Tesla, love them or hate them they were the pioneers of the latest iteration of the electric car. They forced innovation from industry old guards like Porsche and Jaguar which is great. This isn’t to mention their batteries used in industrial settings such as balancing power grids. Elon Mask, last year claimed something especially outlandish. A new battery that could last for over a million miles. Critics thought it was impossible. But a new study may prove that it is possible and indeed its coming. In this article, we will learn about Tesla’s million-mile battery.
In April of 2018, Elon claimed that Tesla will soon have a battery that can last for a million miles or about 1.6 million kilometers. After this amount of use, it will still have over 90% battery health remaining. To put that into context, that’s two times the current lifespan of Tesla’s contemporary batteries. This could put electric cars in general in an interesting position.
According to NBC news, regular petrol car lasts for about 150,000 to 300,000 miles before something breaks that makes it not worth repairing. When you think about it, a regular petrol-powered car is actually pretty complicated. It needs regular maintenance to keep it operational and it’s unavoidable that some parts just wear out after a given amount of time. Problems like slipping automatic gearbox or a blown head gasket can bee expensive to repair and can take a car off thee road permanently. Electric cars are much simpler with the only major moving parts being the electric motor and usually a single speed transmission. With this new battery this all means; electric cars could last longer than their petrol counterparts. It goes further than this though. Industry experts stated that electric vehicle batteries have much more life after being used in the car. They can then be used in power management to support a grid and after that lower and lower power consumption requirements until they can finally be recycled. With a battery with twice the state-of-the-art lifespan, this opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
Let’s take a look at the battery itself. A physicist by the name of Jeff Don led the search of the new battery which was vastly superior to any other lithium-ion battery previously seen. Jeff is already a leading expert in lithium-ion research. Him and his team at the Dalhousie University has an exclusive licensing agreement with Tesla. This suggests that this technology could appear in the company’s cars. The details of the paper are pretty extensive. It includes the full cell design including electrode compositions, electrolyte mixture, additives and more. The team’s results show that these batteries can be charges and depleted more than four thousand times and after this they only lose 10% of the original energy capacity. To put this into perspective, a 2014 paper showed that similar lithium-ion batteries lost half their capacity after only 1000 cycles. According to the study headed by Jeff, which was published in September 2019, the 1-million-mile figure is equivalent to two decades of in grid energy storage. What’s interesting though is that authors of the paper don’t herald this all as a new breakthrough. They present it as a benchmark for other battery researches. This is the opposite of common practice. Usually battery designs are often a closely guarded secret within the industry. Providing this information to everyone, aims to help other companies to improve their own designs for the future. Here is quote of the paper.
Full details of these sells including electrode compositions, electrode loadings, electrolyte compositions, additives used, etc. have been provided. This has been done so that others can recreate these sells and use them as benchmarks for their own R&D efforts.”
This research was done to further the progress of battery technology not just for one group but as a whole for everyone.
Why Tesla’s millin-mile battery significance?
Generally speaking, there’s usually a trade-off between energy density and battery lifetime. If you want more of one, you get less of the other. Jeff’s group was responsible for doing the seemingly impossible . They overcame this trade-off. Now you can have increased energy density and battery life. Interestingly the materials used in the paper aren’t you. The huge performance boost was achieved through a great deal of optimizing already common battery ingredients. They also tweaked the nano structure of the batteries cathode to increase performance. The new nano structure is less likely to develop cracks when the battery is charging. Cracks in the cathode material caused a decrease in the lifetime and performance of the battery and this happens during repeated charging cycles. Basically, the new cathode and this new battery will be able to resist more wear over time.
Jeff Don estimates that most users only about a quarter of a charge per day. But to make something like a fleet of robo taxis or an empire of long-haul electric trucks, Tesla would need a battery that can handle full discharge cycles each day. This could really make electric long-range or long-term transport of many kinds much more feasible.
So, with so many stories of battery research rapidly coming forward. It seems like we are at the start of a new age. An age different from the previous decade, where battery technology stayed stagnant.