The son of a disgraced former Volkswagen boss has emerged as one of the key players in developing a new 'miracle' battery which could transform the landscape of the automotive industry.
According to Business Insider Germany, Martin Winterkorn Junior reportedly turned down a job at Apple to instead be part of a major project at QuantumScape – a US start-up which enjoys backing from the likes of Volkswagen and Bill Gates.
The company, founded by former Stanford University scientists, intends on delivering a new solid-state battery which would offer the benefits of quick charging and a significant driving range for electric vehicles, giving Volkswagen Group a considerable advantage over other car makers.
In December 2020, QuantumScape announced its solid-state batteries would be ready for production by 2024. It also claimed its batteries will be suitable for environmental conditions down to -30 degrees celsius – far lower than its competitors.
The groundbreaking battery technology could catapult Volkswagen Group to the very forefront of electric vehicle (EV) development, overtaking Tesla, and potentially restoring respect in the Winterkorn family name among Volkswagen leadership.
A graduate of Stanford himself, Winterkorn Jr chose a research role on the project, rejecting all other job offers from Silicon Valley tech giants.
"Martin is obsessed with science," a family friend said of Winterkorn Jr.
"So much so that he sets his alarm clock at two o'clock in the morning so he can carry out tests in an empty room, undisturbed."
Above: Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn Senior.
Meanwhile, his father, Martin Winterkorn Senior, continues to defend himself against an onslaught of legal cases.
Some insider accounts of Dieselgate allege Winterkorn Sr was the driving force behind the development of the emissions cheating software, pressuring Volkswagen engineers to devise a solution which would help popularise quick and economical diesel powertrains in markets such as California.
The illegal computer software worked by using sensors to detect when the car was being tested by authorities, and would change engine parameters to ensure levels of dangerous nitrogen oxide gas (NOx) stayed within government-defined thresholds.
When on the road, however, the diesel engines would deliver maximum performance, and emit up to 40 times the legal limit of NOx while doing so.
In September 2020, a further eight employees from Volkswagen were charged by German prosecutors for their alleged roles in the Dieselgate saga.
It's been an expensive exercise for the German car giant, with estimates the company has paid out approximately $46.5 billion in fines, compensation, and vehicle buybacks since 2015.
Though he maintains his innocence, Martin Winterkorn Senior's alleged role in the deception has brought on a host of criminal and civil suits from US and German authorities.