Did Tesla Just Invent the First Million-Mile EV Battery?

A new scientific paper and patent point to yes

Tesla Semi
A million-mile battery is essential for the Tesla Semi and robotaxis, and a boost for its consumer EVs, too.
Tesla
By Alex Lauer / September 24, 2019 5:05 am

Elon Musk is known equally well for his outlandish claims that come to pass as those that do not. (Recently, the Tesla founder has his sights set on the Porsche Taycan Nürburgring time.) But no matter what pops up in his Twitter feed, the technological innovations coming out of the electric vehicle company cannot be denied. Today’s latest breakthrough involves EV batteries. 

Most people focus on the range of an EV and the time it takes to charge the battery, which is understandable as those are short-term problems and easy for drivers to test themselves. But the bigger challenge in the electric vehicle industry is building a battery that will last longer. Right now, as InsideEVs notes, most EV batteries are warrantied for at least 100K miles. Musk says his company’s batteries last 300K to 500K miles. But according to Wired, Tesla may have just leapfrogged everyone (including themselves) and created the first battery to last one million miles.

“Earlier this month, a group of battery researchers at Dalhousie University, which has an exclusive agreement with Tesla, published a paper in The Journal of the Electrochemical Society describing a lithium-ion battery that ‘should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1 million miles’ while losing less than 10 percent of its energy capacity during its lifetime,” writes Wired.

That’s impressive for multiple reasons. For one, most people can’t even get their gas cars to the million-mile mark. As for the energy capacity, Gizmodo writes that includes both charging capacity and vehicle range. To illustrate how impressive a 10% loss is, think about it like your smartphone; by the end of its life, after using up the battery and recharging it countless times, it won’t hold a charge nearly as long.

Wired writes that in 2014, similar lithium-ion batteries lost 50% capacity after 1,000 cycles (of using and recharging). These new batteries reportedly only lose 10% capacity after 4,000 cycles. So yes, this is a big deal, both for vehicles that require longer-lasting batteries (like Tesla’s upcoming Semi and self-driving robotaxis) and for consumer confidence around the company’s daily drivers. 

What’s an even bigger deal, though, is that the paper also includes the details on how to build these million-mile batteries. But why would Tesla give this game-changing technology away for free? 

“According to a former member of [physicist Jeff] Dahn’s team, the likely answer is that Tesla already has at least one proprietary battery chemistry that outperforms what’s described in the benchmark paper,” writes Wired. “Indeed, shortly after the paper came out, Tesla received a patent for a lithium-ion battery that is remarkably similar to the one described in the benchmarking paper.”

There are no details about when this battery will be available, or if it’s in fact the million-mile battery in question. But expect Elon to tweet about it soon. 

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