(Reuters) – Electric car maker Tesla plans to launch a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China later this year or early next year, which is expected to match the cost of electric vehicles with the gasoline models and enable EV batteries to have one second and third lifespan in the power grid. For months now, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has teased investors and competitors with the promise of showing significant advances in battery technology on a “battery day” at the end of May.
New, low-cost batteries that are designed to last a million miles and allow the electric Teslas to sell profitably at the same price or less than a gasoline vehicle are just part of Musk̵
The new “million-mile” battery at the heart of Tesla’s strategy was developed in cooperation with China’s contemporary Amperex and uses the technology developed by Tesla in collaboration with an academic battery expert recruited by Musk, three people who are familiar with the effort. Finally, improved versions of Tesla with higher energy density and storage capacity and even lower costs will be introduced in other Tesla vehicles in other markets, including North America, the sources said.
Tesla’s plan to launch the new battery in China first, and its broader strategy to reposition the company, have not been reported. Tesla declined to comment.
Tesla’s new batteries will be based on innovations such as low-cobalt and cobalt-free battery chemicals, as well as the use of chemical additives, materials and coatings that reduce internal stress and allow batteries to store energy for longer. Tesla also plans to implement new, highly automated, high-speed battery manufacturing processes that will lower labor costs and increase production in giant “terafactories” that are about 30 times larger than the vast “gigafactory” in Nevada – a strategy that In late April, analysts telegraphed from Musk.
Through its subsidiary Redwood Materials, Tesla is working on the recycling and recovery of such expensive metals as nickel, cobalt and lithium as well as on new “second life” applications for electric vehicle batteries in network storage systems such as that of Tesla South Australia in 2017. The automaker has also announced consumers and wanting to power businesses has not given any details.
Reuters reported exclusively in February that Tesla was the most expensive metal in EV batteries in advanced discussions about using CATL lithium iron phosphate batteries that do not use cobalt. CATL has also developed a simpler and less expensive method of packaging battery cells, called cell-to-pack, which eliminates the middle step of cell bundling. Tesla is expected to use the technology to reduce battery weight and costs.
According to the sources, CATL plans to supply Tesla in China with an improved long-life nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery next year, the cathode of which is 50% nickel and only 20% cobalt. Tesla is now producing nickel-cobalt aluminum (NCA) batteries together with Panasonic in a “Gigafactory” in Nevada and is buying NMC batteries from LG Chem in China. Panasonic declined to comment.
Taken together, advances in battery technology, the strategy to expand the use of EV batteries, and the automation of large-scale manufacturing are all aimed at the same goal: revising the financial mathematics that previously made it possible to buy an electric car. More expensive than that for most consumers Clinging to carbon-emitting combustion vehicles.
“We really need to make sure that we achieve a very steep ramp in battery production and continue to improve the cost per kilowatt hour of the batteries – this is very fundamental and extremely difficult,” Musk told investors in January. “We have to scale battery production to a crazy level that people can’t even figure out today.”
Tesla has reported operating profits for three consecutive quarters, which has almost doubled its share price this year. However, Musk’s ambitious expansion plans depend on increasing both profit margins and sales volume.
Some of Tesla and CATL’s technical advances in battery chemistry and design have been achieved in a small research laboratory at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The laboratory has been operated by Jeff Dahn, a pioneer in the development of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and network storage, since 1996. Dahn and his team started an exclusive five-year research partnership with Tesla in mid-2016. However, the relationship goes back to at least 2012. Key contributions from Dahn’s laboratory include chemical additives and nano-engineered materials for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries Hardener and more resistant to bruising from stress such as quick charging, which extends their lifespan.
The cost of CATL’s cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate batteries has dropped below $ 80 per kilowatt hour, with battery cell costs falling below $ 60 / kWh. CATL’s low-cobalt NMC batteries cost almost $ 100 per kWh. Automotive industry executives have indicated that $ 100 / kWh for batteries is the level at which electric vehicles achieve rough parity with combustion competitors.
Battery expert Shirley Meng, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, said NMC cells could only cost $ 80 / kWh if recycling and recovery of key materials such as cobalt and nickel were taken into account. Iron phosphate batteries, which are safer than NMC, could find a second life in stationary network storage systems and lower the upfront costs of these batteries for electric vehicle buyers.
In comparison, the new low-cob batteries, developed jointly by General Motors and LG Chem, are unlikely to reach these costs until 2025, according to a source familiar with the company’s work. GM declined to comment on its cost targets. Earlier this year, the only announcement was “to cut battery cell costs below $ 100 / kWh,” with no schedule.