At the Tesla Autonomy Event in April, Elon Musk said the Disruptors of Detroit were working on a new battery pack that would last a cool million miles, and said it would be available next year. Now Tesla battery research partner Jeff Dahn and his team have released a paper in which they describe this million-mile battery cell.
The new Li-ion battery cell features a next-generation “single crystal” NMC cathode and a new type of electrolyte. Dahn’s team has extensively tested the cells, and believe they could enable a battery pack that lasts over a million miles in an EV.
“Up to three years of testing has been completed for some of the tests. Tests include long-term charge-discharge cycling at 20, 40 and 55° C, long-term storage at 20, 40 and 55° C, and high precision coulometry at 40° C. Several different electrolytes are considered in this LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2/graphite chemistry, including those that can promote fast charging. The reasons for cell performance degradation and impedance growth are examined using several methods. We conclude that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage.”
This is a huge advance – the new cells last two to three times longer than Tesla’s current cells – and if the company can bring the new technology into production in a reasonable timeframe, it could radically change the economics of EVs.
The paper notes the importance of long-lasting batteries for such vehicles as robotaxis, long-haul trucks and transit buses. In these applications, a battery’s ability to deliver a high number of charge/discharge cycles is critical, in contrast to the consumer vehicle market, in which maximum range is the most important feature (at least from a marketing standpoint).
The paper also mentions vehicle-to-grid applications, which could someday allow EV owners to earn revenue from their cars while they aren’t being driven (see the upcoming issue of Charged for a profile of Fermata Energy, a pioneer in this space).
Meanwhile, job listings on Tesla’s web site seem to confirm rumors that the company plans to start manufacturing its own battery cells (as reported by Electrek).
Tesla watchers know that Jeff Dahn and his team at Dalhousie University near Halifax, Nova Scotia, are world leaders in lithium-ion battery research. For years, Dahn worked exclusively for 3M, but when that arrangement ended, Tesla swooped in and signed a contract for Dahn to work for the Silicon Valley car/tech/energy company.
In addition, solid-state batteries are less like to catch fire or explode if they get too hot. That in turn means electric car manufacturers can make simpler, less costly cooling systems for their battery packs, driving down the cost of EVs. It also reassures the public their shiny new electric cars aren’t going to explode in the garage, as recently happened to the owner of a Hyundai Kona EV in Canada.
Research published by Dahn and his team in the journal Nature Energy on July 15 reveals they have created new lithium-ion pouch cells that may outperform solid-state technology battery. Here’s the abstract of that research report:
“Cells with lithium-metal anodes are viewed as the most viable future technology, with higher energy density than existing lithium-ion batteries. Many researchers believe that for lithium-metal cells, the typical liquid electrolyte used in lithium-ion batteries must be replaced with a solid-state electrolyte to maintain the flat, dendrite-free lithium morphologies necessary for long-term stable cycling.
“Here, we show that anode-free lithium-metal pouch cells with a dual-salt LiDFOB/LiBF4 liquid electrolyte have 80% capacity remaining after 90 charge–discharge cycles, which is the longest life demonstrated to date for cells with zero excess lithium. The liquid electrolyte enables smooth dendrite-free lithium morphology comprised of densely packed columns even after 50 charge — discharge cycles. NMR measurements reveal that the electrolyte salts responsible for the excellent lithium morphology are slowly consumed during cycling.”
Credit: Jeff Dahn, et al./Nature Energy
Those pesky dendrites are the bane of lithium-ion batteries. They are little projections like stalagmites in caves that can poke through the insulating layer inside individual cells, leading to short circuits and potential fires. Eliminating them would be a big step forward, particularly for use in electric vehicles.
Is Tesla on the verge of replacing the cylindrical cells in its battery packs with Jeff Dahn’s pouch cells? Not just yet. There is a lot of research and testing left to do before they becomes suitable for commercial production, but they may signal an important step forward for energy storage in the years ahead.
Below is a video of Dahn when he won the prestigious National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada award in 2017. Here is a fellow who knows what he is talking about. If he says pouch cells can outperform solid state cells, we should pay heed.
The latest news in the battery space has been about alternatives to lithium-ion technology, which still dominates the space in electronics and cars but is being increasingly challenged from several directions, notably solid-state batteries.
Now, a team of researchers has reported they have improved lithium-ion batteries in a way that could discourage some challengers.
In apaperpublished in Nature magazine, the team, led by Jeff Dahn from Dalhousie University, reports they had designed more battery cells with higher energy density without using the solid-state electrolyte that many believe is a necessary condition for enhanced density.
What’s more, the battery cell the team designed demonstrated a longer life than some comparable alternatives.
The team from Dalhousie University was working with Tesla’s Canadian research and development team, Electreknotesin its report of the news, as well as the University of Waterloo.
The EV maker is probably the staunchest proponent of lithium-ion technology for electric car batteries, so it would make sense for it to continue investing in research that would keep the technology’s dominance in the face of multiple challengers.
Recently, for example, Japanese researchersannouncedthey had successfully found a substitute for the lithium ions used in batteries and this substitute was much cheaper and more abundant: sodium.
Last year, scientists from the Australian University of Wollongong announced
they had solved a problem with sodium batteries that made them too expensive to produce, namely a lot of the other materials used in such an installation besides the sodium itself.
Sodium batteries are among the more advanced challengers to lithium ion dominance, but like other alternatives to Li-ion batteries, they have been plagued by persistent problems with their performance. Even so, workcontinuesto make them competitive with lithium-ion technology.
This fact has probably made li-ion proponents such as Tesla, who have invested substantial amounts in the technology, double their efforts to improve their batteries’ performance or reduce their cost.
As the most expensive component of an electric car, the battery is a top priority for R&D departments in the car-making industry.
Earlier this year, German scientistssaidthey had found a way to make lithium ion batteries charge much faster. Charing times are the second most important consideration after cost for potential EV buyers, and another priority for EV makers. What the scientists did was replace the cobalt oxide used in the cathode of a lithium ion battery with another compound, vanadium disulfide.
Millions of electric cars are expected to hit the roads in the coming years. From a certain perspective, the race to faster charging is the race that will make or break the long-term mainstream future of the EV, which, it turns out, is not as certain as some would think.
A J.D.Powersurveyrecently revealed that people are not particularly crazy about EVs, and the reasons they are not crazy about them have to do a lot with the batteries: charging times and range, plus price. In this context, the battery improvement race could (and will) only intensify further.
*** This article appeared in TESLARATI and was re-posted in Fully Charged. We have Followed and Written a LOT about the ‘Coming EV Revolution’, about Advances in Charging Stations and Battery Technology. Most recently we posted an article ‘What If Green Energy Isn’t the Future?’
So maybe … just maybe, ‘Green Energy’ might NOT be able to meet the current Projected Carbon Fuel Replacement Schedule …. However, could the EV/ Hydrogen Fuel Cell Revolution replace forever the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)? (Hint: We Think So!)
Let Us Know What YOU think! Leave us your thoughts and comments. (below)
Headed by vehicles like the Tesla Model 3, the electric car revolution is showing no signs of stopping. The auto landscape today is very different from what it was years ago. Before, only Tesla and a few automakers were pushing electric cars, and the Model S was proving to the industry that EVs could be objectively better than internal combustion vehicles. Today, practically every automaker has plans to release electric cars. EV startup Bollinger Motors CEO Robert Bollinger summed it up best: “If you want to start a (car company) now, it has to be electric.”
CATALYSTS FOR A TRANSITION
A critical difference between then and now is that veteran automakers today are coming up with decent electric vehicles. No longer were EVs glorified golf carts and compliance cars; today’s electric vehicles are just as attractive, sleek, and powerful than their internal combustion peers. The auto industry has warmed up to electric vehicles as well. The Jaguar I-PACE has been collecting awards left and right since its release, and more recently, the Kia Niro EV was dubbed by Popular Mechanics as the recipient of its Car of the Year award.
A survey by CarGurus earlier this year revealed that 34% of car buyers are open to purchasing an electric car within the next ten years. A survey among young people in the UK last year revealed even more encouraging results, with 50% of respondents stating that they want electric cars. Amidst the disruption being brought about by the Tesla Model 3, which has all but dominated EV sales since production ramped last year, experienced automakers have responded in kind. Volkswagen recently debuted the ID.3, Audi has the e-tron, Hyundai has the Kona EV, and Mercedes-Benz has the EQC. Even Porsche, a low-volume car manufacturer, is attracting the high-end legacy market with the Taycan.
At this point, it appears that Tesla’s mission is going well underway. With the market now open to the idea of electric vehicles, there is an excellent chance that EV adoption will only increase from this point on.
BIG OIL FEELS A CHANGE IN THE WIND
Passenger cars are the No.1 source of demand for oil, and with the potential emergence of a transportation industry whose life and death does not rely on a gas pump, Big Oil could soon find itself on the defensive. Depending on how quickly the auto industry could shift entirely to sustainable transportation and how seriously governments handle issues like climate change, “peak oil” could happen a couple of decades or a few years from now. This could adversely affect investors in the oil industry, who might be at risk of losing their investments if peak oil happens faster than expected. JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, described this potential scenario in a statement to CNN. “Look at what happened to the coal industry. You have to keep that in the back of your mind and be vigilant. It can turn very, very quickly,” the strategist said.
Paul Sankey of Mizuho Securities previously mentioned that a “Tesla Effect” is starting to be felt in the oil markets. According to the analyst, the Tesla Effect is an increasingly prevalent concept today which states that while the 20th century was driven by oil, the 21st century will be driven by electricity. This, together with the growing movements against climate change today, does not bode well for the oil industry. Adam White, an equity strategist at SunTrust Advisory, stated that investors might not be looking at the oil market with optimism anymore. “A lot of damage has already been done. People are jaded towards the industry,” he said.
An analysis from Barclays points to the world’s reliance on oil peaking somewhere between 2030 and 2035, provided that countries keep to their low-carbon goals. The investment bank also noted that peak oil could happen as early as 2025 if more aggressive climate change initiatives are adopted on a wider scale. This all but makes investments in oil stocks very risky in the 2020s, and this risk gets amplified if electric vehicles become more mainstream. Sverre Alvik of research firm DNV GL described this concern. “By 2030, oil shareholders will feel the impact. Electric vehicles are likely to cause light vehicle oil demand to plunge by nearly 50% by 2040,” Alvik said.
Some of today’s prolific oil producers appear to be making the necessary preparations for peak oil’s inevitable decline. Amidst pressures from shareholders, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total have expanded their operations into solar, wind, and electric charging, seemingly as a means to future-proof themselves. On the flipside, there are also big oil players that are ramping their activities. Earlier this month, financial titan Warren Buffet, who recently expressed his skepticism towards Elon Musk’s plan of introducing an insurance service for Tesla’s electric cars, committed $10 billion to Occidental Petroleum, one of the largest oil and gas exploration companies in the United States.
A POINT OF NO RETURN
The auto industry is now at a point where a real transition towards electrification is happening. Tesla’s efforts over the years, from the original Roadster to the Model 3, have played a huge part in this transition. Tesla, as well as its CEO, Elon Musk, have awakened the public’s eye about the viability of electric cars, while showing the auto industry that there is a demand for good, well-designed EVs. Nevertheless, Tesla still has a long journey ahead of it, as the company ramps its activities in the energy storage sector. If Tesla Energy mobilizes and becomes as disruptive as the company’s electric car division, it would deal yet another blow to the oil industry.
At this point, it is pertinent for veteran automakers that have released their own electric cars to ensure that they do not stop. Legacy car makers had long talked the talk when it came to electric vehicles, but today, it is time to walk the walk. German automaker Volkswagen could be a big player in this transition, as hinted at by the reception of its all-electric car, the ID.3. The ID.3 launch was successful, with Volkswagen getting 10,000 preorders for the vehicle in just 24 hours. The German carmaker should see this as writing on the wall: the demand for EVs is there.
The Volkswagen ID.3 is not as quick or sleek as a Tesla Model 3, nor does it last as long on the road between charges. But considering its price point and its badge, it does not have to be. Volkswagen states that the ID.3 will be priced below 40,000 euros ($45,000) in Germany, which should make it attainable for car buyers in the country. If done right, the ID.3 could be the second coming of the Beetle, ultimately becoming a car that redeems the company from the stigma of the Dieselgate scandal. Thus, it would be a great shame if Volkswagen drops the ball on the ID.3.
Tesla will likely remain a divisive company for years to come; Elon Musk, even more so. Nevertheless, Tesla and what it stands for is slowly becoming an idea, one that connotes hope for something better and cleaner for the future. And if history’s victories and tragedies are any indication, once something becomes an idea, an intangible concept, it becomes impossible to kill.
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BYD is theworld’s largest electric vehicle maker(membership), though its brand isn’t widely recognized outside of China. It started out as a battery maker about 25 years ago and transitioned into the car business a little more than a decade ago, making both conventional fossil fuel-powered cars and “new energy vehicles.”
The success of its first mass-produced hybrid caught the attention of legendary US investor Warren Buffett, who in 2008 bought a 10% stake in BYD for $230 million. That investment seems to be really paying off right now.
There is increased demand for electric vehicles in China, BYD says, and it expects continued growth. The company’s profits rose to about 750 million yuan ($111 million) in the first quarter, compared to 102 million yuan a year ago. BYD sold73,172 new energy vehicles(pdf) in the quarter, up 147% from the same period a year ago.
Including conventional fuel cars, it sold 73,172 vehicles in the quarter, up 5% from last year. The company is nowselling more electric vehiclesthan conventional cars.
“New energy vehicles are expected to continue to sell well in the second quarter, and new energy vehicle sales and revenues continue to maintain strong growth,” the company’s latest stock exchange filing reports.
According to Reuters, BYD expects to sell 655,000 cars in 2019, and will account for a substantial portion of the 1.6 million electric vehicle total that China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts will be sold this year.
In stark contrast to this positive news for BYD, its US rival Tesla lost nearly $700 million in the first quarter. It attributed over $120 million in losses to a higher return rate than expected after itraised pricesfor the Model S and Model X.
In its quarterly earnings call, Tesla chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn described the first quarter as “one of the most complicated… in the history of the company.”
Beyond its faltering quarterly profits, Tesla also had some bad news in China to contend with recently.
Last week, a video that circulated widely on Chinese social media showed a parked Tesla Model Sabruptly caching firein Shanghai, where the company plans to build its first overseas factory. Earlier in the month, a parked Tesla in the USalso caught fire.
The two electric vehicle makers do have something in common, however. Tesla and BYD both plan to expand into each other’s markets. China is the world’s largest car market, and the US comes second.
There has long been a debate about Apple’s secretive automotive project being only about a self-driving system for vehicles rather than a full electric autonomous vehicle. It now looks clear that the latter is the case as Apple hires Tesla’s head of electric powertrains.
We described his departure from Tesla as a big loss for the company since he is amongst the most experienced engineers who have brought electric powertrain programs to market, not just at Tesla, but in the industry as a whole.
When Schwekutsch joined Tesla back in 2015, we described his background:
“Michael Schwekutsch joined Tesla last year to lead powertrain developments after a two-decade long career working for legendary third-party powertrain engineering firms like BorgWarner and GKN Driveline. More recently, he managed programs for the electric and hybrid powertrains of the BMW i8, Porsche 918 Spyder, Fiat 500eV, Volvo XC90, among other popular vehicles.
Today, he is responsible for Tesla’s drive units from the design and engineering to the manufacturing and validation – all operations currently done at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California.”
At Tesla, he participated in the development of “leading edge Drive Systems like the one of the Tesla Roadster II and Tesla Semi / Tesla Truck.”
Now Electrek learns from separate sources that he joined Apple’s Special Project Group, which includes the Cupertino company’s Project Titan division.
He is the latest of several top Tesla engineers to join the project, which was for a time thought to only consist of a self-driving system for vehicles after a scale-back of the plan.
Now that Schwekutsch, who has exclusively worked on electric powertrains over the last decade, has joined Apple, it is becoming clear that the company plans to bring a complete electric vehicle to market.
Schwekutsch will join back Doug Field, who was a longtime engineering executive at Tesla before going back to Apple to lead their car project last year alongside Bob Mansfield, who Apple brought out ofretirement in 2016 to leadits Project Titan car team.
Electrek has learned that Apple is also hiring several other former Tesla employees in what appears to be another wave of the poaching war between the two companies.
At the height of it back in 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said about Apple:
“They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.”
More recently, however, Apple has hired some longtime executives and engineers that don’t appear to have been let go by Tesla. That said, the company has laid off many employees over the last year and some of them did go to Apple, which has experienced employment cut-backs of its own.
Maxwell’s core business is ultracapacitors, the wide-temperature-range, high-power-density energy storage component that can rapidly charge and discharge. Also known as supercaps or electronic double layer capacitors, ultracapacitors are geared for high-power and high-cycle applications.
Batteries use a chemical process to store energy, while ultracapacitors store a static electric charge — physically separating positive and negative charges.
Maxwell’s ultracaps deliver peak power as well as regenerative braking, voltage stabilization, backup power and hybrid stop/start. Ultracaps are also used to power the pitch control adjustment in wind turbines during sudden wind speed changes, since replacing batteries at 500 feet above the ground is tricky.
In a previous interview, Maxwell’s CEO estimated that there is $5,000 worth of ultracaps in the typical wind turbine and $15,000 per electric bus. Maxwell declined to respond to GTM to update those figures.
Or dry electrode technology?
But Maxwell’s allure might not be its ultracapacitors — it might be the dry electrode technology developed by Maxwell that really intrigues Elon Musk.
The “dry” in “dry electrode technology” refers to an ultracapacitor manufacturing process that Maxwell claims can improve battery costs, performance and lifetime across a variety of lithium-ion battery chemistries.
Maxwell states, in a release, that its dry electrode manufacturing technology, historically used to make ultracapacitors, is “a breakthrough technology that can be applied to the manufacturing of batteries.”
A white paper from Maxwell claims that its dry battery electrode (DBE) coating technology can be used with “classical and advanced” lithium-ion battery chemistries, but “unlike conventional slurry cast wet coated electrode, Maxwell’s DBE produces a thick electrode that allows for high energy density cells with better discharge rate capability than those of a wet coated electrode.” (Right: Passive dry electrode schematic)
A presentation from the company claims it has “demonstrated” an energy density of greater than 300 watt-hours per kilogram and has “identified” a path to greater than 500 watt-hours per kilogram. Maxwell claims to have used the process with a number of available anode materials.
A battery expert colleague notes that solvent-free electrode manufacturing “might be worth $200 million” if Maxwell “has really eliminated the toxic solvent without compromising on performance.” Maxwell’s patent filings indicate that work is being done to eliminate solvent usage in both dry-processing and melt-processing of binders.
During Maxwell’s third-quarter 2018 conference call, CEO Franz Fink noted that its dry electrode business was looking for a partner to provide “significant financial support” and expertise in EVs or energy storage systems.
If this deal goes through in the coming quarters, Maxwell’s CEO will have gotten his wish.
Tesla’s battery research group, led by renowned battery boffin Jeff Dahn, has applied for a patent on a new battery cell chemistry that the company says could deliver faster charging, longer life and lower cost.
In the application, entitled “Novel battery systems based on two-additive electrolyte systems,” Dahn and his team explain that adding up to five different compounds to an electrolyte can improve battery performance, but they have devised a solution using only two additives, which reduces costs compared to other systems that rely on more additives. Above: Tesla’s Model S (Instagram: brian__self)
Above: A look at why (and how) battery advances could be a game changer for Tesla (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The new two-additive mixtures can be used with lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) battery chemistries. NMC chemistry is used in several EV models, but Tesla uses an NCA chemistry for its vehicle battery cells. However, Tesla does use NMC in its stationary storage batteries. According to the patent application, the new technology would be useful for both EV and grid storage applications.
With new premium electric SUVs hitting the market, Tesla is seeing some competition, but that competition is also highlighting Tesla’s incredible lead when it comes to efficiency.
Now a third-party range test against Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace is confirming that the rest of the industry is behind when it comes to efficiency.
The range and efficiency test
German electric car rental companynextmoveconducted the test between the three premium electric SUVs.
The company used a pre-series Audi e-tron since they haven’t started deliveries officially, a Tesla Model X 90D with a 90 kWh battery pack. and a Jaguar I-Pace, which is also equipped with a 90 kWh pack.
The test was performed with all three vehicles driving in parallel on a 87 km stretch of the Autobahn between the Munich airport and Landshut in Germany at an average speed of 120 km/h (75 mph):
The results for the Tesla Model X, Audi e-tron, and Jaguar I-Pace
According to nextmove’s test, the Model X came out on top with an impressive lead over the two competitors:
“In direct comparison, the Tesla Model X (drag coefficient: 0.25) performed best. The consumption was 24.8 kWh per 100 km ((39.9 kWh/100mi). The Audi e-tron (drag coefficient: 0.27) showed a 23% higher consumption of 30.5 kWh/100 km (49.1 kWh/100mi). The Jaguar I-Pace (drag coefficient: 0.29) had the highest consumption of 31.3 kWh/100 km (50,37 kWh/100mi). and required 26% more than the Model X. The significantly higher consumption of the I-Pace compared to the Model X confirms previous nextmove tests on the motorway.”
The numbers clearly show that Tesla needs a lot less energy to power its SUV:
They used a Model X 90D to have a more comparable battery size with the I-Pace and e-tron, but the vehicle is no longer available for sale.
For context, nextmove also used the Model X 100D in the range comparison for what is available today:
We already noted the disappointing efficiency in our reviews of theAudi e-tronandJaguar I-Pace, but it’s interesting to have a direct comparison on the same road at the same time.
Also, it’s especially impressive when we consider that the Model X is bigger than both of those vehicles and therefore, it shouldn’t be more efficient.
We even noted in our review of the I-Pace that we wouldn’t even compare it to the Model X because it is more of a sedan than a SUV.
As for Audi, I think that they are intentionally giving up their efficiency in order to protect the battery pack and get a higher charge rate.
They clearly have a large buffer for their battery pack, which has a capacity of 95 kWh, but I don’t think you get access to more than 85 kWh out of it.
That’s how they manage to achievean impressive charge rate of over 150 kWand maintain it for so long since the battery is not actually as full as you’d think and it also enables a lower average state-of-charge, which could be good for the longevity of the pack.
The disadvantage of it is that you are carrying around 15% more battery than you are ever going to use and that’s what kills the e-tron’s efficiency in our opinion.