Here's Why the Tesla, Maxwell EV Battery Pack Could be an Industry Game Changer

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【Summary】Tesla's recent acquisition of Maxwell is a clear sign that the electric carmaker is advancing its assault on current EV battery pack limitations.

Manish Kharinta    Aug 01, 2019 1:30 PM PT
Here's Why the Tesla, Maxwell EV Battery Pack Could be an Industry Game Changer

The technical limitations of current electric vehicle battery technology has somewhat slowed the mass adoption of EVs. The main concerns of drivers of electric vehicles are limited range and extended charging times. 

With Tesla's recent acquisition of Maxwell for $218 million, the California-based electric automaker is looking for ways to overcome the limitations of current EV battery pack technology. 

Maxwell's dry battery electrode technology could increase battery energy density by 50% and eventually could nearly triple energy density from current levels, as well as double the battery's life.

Initially, engineers hypothesized that supercapacitors were the answer to traditional EV battery pack restrictions. Maxwell is a company primarily known for its pioneering work on supercapacitors, but as it turns out, Tesla was more interested in the potential of the company's dry electrode technology.

Maxwell's dry electrode technology uses small cylinder fibers of PTFE (Teflon) and active electrode material particles. This produces self-supporting films of cathode and anode material, which is then made into either a positive cathode or negative anode by laminating the films to a current collector foil. 

The resulting positive or negatively charged cathode and anode is wound up into a cylinder with a separator film between each layer to make a battery cell. Maxwell's electrode process can produce them without using a solvent. 

The electric coating method using solvents to manufacture conventional lithium-ion batteries takes longer time and requires equipment that occupies a lot of factory floor space.

The solvents used to make traditional lithium-ion batteries require expensive and cumbersome electrode coating machines. However, Maxwell's method is a more cost-effective alternative to the traditional battery production process.

Maxwell also claims that its dry battery technology is capable of producing thicker electrodes, which can offer substantially higher loading and energy density capabilities. 

Industry rumours suggest that Maxwell might be working on a new large format cylindrical cell for Tesla.

If Tesla plans on incorporating these potentially larger format battery cells in its upcoming offerings, then it will also have to increase the battery kWh as these high energy density cells produce lower power figures.

Maxwell entered into a joint venture with the The U.S. Department of Energy and battery maker A123 Systems to develop these dry electrode cells back in 2011, so these new cells may be ready for mass-production quite soon. 

Earlier, Tesla also announced that it would keep investing in its Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, but would focus more on the facility's production rate. Rumors suggest this might be Tesla's way of hinting that it will no longer invest in aging battery manufacturing technology.

If so, Tesla soon might introduce a refreshed version of its lineup featuring high-density solvent-free battery packs developed by Maxwell.

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