Tesla has forever been a company that has looked to push the limits of technology in its urge of making human life better and more sustainable for generations to come. And the announcements made at its Battery Day event could potentially give people a heads up as to what is to come in the near future from the Elon Musk owned company.
Better batteries using new material science:
Tesla’s Battery Day event saw CEO and founder Elon Musk make some big announcements regarding the company’s plans on enhancing its already efficient battery design. The CEO on Tuesday announced that Tesla was aiming to cut electric vehicle production and energy storage costs by tinkering with the design of its battery. And with new advancements made in material science for the components of its lithium-ion batteries, potential enhancements could very well be feasible.
The company is basically going back to the drawing board and change even the basic elements of the battery system to make it more efficient than its predecessors. Tesla has said that the company will make potential changes to the cathode and anode composition which is set to boost the effectivity of the battery by a significant margin.
The company also commented on how a slash in the material costs of the cathode and anode of the batteries while boosting performance could see a 20% rise in the range of is batteries.
Tesla is also looking to incorporate more Silicon into the production of anodes for its batteries, by using metallurgical grade Silicon. However, there are significant questions being raised regarding silicon’s tendency to degrade when charged with lithium, but with a team of Tesla brains working around the clock on it, things are expected to turn out just fine.
SVP of powertrain and energy engineering at Tesla, Andrew Baglino has expressed the company’s expectations surrounding the slashing of running costs to 1.20 dollars per kilowatt-hour with the implementation of the newly proposed treatment methods with the use of metallurgical Silicon. The implementation of this technology alone could potentially raise the range of Tesla vehicles by a massive 20%.
Tesla hasn’t just stopped the innovation at its anode structure, the company has expressed significant changes, backed by material science, for the enhancements of its cathodes as well. The company is planning to stop using Cobalt in the manufacturing of its Cathode. This decision comes along with a concern regarding the inhumane working conditions the miners are forced to deal with while working in cobalt mines. Even though the company is yet to give a timeframe as to when it plans on stopping the use of cobalt in its batteries, this move is expected to make the production of the batteries a cheaper affair.
This talk regarding the composition of cathodes and anodes provides a perfect transition to the next announcement that was made at the Tesla event, which announced Tesla’s plans of building a cathode plant to get into the lithium mining business.
A new Cathode plant and entry into lithium business:
With significant foreshadowing by the company CEO just about a year back, Tesla has put all rumors to rest as it announced the securing of a 10,000-acre lithium clay deposit in Nevada, which would serve as the foundation ground for the plant.
Possessing a lithium mine close to home could very well realize Tesla’s plans of making cheaper and efficient batteries which would potentially slash the production costs for Tesla vehicles. Company officials at the event announced Tesla’s ultimate goal of reaching a 10 to 20 terawatt hour’s worth of annual battery production, something that could very well be turned into a reality with the help of this new acquisition.
The lithium mine combined with the proposed cathode plant would enhance Tesla’s already stellar portfolio and allow the company to enhance its plans of furthering their technological endeavors.
However, in order to reach the proposed high bar of 10 to 20 terawatts of annual battery production, certain significant advancements need to be on the cards in terms of battery production and the battery itself.
Elon Musk, however, is optimistic about the plans laid out by his company, and has announced that with the blueprint of innovation laid out before them, Tesla is bound to meet all its targets. And the ball of innovation is set rolling by the construction of the battery itself.
A new ‘Tabless’ battery design:
Tesla, at the event, has announced the inception of a new cell design whose 80mm length will give the cells 5 times the energy density, 6 times the power, and ensure a stellar 16% increase in range when compared to traditional cells.
This is done by eliminating the ‘tabs’ that usually allow a battery to provide energy to an external source. Thus, apart from the Cathode, Anode, and the Separator, Tabs have been a part of batteries for decades now. However, by eliminating them, Tesla is set to revolutionize the very design of batteries, and might just change the world.
The company CEO, Elon Musk has announced that the new cell manufacturing system isn’t operational YET, but is close to its desired functionality at the pilot plant level.
However, company executives haven’t shied away from the various roadblocks Tesla has had to face in terms of reaching the ‘close to working’ stage with the new cells, with issues regarding overheating due to the change in size to pump out more power and density being a large obstacle to overcome.
“This was the challenge that our team set its sights on to overcome,” SVP of powertrain and energy engineering at Tesla Andrew Baglino said. “We came up with this tabless architecture that removes the thermal problem from the equation that allows us to go to the absolute lowest cost form factor and the simplest manufacturing process.”
However, amidst all the obstacles and roadblocks that the design team has had to face, Tesla is extremely pleased with the position they are in right now in terms of functionality with its revolutionary cell design.
Batteries as part of the car’s structure:
The final bit of announcement comes off as a Tony Stark-esque level of innovation, Tesla has reportedly fundamentally redesigned its batteries to double down as vehicle structure to improve safety, efficiency, and cost instead of just providing juice to the car.
Elon Musk at the battery day event has compared this innovation to that of a commercial aircraft, pointing how earlier flights would have its fuel tanks inside the wings bolted onto its main structure, minimizing efficiency and sustainability. However, later on, the engineers realizing the much more efficient way of making the wings work double-time as fuel tanks themselves changed the course of airplane dynamics.
Musk said that just like the commercial aircraft, Tesla is looking to redesign its batteries so that it serves as a dual structure and not just cargo that provides fuel to the vehicle.
This shift would, in turn, play a role in reducing the overall mass of the car and provide a much higher structural integrity while simultaneously enhancing the performance of the vehicle.
The company is set to achieve this feat by developing a filler that also acts as a structural adhesive and flame retardant. The adhesive layer glues the cells to the top and bottom sheets while simultaneously giving the vehicle a much higher stiffness than normal vehicles. Stiffer vehicles would ensure better performance and higher overall safety.
This particular design would ensure the battery system be placed near the center of the car which would further minimize the chances of potential collisions from reaching the cells, preventing battery-related fire incidents. Musk has also stated how this design system would improve the ‘polar moment of inertia’.
With Tesla’s Battery Day event marking the announcement of a number of potential advancements being made by the company, it sparks a sense of curiosity amongst the masses as to what such innovations will bring in terms of sustainability and a better tomorrow.