Elon Musk Responds To Alleged “Battery Breakthroughs”


Likely in response to this article “Ultra-fast charging aluminum battery offers safe alternative to conventional batteries” posted at PhysOrg, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk posted this on his Twitter account:

Musk Tweets In response To Alleged Battery Breakthroughs

Musk Tweets In response To Alleged Battery Breakthroughs

The “breakthrough” battery discussed in the PhysOrg article is of the aluminum-ion variety.Β  Problem is the article does not list complete specs for the battery.Β  It does state that the “battery was able to withstand more than 7,500 cycles without any loss of capacity” and that the “battery produces about half the voltage of a typical lithium battery,” but specific numbers are not present.Β  So, this battery would fail the Musk “breakthrough” test.

Aluminum-Ion Battery

Aluminum-Ion Battery

However, even a quick read of the PhysOrg article would convince just about anyone that the battery being discussed is nowhere near ready for commercialization:

“Millions of consumers use 1.5-volt AA and AAA batteries,” Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford siad. “Our rechargeable aluminum battery generates about two volts of electricity. That’s higher than anyone has achieved with aluminum.

“Our battery produces about half the voltage of a typical lithium battery.Β  But improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density. Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early days. It’s quite exciting.”

And there is this counter claim/justification against lithium that makes us wonder, at least about an automotive application for this new technology:

“Lithium-ion batteries can be a fire hazard”, Stanford grad student Ming Gong, co-lead author of the Nature study, “…lithium batteries can go off in an unpredictable manner – in the air, the car or in your pocket.”


Category: Battery Tech

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36 responses to "Elon Musk Responds To Alleged “Battery Breakthroughs”"
  1. mhpr262 says:

    If it has half the weight and half the size compared to a typical lithium battery, the two Volts won’t matter as you can just use twice as many serially and halve the number of parallel modules.

    1. Lou Grinzo says:

      And, as Musk points out, what is the energy and power density of the resulting battery pack?

      I get very frustrated by all the BBB (big battery breakthrough) announcements we see that then seem to disappear without a trace. I’m frustrated that batteries aren’t advancing as quickly as I like (even though they’re improving in performance/cost ratio quite nicely), and I’m also frustrated with the wretched coverage we see in so many articles.

      I wish more people, and not just the authors of these wide-eyed articles, understood at least somewhat all the hurdles between, “Holy crap! Look what we just did in the lab!!!” and, “I just bought a new EV with a 500-mile BazookaBattery(TM)”.

      Trying to engineer a battery pack that meets all the pertinent real world requirements is a staggering task. Working in different environmental conditions, cost, scaling production, size, weight, power and energy delivery, safety, pack lifespan — it makes my head hurt.

      But as I’ve said here before, I have zero doubt that we’ll see at least one BBB that makes it all the way to the showroom floor. (I consider ultracaps to be merely another form of battery, for the purposes of this discussion.) The financial reward is almost unimaginable, and there are far too many groups chasing that goal for none of them to find it.

      1. przemo_li says:


        WW2 Bazookas… where …. not good.

        πŸ˜€ πŸ˜› πŸ˜€

      2. Jouni Valkonen says:

        Lou, I just do not get you. Battery technology is advancing in energy density every year about 5%. This is huge exponential growth rate. In general people seem not to understand and appreciate the exponential growth of technology. But instead they are crying for breakthroughs although technology improves incrementally and exponentially.

        Batteries are already today lightweight enough and cheaper than gasoline for about 250 to 300 mile range cars. What else you need? It may seem daunting that 300 mile battery costs little more than 20k dollars, but if you distribute battery cost for monthly lease contract, it is actually cheaper than gasoline and maintenance costs of gas mobile.

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          I don’t think battery generality density is improving that fast in that we would have had a 120 mile leaf or 100 mile range i-miev now.

          I think it’s improving at 2% to 3% every few years.

          1. Open-Mind says:

            Hard to say, since neither of those cars have been redesigned yet.

            However, the redesigned Volt range jumped from 38 miles to 50 miles … a 31% increase. That improvement does average to about 5% per year. And the redesign has more power and a lower price.

            1. Nix says:

              Only part of the Volt’s range improvement came from better batteries. GM also increased how much of the battery is accessible for use. The new Volt uses more of the battery than the old one did.

              1. Open-Mind says:

                Yes they’re using a larger percentage of their new (lighter and higher capacity) battery, but I suspect that’s because their new cell chemistry is also better able to handle that load cycle long-term without damage. The contrary would imply that GM has suddenly gotten more risk-tolerant regarding expensive battery-warranty claims, which I doubt. I suspect GM is still being very cautious when it comes to the battery. Perhaps more cautious, since they plan to sell a lot more of the new design.

      3. BravelilToaster says:

        “I get very frustrated by all the BBB (big battery breakthrough) announcements we see that then seem to disappear without a trace.”

        That’s because every last one of them is actually screaming “Fund our research! Fund our research!” More than likely they get exactly the sort of attention they’re looking for – for example, LG likely sends an engineer to their lab to do some tests – and then after some *actual* scrutiny (for example, exactly the opposite of what reporters do), they fail to be interesting and we go right back to work on making the chemistries we have, better.

        This is why Tesla insists that these labs actually send them a *battery*, not a report of their own testing. They waste less time this way.

      4. Edgar says:

        A young lady by the name of Esha Kare has invented a way to charge a cell phone battery in 20 seconds. Can this technology be applied to electric car batteries?
        She was given a cash award of $50,000.00 and she lives in the Bay Area of California

      5. Edgar says:

        A young lady called Easha Kare won the Intel $50,000.00 prize with this invention that can charge a cell phone in twenty seconds.
        The electrochemical supercapacitor prototype Khare demonstrated can be fully charged within 20 seconds, and holds charge longer than other similar devices. The technology could potentially be scalable to power cell phones or cars. Khare’s invention won $50,000 in prize money at the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award held in Phoenix, Arizona.[2][3] Afterwards, she got the attention of Google and other technological giants.[4]

        Specifically, under the supervision of Dr. Yat Li at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz [1], she designed, synthesized, and characterized a novel core-shell nanorod electrode with hydrogenated TiO2 (H-TiO2) core and polyaniline shell, fabricated into a flexible solid-state device. Tests showed 238.5 Farads per gram, 20.1 Watt-hours per kilogram, 20540 Watts per kilogram, and only 32.5% capacitance loss over 10,000 charging cycles.[5]

  2. David Murray says:

    I’m not sure what the relevance is of the voltage level. NiMh batteries only have 1.2 Volts per cell. You just put more cells in serial configuration to boost the voltage. Hasn’t stopped them from being used in hybrids and some early EVs.

    1. Sublime says:

      Voltage is half of the equation in energy storage. Let’s say you discover “breakthrough” cathode and anode materials that store 250mah/g and 500mah/g. The catch is, that used together they only produce 1.0V. You end up with a battery that is 166wh/kg.
      On the converse, let’s say you find two materials that store 100mah/g and 200mah/g, but together produce 5V. That would create a battery that is 333wh/kg.
      When it comes to specific capacity, voltage is as important as mah.

  3. jill jill says:

    I truly Believe that someone will find a Battery Solution.. Hopefully Sooner that later…Magnetic Powered Generators?…The power source of the Universe….

  4. Sublime says:

    I’ve heard this battery is currently around 50wh/kg. So even if they double its capacity, its still less than what’s in the LEAF today. Plus, if they double its capacity, its long life capabilities might be compromised, because of the added stress of holding those additional ions in the electrodes.
    I think it holds promise for home energy storage though. In that environment, weight/size mean very little and cost/durability mean everything. Seeing that the electrode materials are aluminum and graphite (both extremely cheap) it may have an advantage in $/kWh.

  5. Anderlan says:

    Yes. If an article doesn’t list *all* of the required specs there’s nothing to get excited about. It’s not really news. Even if it lists all the specs and it’s just the single lab saying so it’s still not really news.

    1. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Indeed, this is only a news for venture capitalists who are looking for ultra high return investment opportunity. No matter if also the investment risk is ultra high.

    2. Lensman says:

      Yes, and cost per kWh is one of the most important factors; perhaps the most important. Cost is not mentioned at all in the article at phys.org; not a good sign.

  6. This might be the only topic, where Elon Musk and I are 100% on the same line.

    1. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Is it not frustrating that you have never been right in anything? Or do you enjoy now because you were first time right at least in something.

    2. Ocean Railroader says:

      I agree with Elon Musk in that he’s the founder of a major electric car company and his company and ideas are riding on batteries and power density. He most of all is looking for a super battery and he most of all would be aggravated by all these super batteries not panning out.

  7. DonC says:

    The response is predictable. Tesla is completely tied to a format and a chemistry. If there is a breakthrough then it’s dead. So unsurprising that Musk would need to throw cold water on any and all advances.

    But this battery is a long way into the future. There are many other possibilities more likely to show up first. Additionally, after the Envia fiasco, asking for complete specs is certainly prudent advice.

    1. MikeG says:

      Tesla is completely tied to a format and battery chemistry that outperforms all other commercially available batteries.

      There….fixed it for you.

    2. Lensman says:

      DonC said:

      “Tesla is completely tied to a format and a chemistry. If there is a breakthrough then it’s dead.”

      Hey Don! How is short-selling TSLA stock working out for you? How many short squeezes have you been caught in so far?

      But seriously, Tesla is the tech leader in the EV revolution. They have a lab capable of sophisticated battery testing and analysis. At the Gigafactory, this will be supplemented with an actual battery development lab.

      If something better than the Panasonic’s lithium-ion battery chemistry comes along that’s suitable for EVs, then Telsa will be in the best position to capitalize on that advancement.

      Don, if you feel you must post Tesla-bashing FUD, at least try to be either entertaining or original with it.

      1. no comment says:

        somehow, i get the impression that your source of information is tesla press releases.

    3. Get Real says:

      The problem with Don C and CP and almost all of the Tesla haters is they almost all have fairly irrational reasons for their hate.

      In Don’s case he has stated that he hates Elon Musk, therefore this hatred overly influences all of his negative statements regarding Tesla.

      Bottom line is that all of these haters have zero credibility in their negative statements regarding Tesla due to their mental hang-ups regarding said Tesla.

      Elon Musk and Tesla’s stated goal is to electrify transportation and any and all useful battery advancements will advance that goal.

      Tesla is also the best positioned to take advantage of validated battery advancements when they occur because they will have the most battery manufacturing capacity.

      1. Rick Danger says:

        Not to mention, Tesla is 100% committed to electric cars. The other OEMs are just dicking around with them.

    4. basementman says:

      Fortunately for Tesla, their skateboard battery module can accommodate many different cell formats, not just cylindrical.

      If a new chemistry really proved itself, they could manufacture that at the GF and stuff it into the battery modules with little effort, IMO.

  8. PaulG says:

    A reminder that physorg.com is not a news source but simply syndicates press releases, so there’s no independent analysis over the claims in the press release.

  9. no comment says:

    don’t you just love the “not invented here” mentality of elon musk: i mean, if he isn’t behind it, he’s critical of it.

    i must admit though, it’s a good strategy to keep the fanboys in line…

    1. Mike says:

      not invented here?
      You do realize that he didn’t invent the cells or the chemistry they use don’t you?
      Tesla just packaged standard cells into a pack, nothing more.
      He is being critical of “wonder cells” that are years production but provide no specific capabilities. He is actively looking for ways to replace what they are doing now.
      The battery factory is being designed to be chemistry agnostic. How many other ways can it be made obvious that they are not tied to their own ideas.

    2. Speculawyer says:

      NIH? He buys his batteries from Panasonic. Literally NIH.

      He’s just tired of hearing about new battery breakthroughs every day when they pretty much never pan out. Power density, cycle life, energy density, cost, safety, etc. If you are weak on a single metric, it can render your battery useless for the task.

  10. Speculawyer says:

    “They usually fail on energy.”

    Tesla is sticking to its big battery strategy and thus needs high energy density. It certainly results in very useful EVs with not much compromise.

    However, it probably does make their battery packs a little more dangerous as far as fires go. And it generally requires them to put in some toxic elements that are not in other battery chemistries (i.e. Cobalt).

  11. Jeff D says:

    I have mixed feelings about battery breakthrough articles. On one hand, the ideas are oversold and disappoint when you realize how far away this breakthrough is from reality if ever. On the other hand, it is nice to find out what direction people are thinking and experimenting. This sort of thing will keep happening as long a people continue to need money to experiment and try to get their ideas production ready.

  12. Bone says:

    I would say there is actually five key properties:

    – Cost per kWh
    – Energy density
    – Power density
    – Safety
    – Lifetime

    After those there is a long list of other relevant properties, but not so important.

  13. CP says:

    Musk’s reply to the article is correct, but obvious. I remember the article, and thinking the same thing. Hell, I might have even posted my reaction to it somewhere. There are other battery announcements that, on the surface, look more promising.