Tesla CEO Elon Musk On Breakthrough Battery – “Please Send Us A Sample Cell”

DEC 3 2014 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 42

Panasonic 18650 High Capacity Lithium Batteries

Panasonic 18650 High Capacity Lithium Batteries

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

If you follow the electric vehicle battery market, then you’re well aware of all the “breakthrough” battery technology out there; heck we have a whole category devoted to it to for one to peruse (“battery tech“) if you have a couple days to kill.

Truth is, most of these breakthroughs exist only on paper, to which Tesla CEO Elon Musk proclaimed during the Q3 conference call:

“My top advice really for anyone who says they’ve got some breakthrough battery technology is please send us a sample cell, okay.  Don’t send us PowerPoint, okay, just send us one cell that works with all appropriate caveats, that would be great. That sorts out the nonsense and the claims that aren’t actually true.”

That basically sums up our thoughts on battery “breakthroughs” too.  Until it’s a working cell, it simply doesn’t exist.

If you’ve got that working “breakthrough” cell in your possession, then we’ll help you in sending it along to Elon Musk and the Tesla Motors team.

Categories: Battery Tech, Tesla

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42 Comments on "Tesla CEO Elon Musk On Breakthrough Battery – “Please Send Us A Sample Cell”"

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😀

And a comment from GM from their early stages of finding a candidate battery for the Volt … GM said … how did we know when a battery supplier was lying … when they opened their mouth. This is very close to the actual quote.

I can find no data on why the batteries are “better”, no energy density info, no power density info, no discharge rate, no charge rate, no cycle life. Nothing of any use other than China gave themselves an award for it.

Why is everyone trying to put a round peg in a square hole?

Well, at least Elon Musk is putting his money where his mouth is regarding all these recent battery breakthroughs.

As a bonus, if said cell works out, I’m sure Tesla would be more than happy to fund them some more, and buy those batteries for use in their cars.

Agreed – In fact, sometimes I think Big Oil is behind some of these “breakthrough” stories. Perhaps they figure if they can convince everyone that a breakthrough is just around the corner, nobody will buy current generation electric vehicles.

The old Vaporware FUD technique.

“What if I told you….
your PowerPoints are worthless.”

+1

Just don’t tell my managers that!

Smug comment, as usual. No battery startup is going to send a prototype battery to Tesla first.

It always starts with a introduction, like a powerpoint with findings. Then NDA’s are negotiated and signed, THEN and only then will Tesla get access to prototype cells.

Seriously? the NDA and other legal stuff was certainly already implied.

Correct. No NDA, then no prototype cell will be made available to Tesla.

That said, Tesla has better things to do than waste their time working with battery companies that can’t produce a working prototype. Case in point: GM & Envia.

Even worse is working with a prototype they cannot actually produce in volume with the same quality.

Since they are the single largest consumer of automotive grade lithium batteries, almost every battery supplier would want them as a customer.

If their PowerPoint said, here is our NDA, where do we send the cell, I am sure it would get a different response from Tesla. Tesla is probably just tired of getting the “in 3 years we will have…” promises.

EEstor comes to mind. They took down a couple companies with them.

Is EEStor done? Last I heard the ZENN folks who took it in the shorts are still planning on getting the product one year, decade, etc.

He did say *with all appropriate caveats*, so he’s not expecting everything to be simply just handling over a cell that works 100% and with no paperwork.

Why not? They are the world’s largest consumer of batteries. If you have a technology superior to competitors, they are the first people I would send it to.

i understand your desperate attempt to satisfy hungry tesla fans. its been like a month since he made comments in the quarterly call and you guys have been making every word out of his mouth a separate new headline everyday.

I’m not an Elon Musk worshipper myself, but I really appreciate his comment in this case. Outsiders often get excited the first time they read an article about a “breakthrough” battery, people send me links all the time, without realizing how many other supposed breakthroughs are announced every week. I appreciate the comment above about the need for confidentiality for anyone looking to commercialize, but I still like his angle on this: show me, don’t tell me!

I couldn’t agree more strongly, MS. In my blogging and involvement with environmental groups, I’ve been besieged with “news about the battery that changes everything” more times than I can count. That’s why I half-sarcastically coined the term BBB (big battery breakthrough) for it.

I also agree with Musk. Results talk, everything else is low-grade balloon juice.

To be clear, I think there will be a day when see a genuine BBB. The financial incentives to make that discovery and do the needed development are off-the-scale immense, so there’s no shortage of universities, governments, and private corporations chasing it. I remain very confident that somewhere, some group will come up with an advance that dramatically tips the landscape in favor of EVs, storing renewable energy, etc. My only complaint is that I wish they’d do it sooner.

I think you answered the sooner part yourself. Until now, there has never been this level of financial reward for making a commercially viable discovery in energy storage.

There was 80 years of stagnant pace until consumer electronics started the demand. Now the most valuable company in the world makes almost all their products powered by a battery.

If you compare consumer electronics to the scale of transportation and energy, the incentives are now through the roof. Unfortunately it will still take time, that is why it is called research.

“If you compare consumer electronics to the scale of transportation and energy, the incentives are now through the roof.” lol – back when the rumors were flying that Apple was looking to buy Tesla, and then it was found out that Apple was talking to Tesla about collaborating on the gigafactory. Why? In one of the articles I read on the collaboration someone did the math on the number of devices that Apple sells annually, the weight of the batters in the various devices and discovered something interesting – Apple uses, in gross tonnage, about the same amount of batteries that Tesla does. Yes, the batteries in Apple’s devices are small, but Apple sells hundreds of millions of said devices. And Apple has a crapload of patents and research on battery chemistry since Apple tends to take ownership of their supply chain like few other companies. This obsession with batteries started way back with the iPods – it’s not new. Want to talk economies of scale? Partner with a company that can instantly double up your annual volume and brings significant technical prowess of it’s own? Sounds like an excellent pairing to me.

Agreed – Because my friends and family know I drive an EV they often email me such stories when they see them in the news. Then I have to break it to them that it is basically BS, just like the water-powered car that we hear about around once or twice a year.

LOL, I always get stories sent to me from friends/family about the Leaf or Volt that are at least a month old.

He’s absolute right.

Yes, I am getting tired of hearing about research and concepts and math that “should” produce a better battery. Just make them available.

Musk has a vested interest in convincing people that the battery world won’t change. Tesla has bet on being able to design a system solution for batteries based on a chemistry and a format which has reached the point of commodity pricing. That’s a workable strategy, but innovations in either the chemistry or the format defeat the strategy. Hard to see any big breakthrough using a chemistry other than Lithium. If you look at the periodic table Li is the third lightest element and the only one suitable for batteries (H requires too much volume and He is inert). Unless you go with an element with two electrons you can’t get any lighter than Li. On the other hand, there have been plenty of breakthroughs on the format side. Your cellphone doesn’t run on a 18650 and pouch cells have advantages when used to power EVs. There is also a lot of room for innovations on the chemistry side. You have three targets: the cathode, the anode, and the electrolyte. Innovations on any of the three fronts, even if “incremental” by some measure, can lead to significant increases in capacity/mass and a much different and better battery. My guess is… Read more »
DonC Per: “Unless you go with an element with two electrons you can’t get any lighter than Li.” – I am guessing you got a bit excited when you wrote that – because electrons are nearly relatively weightless in relation to the Atom: You more likely Meant – Neutrons + Protons – Which is the normally considered ‘Mass’ or the Nucleus of the Atom, comprising ~99% of the weight. while electrons Add some weight – it is ultimately minuscule compared to the Neutrons and Protons Mass! See – Atomic nucleus – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_nucleus To the Point of Electrons, it’s not so much as the number of Electrons, as the number of ‘Free’ Electrons – meaning the ones that can move, since – as you noted Helium (He) is ‘inert’, but so are a lot of other atoms or actually – Elements (Compounds – Since Helium is a Gas, just like Neon, Argon, Krypton, etc. – all Inert; Inert because they have Stable or ‘Full’ Valence (outer ring) Electron ‘Shells’. (As per my memory of High School Chemistry), Or – Better put: “Valence electrons are the outermost electrons of an atom and are normally the only electrons that participate in chemical bonding”… Read more »

I’m also leaning towards solid state batteries. Easier to handle, build, protect, shape, temp control, etc.

There’s not really anything massive stopping them using a new kind of battery. I’ve read this quite a lot with regards to the gigafactory, that once built it can somehow and forever more only ever produce 18650 with the current chemistry. That simply isn’t the case, anymore than an engine factory can only ever produce one type of engine.

Different formats = Different processes. Sure you can change, but if you’ve invested in a process you lose the investment. That’s the problem Nissan is having when considering switching to LG Chem cells.

Plus in Telsa’s case its car technology is built around 18650s. That’s natural because Tesla’s strategy is to develop a system solution to leverage the cost advantage of commodity priced batteries. That’s fine, but that system solution is worthless if you change the format. This should be obvious and hardly controversial.

You are forgetting that a breakthrough in Ultra capacitors can outdone batteries altogether!

graphene 3d labs, lomiko

I agree with Elon Musk on this one.

Makes me wounder if someone invented something in their basement would be listen if they sent him a few cells?

Tesla’s competitors like to drop hints that the improved batteries will be here soon, but it will take long, and Elon Musk is right to call them on it.

I think there are other chemistries under development, but they are not ready for production. My guess is that it would be in production about 2 or 3 years after somebody has a sample cell that can be confirmed by an independent scientist (or Elon Musk).

Just like the Model X has slipped many times, the release date of next generation batteries will slip several times.

Tesla *developed* machines that can characterize a battery cell after just a few dozen cycles with a good picture forming after only several cycles. It’s true, all they need is a sample to get good intel about any given chemistry.

Is it Musk’s fault that the media is all over him like the most fawning of all the dinosaurs? That would be the pleasiosaurus, btw. Reminds of the actor that has to go on chat shows to tout their latest movie.
I think Musk views his constant media exposure as just another annoyance, like our great new battery breakthrough, that he has to endure.

For direct application that is correct but for technology development something that works on paper has value also because otherwise there would never be new ideas to mature into new products ready for direct application. It is simply at the step before, just like thinking to move an arm is prior to really moving it. In a way the Falcon 9 doesn’t allow colonization of Mars but of course everybody understand it is a way point towards that goal. Panasonic certainly put money into battery research that doesn’t yet work today but that they hope will work tomorrow.

I wonder if the same thought process applies every time Musk talks about what the Model 3 “will do.”

I have become skeptical regarding any breaktrhrough battery tech too. That said, both Martin Winterkorn (VW boss)and Carlos Ghosn (Renault boss) have recently announced that batteries that can double the range of today’s cars are just three or four years away. Those two guys are not the kind of people you would expect to spew nonsense and fiction.

Didn’t Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn suggest they already had a breakthrough lithium ion cell in the testing phases? Why would Nissan send a cell to Musk?

I think his comment is directed at battery tech startups, not at everyone.