Tesla may soon be accomplishing a revolutionary milestone as its Chinese technology partner is all set to develop a ‘one million mile’ battery.
The name of the company is Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) and its chairman Zeng Yuqun has said that the manufacturing company, located in Ningde, is able to produce a battery pack that can last for around 16 years, which is much higher than the average car battery lifespan of around 4 years. This durability roughly translates into a total of 1.24 million miles over the car’s entire lifetime.
As Zeng said in an interview with the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the company is ready to produce for any customer who places an order. The batteries his company is manufacturing will first be released in the Chinese market, then into other parts of the world such as the US.
Tesla is one of their customers (two of the others being BMW and Toyota). In February of this year, CATL signed a two-year contract to manufacture batteries for Musk’s company. The million-mile battery pack is going to be used in the Model 3 vehicles that are being produced in Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’ in Shanghai (known as the Tesla Gigafactory 3).
Talking about Musk, Zeng said that they “get along well” and that “he’s a fun guy.” Given the emphasis that Musk places on cost efficiency, Zeng says that they are ensuring that they have the solutions. The low cost of batteries would allow Tesla to slash its production costs, allowing its electric vehicles to compete head-to-head with petrol cars.
The development of next-gen batteries for electric automobiles has been long underway. Specifically, the creation of this particular battery pack was hinted at by Musk and he even announced that a ‘Battery Day’ may be hosted this month to provide more information. As he said so himself in the first quarter call this year, this may be one of the most exciting days Tesla has ever been a part of. He also tweeted that they weren’t able to announce earlier because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alongside CATL, Elon Musk also appointed academics to research battery technology and provide recommendations. The experts include Dalhousie University’s Jeff Dahn, whose research showed that a million-mile battery pack was possible to manufacture.
The high mileage of one million miles can be achieved by improving the energy storage capacity of batteries. As a Reuters report said, this is dependent on the chemical additives, materials, and coatings of the battery.
Even if you can’t drive a million miles in a single charge on the Model 3, the full-charge range of the vehicle is still quite high: 348 miles. Moreover, each battery module can last up to 500,000 miles, according to Musk. He also said in a previous call that Tesla must expand its production and that improving battery capacity is fundamental, “We’ve got to really make sure we get a very steep ramp in that battery production and continue to improve the cost per kilowatt hour for the batteries.”
He also said: “We’ve got to solve this battery…We’ve got to scale battery production to crazy levels that people cannot even fathom today. That’s the real problem.”
If you thought Tesla gigafactories were huge, wait until you see the ‘terafactories,’ where the batteries will be produced in bulk. The company hasn’t given any details about the dates when the manufacturing and releases will happen. The energy research organization BloombergNEF forecasts that the pandemic will result in a delay in some of the plans, although the market seems prepared for the launch.
“We’re going to be really focused on increasing battery production,” Musk said, “If you don’t improve battery production capacity, then you end up just shifting unit volume from one product to another and you haven’t actually produced more electric vehicles.”