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VW hints at 186-mile range for upcoming EV

VW chief Martin Winterkorn suggests a \"quantum leap\" in battery technology is finally in sight.

Volkswagen appears to be growing confident that its investment in next-generation battery technology will soon pay off.

Speaking to German outlet Bild, VW chief Martin Winterkorn claimed the company was working on a "quantum leap" in energy storage for future electric vehicles.

"VW is researching a super-battery in Silicon Valley in California, that is cheaper, smaller and more powerful," he said, as translated by Autocar. "An electric Volkswagen that can travel 300 km (186 miles) on electricity is in sight."

The executive did not elaborate, but the comments appear to be a reference to QuantumScape. Based in San Jose, California, and founded by Stanford University researchers, the startup is developing solid-state batteries that store electricity without traditional ion charge carriers. Compared to lithium-ion technology, the experimental batteries are claimed to handle many more charge cycles while inherently protecting against overheating and fires.

Winterkorn previously claimed the solid-state tech would allow EVs to drive for more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) on a single charge. The latest comments cut the promise in half, but the estimate is still more than double the e-Golf's 83-mile official range.

QuantumScape's claims are likely to be met with skepticism, and other battery startups have been caught exaggerating claims of technological breakthroughs. It is unclear if the company's solid-state battery technology has been validated for production viability. Outside of the lab and prototype testing, success or failure will likely be dependent on the ultimate per-kWh cost for mass production. Another solid-state startup, Sakti3, is hoping to reach around $100 per kWh, or approximately $7,000 for the battery found in the Tesla Model S 70D.

Winterkorn's claims appear to fall within the scope of existing lithium-ion technology, even if the investment in QuantumScape does not bear fruit. Tesla promises its Model 3 will deliver more than 250 miles of range with deliveries starting late in 2017, while General Motors is said to be eyeing an even sooner launch window for its 200-mile Chevrolet Bolt. Both are expected to sell in the mid-$30,000 range, not far from the current e-Golf's $33,450 price tag.

Whatever technology VW chooses to power its next-generation EVs and hybrids, the company intends to develop a common modular battery design to help slash costs by up to 66 percent across all of its brands.

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