent crude to $100 by September, which will put pressure on the Biden administration just before the presidential election, according to a JPMorgan report last month.

The investment bank expects U.S. gas prices to hit $4 per gallon by May, the highest level since the summer of 2022.

“There are few issues that terrify a sitting American president in an election year more than surging gasoline prices,” said Rapidan’s McNally.

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