Tesla Chief Elon Musk Drops Hints About the Company's New Advanced EV Batteries

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【Summary】Electric automaker Tesla is getting ready for its “Battery Day” event on Sept 22, in which the company will reveal details about its new highly advanced batteries that promise to extend the range of its electric vehicles. On Monday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk dropped some battery hints for the first time on Twitter.

Eric Walz    Aug 25, 2020 9:00 AM PT
Tesla Chief Elon Musk Drops Hints About the Company's New Advanced EV Batteries

Electric automaker Tesla is getting ready for its "Battery Day" event on Sept 22, in which the company will reveal details about its new highly advanced batteries that promise to extend the range of its electric vehicles. Whatever the reveal might be, anticipation about the event is very high, and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk took to Twitter to drop some hints for the first time.

In a tweet, Musk wrote, "400 Wh/kg *with* high cycle life, produced in volume (not just a lab) is not far. Probably 3 to 4 years." Musk made the comments in response to a Twitter thread by Sam Korus, an analyst at ARK Investment Management LLC, about why Musk keeps hinting at a Tesla electric plane.

To most people not familiar with the technical side of EV batteries, 400 watts hours per gram (Wh/kg) refers to the energy density of batteries and capacitors, which translates into how much energy the batteries can deliver per hour. The higher the Wh/kg, the longer the range of the vehicle.

For comparison, the energy density of Panasonic's "2170" batteries currently used in the Model 3 is around 254 Wh/kg according to researchers, so Tesla's new batteries are a significant improvement in energy output, which translates into a longer driving range. 

The 2170 batteries are built in a joint venture with Panasonic as Tesla's Nevada gigafactory. Panasonic told Reuters that it plans to boost the energy density of the original "2170" battery cells by roughly 20% in five years.

Batteries Using Silicon Nanowire Technology?

An image displayed on Tesla's website promoting the annual shareholders meeting and Battery Day event might provide some valuable insight into Tesla's new batteries. The background image presumably shows strands of silicon nanowire composed of tiny dots representing lithium. 

South Korean battery expert Park Chul-wan confirmed the photo and told Reuters that the image may hint at "silicon nanowire anode," a breakthrough technology which can potentially increase both battery energy density and battery life sharply.

Silicon is considered the best material for energy density and using silicon nanowire technology can lead to the highest energy density batteries in the world.

In 2007, researchers at Stanford University also discovered a way to improve lithium ion batteries using nanotechnology. The researchers were able to store lithium in tiny strands of silicon nanowires instead of the traditional anode and cathode materials where its transferred using liquid electrolyte. These nanowires are about one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. 

According to California battery developer Amprius Technologies, which coincidentally is located just a few miles down the road from Tesla's Fremont, California factory, the silicon nanowires expand when they take-up lithium, but the nanotechnology keeps the silicon from fracturing and breaking apart. 

This breakthrough battery technology is seen as revolutionary to increasing the energy density of EV batteries.

Amprius also has a materials R&D lab in Nanjing, China, as well as a high volume battery manufacturing facility in Wuxi, China. However there is no confirmed connection of Amprius Technologies to Tesla.

The silicon nanowires also improves solid-electrolyte-interphase (SEI) & cycle life. SEI is a process in which a microscopic coating forms on the electrode surfaces inside the battery from the decomposition of the electrolytes, which are created from cycles of recharging and discharging. It can be considered as a new battery's "break-in process," which helps batteries maintain their charge.

The SEI formation is considered a defect of modern batteries, contributing to electrode surface instability, which leads to battery degradation over time.

Another benefit to silicon nanowires is that the battery's anode thickness is reduced to half of a graphite electrode thickness, so more batteries can fit in the same space leading to longer range EVs.

In addition, more energy dense batteries with 400 Wh/kg or higher can also be used for electric vertical takeoff and landing VTOL aircraft that companies such as Uber and Joby Aviation are working on for future air taxi services.

Tesla is also working with China's leading battery producer CATL, which claims it's developing a 1.2 million mile EV battery with a 16-year lifespan. CATL is Tesla's battery supplier for its Model 3 vehicles built in China at Tesla's new Shanghai factory.

In February, CATL announced it inked a two-year deal to supply batteries to Tesla. The lucrative deal followed months of negotiations, with Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk traveling to Shanghai to meet with CATL's Chairman Zeng.

Without further speculation on Tesla's game-changing battery breakthrough, we'll have to wait another month for the company's big announcement.

Tesla's 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders will be held on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 1:30 PM Pacific Time. Immediately following the annual meeting will be Tesla's much anticipated Battery Day event. Live video webcasts of both events will be accessible to the general public.

Tesla said that a very "limited number of stockholders" will be able to attend both of the events due to the current pandemic restrictions. A lottery will be held to select attendees.

resource from: Reuters

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