Will Maxwell Technologies enable Tesla to produce better batteries in-house?

This week Tesla acquired Maxwell Technologies, the well-known manufacturer of ultracapacitors, which probably tempted the Californian carmaker with its new dry electrode technology for batteries.

The summary of why Tesla might purchase Maxwell was recently released by Sean Mitchell, who listed five main potential reasons:

  • A significant increase in energy density (300 Wh/kg with hope for growth towards 500 Wh/kg in the future)
  • Increase battery life by 2x (and achieve longveility of 1 million miles in a car)
  • 16x production density increase
  • 10-20% cost reduction
  • Puts Tesla in better position to go fully vertical with cell production

Tesla was for years known for its vertical integration and taking whatever possible in-house. For example, they were producing their own AC charging stations and DC fast chargers, as well as on-board chargers and created its own Supercharging network - something that was not seen in the automotive industry. Tesla also decided to go its own way in the case of autonomous driving with its own software and hardware. Even the non-EV related parts like seats were taken in-house.

The vertical integration, especially after the cooling of relationships with Panasonic, who wasn't able to produce batteries at 35 GWh per year at the Gigafactory, sounds reasonable.

The question is now how much Tesla needs to invest to make the new batteries in-house, if that's the case?