WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Great technology is one thing, but for it to be adopted by the masses it’s also got to be affordable, Tesla’s newest battery signals the death nell for traditional combustion engine vehicles.
I, and others, have long said that technology reduces the cost and the amount of time that it takes to do “stuff,” stuff like travelling, turning your lights on, or calling your Great Aunt on the other side of the world. For example, step back hundreds of years and travelling to the other side of your country would have taken you ages, in order to light your home you’d have to buy and find wax candles, and as for calling people on the other side of the world, well, that was expensive right up until the early 2000’s – and it’s now free.
Now technology is having the same impact on electric vehicles after a host of technology improvements, in especially the battery space means that very soon electric vehicles will be the same cost, over their lifetime, or even cheaper than traditional combustion engine cars.
In fact, the way that electric cars are made, without combustion engines that need servicing, for example, also means we can now see a point where traditional car companies could give you a free car and, over a ten year period, it would still be cheaper to buy, service, and run an EV. And that’s before we even discuss the economic impact that new batteryless EV’s, where companies won’t have to even bother using expensive batteries in their cars, will have on the commercial vehicle market, or what happens to the market when you can 3D print your very own electric vehicle in your garage, like the one from BigRep.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been talking up the company’s dramatic forthcoming battery technology improvements, like the world’s first million mile EV battery, for some time now, going so far as to dub a forthcoming company talk “Battery Day.”
Now Reuters is reporting that the automaker plans to unveil new advanced battery technology it has developed that can produce power sources for its EVs which last for “millions of miles” and can be produced at low costs — allowing the automaker to sell cars at or below the market cost of equivalent gas-guzzling internal combustion cars.
This would be a watershed moment for Tesla, if true. Reuters reports that the development is the result of joint R&D work conducted with China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology, and that it is based on work done by a team of crack Tesla battery technology researchers coming from an academic background that were enlisted by Musk specifically to change the economics of electric power storage.
Battery capacity and production costs has long been a limiting factor in terms of the manufacturing costs of electric vehicles, and is one big reason EVs carry a price premium when sold to customers. Ordinarily, automakers, including Tesla, point to lifetime fuel savings and tax incentives provided by local, state and federal governments as mitigating factors that mean the lifetime cost of an EV is equal to or less than that of cars with traditional gas combustion engines, which are now being banned by governments around the world from as early a 2030, but if Tesla’s new battery tech can change the dynamics so that the price on the sticker is also lower than a gas vehicle, that would be a significant driver of mass market EV adoption.
Tesla will first launch the new battery in China, Reuters says, beginning with the Model 3. It then plans to roll it out to other vehicles and markets, and ultimately produce batteries with new manufacturing processes that are meant to bring down labor costs while raising output volume, at so-called “Terafactories” that would span up to 30 times the space of the current Tesla Gigafactories, including the one in Nevada.
The battery tech that Tesla is working on will include low-cobalt and cobalt-free versions of chemicals used, as well as newly developed materials and internal coatings to reduce the stress upon the active components and prolong their useful life, per Reuters. Simultaneously, it’ll also introduce a new system developed by its partner Contemporary Amperex Technology that removes the step of having to bundle cells prior to their installation in final battery packs, which will bring down battery pack unit weight and costs. It’s also developing new recycling technologies for the components in its batteries so that its vehicle power sources can eventually be used across its other energy products to extend their useful life.