One of the most unsettling developments in business in 2020 was the trend for electric-vehicle companies to list on a stock exchange before they have their first revenues. Though standard practice for research-intensive life sciences companies, going public before you have a purchasable product is pretty unusual in the automotive world.

And yet, prerevenue companies such as Nikola and Fisker have achieved multibillion-dollar valuations. Now, Californian battery start-up QuantumScape has taken electric-vehicle mania to a new level...

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