Tesla More Than Doubles Lithium-Ion Battery Life

1 month ago by EVANNEX 28

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Tesla Gigafactory

BETTER BATTERIES: TESLA IMPROVES LITHIUM-ION BATTERY TECHNOLOGY

Tesla is not standing still when it comes to improving lithium-ion technology and reducing battery costs. It was recently reported that Tesla’s battery partner, Panasonic, announced that, “We think the existing technology can still extend the energy density of Li-ion batteries by 20% to 30%. But there is a trade-off between energy density and safety. So if you look for even more density, you have to think about additional safety technology as well. Solid-state batteries are one answer.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

But many feel solid state batteries are years away. That said, are there other next-gen solutions that might come to fruition sooner? It turns out that Tesla has one of the world’s premiere battery experts, Jeff Dahn, working on a myriad of potential solutions (see below). And Dahn recently explained that: “doubling the lifetime of the [battery] cells used in the Tesla products… was the goal of the project and it has already been exceeded. We are not going to stop… we are going to go as far as we can.” Dahn said that his Tesla research is already “going into the company’s products.”

Above: Jeff Dahn explains his role with Tesla (Youtube: TEDx Talks)

Tesla’s new 2170 lithium-ion battery will soon appear in the Model 3. In addition to improved battery chemistry, there are ongoing cost reductions taking place as “Tesla has become the largest buyer of li-ion batteries and now [with the Gigafactory] it is trying to become the largest producer of li-ion batteries.” Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s longtime director of battery technology, is finding economies of scale sourcing raw materials: “Nickel, Cobalt, Graphite and lithium [which serve] as the biggest cost drivers for the overall battery cost.” It’s already been confirmed that Tesla has reduced battery costs overall by 35%.

Visual Capitalist* also points out another area where battery improvements may exist — the cathode:

“Cathode choice is a major factor for determining battery energy density, and cathodes also typically account for 25% of lithium-ion battery costs. That means the cathode can impact both the performance and cost pieces of the $/kWh equation – and building a better cathode will likely be a key driver for the success of the green revolution… [and] cathode development has many exciting prospects. These include concepts such as building cathodes with layered composite structures or orthosilicates, as well as improvements to the fundamental material processes used in cathode assembly.”

Tesla

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Tesla and other examples of commercialized cathode formulations and the metals needed for them – aside from lithium (Source: Visual Capitalist*)

Visual Capitalist* notes that, “The type of cathode chosen can affect the energy density, power density, safety, cycle life, and cost of the overall battery, and this is why researchers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and combinations… [and] as these new technologies are applied, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to decrease. In fact, experts are now saying that it won’t be long before batteries will hit $80/kWh – a cost that would make EVs [electric vehicles] undeniably cheaper than traditional gas-powered vehicles.” Check out the infographic below for more clues into how changes to the cathode could represent further improvements to the lithium-ion battery…

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*Source: Visual Capitalist

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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28 responses to "Tesla More Than Doubles Lithium-Ion Battery Life"

  1. Ambulator says:

    Another recent video by Jeff Dahn. It’s longer but with worse audio and the video is all of charts:

    Unfortunately, the other recent Dahn video has been made private. In it he mentions that he has not worked on NCA cells, but says they are interesting.

  2. MTN Ranger says:

    Recently, PBS Nova did an episode called “Search for the Super Battery” that was interesting:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/super-battery.html

  3. georgeS says:

    Are these cell costs or pack costs? When Tesla quoted 190$ I thought that was pack cost not cell cost.

    We had an article on the Tesla truck that said the battery might be around 1200 kwh’s. So a 1200 kwh pack @ 100$/kwh would be 120,000$.

    The pack adds what? Another 50%?

    That puts the truck pack cost at 180,000$.

    So the cost of the battery pack alone in the Tesla truck could be as much as the latest and greatest Diesel truck.

    Tough problem statement.

    1. Vexar says:

      <$190 per kWh was the pack cost, you are correct. Pack price varies given complexity of technology involved. For instance, early Nissan Leaf batteries and Ford Focus Electric were "air-cooled" which meant they had no battery temperature management technology. That's led to battery degradation in some circumstances (class action lawsuit for owners from Arizona comes to mind). On the other side of things, Tesla has heating and cooling systems for its battery. It also has design innovations introduced into the cells now to reduce fire spread risk. Presently, I don't believe the Tesla battery packs or cells being manufactured *today* in Sparks, NV are surpassed in quality and design by any volume manufacturer. This may change, and I certainly hope competition tightens up through independent innovation (not espionage).

      1. georgeS says:

        OK thx Vexxar.
        I found it:
        “Tesla’s Vice-President of Investor Relations, Jeff Evanson, jumped in on the call between Langan and Bereisa to correct their analysis. Evanson stated that Tesla’s battery pack cost is already below $190/kWh”
        https://electrek.co/2016/04/26/tesla-model-3-battery-pack-cost-kwh/

        This article implies 190$/kwh CELL costs so I’m not sure what the deal is.

        1. pjwood1 says:

          George, whichever the case may be, wouldn’t BMS costs be closer to a fixed component of the pack cost, meaning truck batteries may not hold to an “add 50%” rule? Intuitively, I can see how cooling needs to be more robust, but on materials costs it too may not rise in proportion to added cell costs. Fair?

          1. georgeS says:

            pj,
            could be. The 1.5 factor is crude at best.

            Nix,
            Copy. but even at that price the truck project seems like a tough nut to crack.

            1. Bob A says:

              Has there been any analysis of cost per mile done? When you add maintenance/downtime and fuel costs, does that offset the upfront cost of the battery and higher loan costs?

        2. Nix says:

          Yes, that is the $190 number that I am also familiar with.

          Note that the $190 price at the pack level was for 18650 cells. Since that $190 announcement, Tesla has made yet another announcement that they have reduced the cell level cost by 35% with the 2170 cells. So perhaps the pack level price with 2170 cells may be somewhere around the $150 level.

    2. SJC says:

      $200,000 in batteries OR $20,000 in batteries and a $20,000 PEM. Lighter weight, lower cost, faster fill, longer range.

  4. KevinZ says:

    Didn’t General Motors state that they purchased the Bolt’s battery cells at $145 per kilowatt hour?

    1. georgeS says:

      145 at the cell level:

      (link)

      1. Nix says:

        I find it interesting that the graph that GM provides keeps that same $145 price from 2016 until 2019. Then makes a 1 year, $25 dollar dip to $120 in 2020.

        The only rational explanation for that odd curve shape that I can come up with, is that GM is locked into a 4 year battery contract at that price. My guess is that LG is building the initial cells either at a loss or at a low profit margin, while they will pocket all the savings over the 4 year battery contract with larger profit margins in year 4.

        If my supposition is correct, that would be smart of LG over the long run, and would explain why they were so mad when GM released those prices.

  5. Vrykolas says:

    Question: WHEN did these findings start making their way into Tesla products (specifically vehicles). We purchased one in December 2016, so I’m wondering if our pack included these extended-life cells or not

    1. Doggydogworld says:

      The Electrek article on these same talks says Dahn’s work has not made it into Tesla products yet.

  6. Warren says:

    Does anybody believe that Tesla has doubled the life of their batteries…and Elon has not tweeted this all over? Like he wouldn’t want to drive his stock price through the roof. 🙂

    1. pjwood1 says:

      We were getting into this the other day, when it came up that the few report worse than 10-20% capacity loss, no matter the mileage on Tesla’s batteries. Instances beyond this are anecdotally few, without what I think most would judge as a material number of replacements.

      Tesla, like GM, is smart. They know and have been pro-active regarding longevity concerns. It’s good lithium ion has proven itself, so well. The days of large lead-acid, and NiMH hybrid batteries are over.

    2. AlphaEdge says:

      My understanding, this was for the Powerwall 2 battery chemistry, and not the batteries being used in the upcoming model 3.

  7. Four Electrics says:

    So when a non-Tesla researcher announces a battery improvement, it’s always “I’ll believe it when I see it” (and rightly so), but when a Tesla researcher makes an announcement, it is gospel? Typical.

    1. Trollnonymous says:

      Meh, I’ll still only believe it when I see it…..

      1. Mark.ca says:

        Same here, i have to see it to believe it.
        On the other hand “Four Electrics” here sees it and still won’t believe it…talk about a chronic case of skepticism.

    2. Get Real says:

      Well 4E/Spiegel, you probably don’t even know this (
      since you have no other interest here except to spread anti-Tesla FUD to support your lame Tesla shorts)
      ,Jeff Dahn is probably the preeminent battery researcher in the World.

      So what he says matters unlike what you constantly slime us all here with because unlike you he is successful and respected and has demonstrated and has something you completely lack which is called INTEGRITY!

      1. Mark.ca says:

        You are being unfair towards Four Electrics. He is not just a Tesla troll he is an EV troll so give him some credit…he is working hard for it.

  8. Kaz says:

    I wonder if they’re really talking about life in terms of per-charge capacity, or life in terms of number of charge cycles. Maybe the number of charge cycles for a certain level of degradation has been doubled? That’s still cool, because it means you have to buy replacement batteries (or cars) half as often…

  9. Trollnonymous says:

    I like the LiFePO4 chem.
    A123 had a good thing (good cycle life and fast charge/discharge) but their cost was prohibitive.

    1. BenG says:

      It looked pretty good, with good power, durability, and safety with decent energy density, but that manufacturing defect just sank the company.

      They can’t really compete with the energy density of the most dense variations, but there might be a place for that tradeoff in a multi-tiered approach where you put some high power, high durability batteries in between the main pack and the motor, to help with acceleration bursts and regen.

    2. JP says:

      A123 specific energy was the big weakness, along with cost. Tesla/Panasonic NCA doubles the specific energy of A123.

  10. TomArt says:

    Very cool infographic – thanks!

    Otherwise, though, the post itself seems to ramble. As far as I can tell, the supporting text for the headline came from a quote in the middle of the article:

    “doubling the lifetime of the [battery] cells used in the Tesla products… was the goal of the project and it has already been exceeded.”

    The article didn’t even elaborate on it, or emphasize it…it just took a tangent on the kinds of innovations that have been, and will continue to, drive down costs/kWh.

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