The nervousness is as great as when Apple previously introduced the new iPhone. Today, Elon Musk has the cult status of Steve Jobs. And the fact that Tesla’s boss has postponed his so-called Battery Day by exactly one week to Tuesday today only increases the tension. In a way, Musk announced “a lot of exciting things” on Twitter.
The founder of Tesla is to announce his latest news about a tour of the plant in Fremont. At the Giga plant in Nevada, the pioneer of electronic cars manufactures batteries in cooperation with Panasonic. But how revolutionary will this report be?
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There is speculation during the start-up. Musk himself has already indicated cars with a guaranteed battery life of 1.6 million kilometers. A binding announcement would be of interest to the market, as it would refute the argument that the batteries would soon deteriorate. Today, there are Teslas that have covered over 400,000 kilometers with the first battery, but many potential customers do not know it. A guarantee of a million kilometers or even miles would be an announcement.
Who will work with Tesla in the future?
Musk could also comment on the energy density of the installed battery cells. In the summer, he tweeted that 400 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh / kg) was not far away. Today, Panasonic cells installed by Tesla in model 3 are around 260 Wh / kg. 400 Wh / kg will “probably be available in three to four years,” Musk said. He talked about mass-produced batteries that can withstand many charging cycles – in real life, not just in the lab. However, Tesla’s boss himself dampened expectations that there would soon be a “super battery”.
According to Reuters, there may be reports of a battery research and production facility in California being promoted by Musk. And Tesla plans to produce its own car batteries under the name “Roadrunner” after expanding its plant in Fremont. So far, this has been done in cooperation with Panasonic. Meanwhile, LG Chem from South Korea and CATL from China are also suppliers to Tesla.
It is no secret that CATL will supply lithium phosphate cells to the Chinese Tesla Gigafactory. They are cheaper and more durable than conventional lithium-ion cells. They manage 10,000 charge cycles; for lithium-ion cells, the value of 2500 cycles is very good. In addition, lithium iron phosphate does not need cobalt. Their disadvantage is the energy density, which is about a fifth lower. Therefore, they should initially only be installed on a Model 3 with a standard range.
Speculation in checking facts
But how do German experts who are not blinded by Elon Musk’s aura evaluate his possible next steps?
Battery researcher Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens of the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research in Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) can immediately confirm 10,000 charging cycles of lithium iron phosphate cells. He has been saying for years that these robust cells have a chance where weight and installation space are less important. Since the cells are inherently very safe, technology and thus weight can be saved in the parts around the cell, which again slightly improves the overall balance of the system.
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The researcher also considers a million kilometers with a rechargeable battery – regardless of cell chemistry – to be “basically feasible”. He says: “It depends on how I drive, how often I charge. In addition, it is the design of the entire system, battery and temperature management. In this way I can protect the cell from harmful influences. “
“You have to stretch a lot”
Michael Clauss works for the global development services provider IAV and calls himself a technical consultant and battery innovation manager. He deals with car manufacturers every day. He says that batteries with kilometers or kilometers could already be produced today. This would make sense, for example, for trucks or buses. But it will definitely take several more years in the car – at least on a large scale. Toyota already guarantees a million kilometers for the Lexus UX300e battery.
The 400 watt-hours of energy density reported by Musk can also be reached in three to four years, but it must “stretch”. To achieve this goal, according to Clausse, more silicon is needed in the anode, as well as new electrolytes and separators in the cell.
The battery expert believes that Tesla bought the American company Maxwell as an important strategic step. This is not only known as a manufacturer of so-called supercaps, which is a special type of energy storage. Maxwell is also a specialist in dry painting. “That means you can make very strong electrodes,” says Clauss. In this way, a higher energy density in the cell can be achieved.