Tesla’s lithium-ion battery technology is already the envy of the automotive industry, and the company may be moving even further into the lead soon. A new report from Reuters claims Tesla will begin deploying its new “million-mile” battery in late 2020 or early 2021. That’s not the official name, of course, but it’s a reference to how much longer the cells can operate before failing. That’s about twice the average lifespan of current lithium-ion batteries.
Tesla has been working with Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL). Reuters reports the first cars with the new battery will be released in China, which is a market in which Tesla wants to gain a foothold. The company may confirm the basics of the Reuters report in several weeks at its “Battery Day” for investors. That was supposed to happen in April, but Tesla delayed the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
CEO Elon Musk has spent the last few years hiring battery experts, buying small firms, and forging partnerships with both universities and other companies to make this battery a reality. Most of what we know about the probable technology comes from the expertise of the new hires and studies released by Tesla’s partners. For example, Dalhousie University has detailed a manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) crystal structure for battery cathodes that can resist wear over time. Tesla has an exclusive licensing arrangement with the university. Reuters also says the new batteries will rely on low-cobalt components and chemical additives that reduce stress over time.
The new battery technology should reduce manufacturing costs dramatically. Some experts believe Tesla will drop below $100 per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity. That could mean cheaper vehicles that are more in line with comparable gasoline-powered cars. That’s sure to help the company become a major player in China, which is already the world’s leading consumer of electric vehicles. Tesla even opened a Gigafactory to manufacture batteries in Shanghai recently, becoming the first foreign automaker to own and operate its own factory in China.
While the new batteries will start in China, sources claim Tesla will roll them out to other regions, but that might not happen until there are improved versions with better capacity and stability. This comes as Tesla’s relationship with Panasonic is winding down. The Japanese battery giant has worked with Tesla at several US factories, but it’s planning to pull out of at least one project in the next few weeks. CATL could pick up the slack and deliver even better components.
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