A “million mile” battery that will lower the cost of EVs to the same as gasoline-powered ones?
The battery is being co-developed with Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) and was designed in part by battery experts recruited by Tesla’s Musk, The Verge reported.
Tesla is already the industry leader when it comes to squeezing range out of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars, and it’s expected to reveal more about the new technology at an upcoming “Battery Day” for investors.
Musk told investors and analysts earlier this year that the information “will blow your mind. It blows my mind.”
The company originally planned to hold the event in April, but has had to reschedule it until at least late May thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Verge reported.
The battery is expected to lower the cost per kilowatt hour (the unit of energy most commonly used to measure the capacity of the battery packs in modern electric vehicles) to under US$100.
Many experts believe that reaching that mark would allow Tesla or other automakers to sell electric vehicles for the same prices as gasoline-powered ones, thereby making them far more accessible, The Verge reported.
That Tesla is reportedly planning to bring the technology to China first demonstrates the nation’s importance when it comes to electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, General Motors is also trying to hit that mark in its work with battery maker LG Chem, as it recently shared during its own big “EV Day” event in March, though the automaker is not expected to get there until the mid-2020s.
GM said last month that its new generation of batteries will use 70% less cobalt, an expensive and precious material that is often mined by workers who are subject to brutal conditions, The Verge reported.
Musk has long sought to remove cobalt from the equation entirely, and Tesla is getting closer to doing that in its work with CATL, according to Reuters.
Information about Tesla’s next-generation batteries has steadily trickled out over the last year or so thanks to the experts Musk hired and their public works, like patents, academic papers, and university presentations. The group has been funded by Tesla since 2016, according to Reuters.
Tesla has also bought up a small handful of companies that are contributing to its battery advancements, like Maxwell Technologies, Reuters reported.
And its former CTO, JB Straubel, is leading a battery recycling company called Redwood Materials that Reuters says is an “affiliate” of Tesla’s.
According to TechXplore, earlier this year, Musk told investors, “We’ve got to really make sure we get a very steep ramp in battery production and continue to improve the cost per kilowatt-hour of the batteries — this is very fundamental and extremely difficult. We’ve got to scale battery production to crazy levels that people cannot even fathom today.”
At the end of 2019, battery prices were about $156/kWh; it’s widely thought $100/kWh is the number the auto industry needs to reach to make electric cars’ cost on par with gasoline cars, Driving.ca reported.
CATL’s cobalt-free lithium-iron-phosphate battery packs have just recently fallen below $80/kWh, with battery cells dropping below $60/kWh. CATL’s low-cobalt NMC battery packs have almost reached that magic $100/kWh number.