News briefs: Startup's shares spark after battery breakthrough

Plus, HSBC hires sustainability chief, Maersk jettisons fossil fuels, N.J.'s big EV initiative

Battery startup’s stock sparks after tech breakthrough

The shares of electric-vehicle-battery startup QuantumScape Corp. (QS) have soared after the California company announced it had cleared a key hurdle in the development of its technology. According to Bloomberg, the firm — which counts Bill Gates and Volkswagen among its investors — said it was able to produce multilayer battery cells for its solid-state lithium-metal power units, a crucial step in taking the technology from the lab to the real world. “While there is still a lot of work to be done and we could encounter new challenges as we increase our layer count, this is an incredibly important result, and we are excited to have this so early in the year,” Chief Executive Officer Jagdeep Singh said in a letter to investors. QuantumScape stock, which began trading Nov. 27 after it merged with the Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp., jumped more than 14% on Wednesday, hitting $58 in early afternoon trade.

HSBC taps climate scientist to be sustainability chief

Well, that was quick. Less than two weeks after BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink prodded HSBC (HSBC) over its financing of fossil fuel firms, the U.K.-based banking giant has appointed a chief sustainability officer. The new CSO is Columbia University-trained climate scientist and former NASA Fellow Celine Herweijer, who is moving from PwC, where she had the title of Global Climate Change Leader. According to an HSBC announcement, the England-born exec will report directly to HSBC’s CEO, Noel Quinn. In addition to her PwC credentials, Herweijer has served on boards and committees dealing with renewables, including for the UN, the World Economic Forum, the G20, the World Bank, the European Union and several governments.

Shipping giant sails away, slowly, from oil-based fuels

The world’s largest shipping line is taking a step toward the elimination of fossil fuels to power its vessels. In an announcement reported by Bloomberg, all new boats owned by A.P. Moller-Maersk will have to be able to use carbon-neutral propellants, such as methanol and ammonia, as well as traditional oil-based fuel. “If you don’t do this, 10 years from now we risk becoming irrelevant,” said Morten Bo Christiansen, vice president and head of decarbonization at the Denmark-based company. “Our customers need us to do this.” Added Maersk CEO Soren Skou: “Our ambition to have a carbon-neutral fleet by 2050 was a moonshot when we announced in 2018. Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach.”

New Jersey revs up electric buses and garbage trucks

In a pledge that could help clear some of New Jersey’s notoriously stinky air, the Garden State’s Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged to spend $100 million on green transportation, including funding for electric buses, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles. According to NJ Spotlight News, it also includes money to switch from fossil fuels used in cargo handling operations at ports — a major industry in the state — and funding to aid industrial areas historically plagued by pollution from activities such as oil-refining. Included in the spending, the state’s largest city, Newark, won $1 million to purchase electric garbage trucks, part of a $9 million in grants to local governments to electrify trash and delivery trucks. Another $13 million was set aside for electric school buses and shuttle buses in low-income areas especially impacted by pollution.