Tesla Motors, Inc. was founded in 2003 solely for the purpose of developing electric vehicles (EV) and EV battery technology. The company has since expanded its reach, but EVs remain at its core. Its success as a car company is directly related to its ability to continue designing and manufacturing cutting-edge battery systems.
In light of the company’s history, Tesla’s success speaks volumes about battery technology. If it were not for lithium-ion batteries, there would probably be no Tesla vehicles on the road. To the extent the company succeeds in the future, their batteries will be their mainstay. That’s why the company’s pending announcement of 1-million-mile battery has the automotive world captivated.
Performance and Energy Density
Performance and energy density are the two biggest concerns when designing a new battery. Let us step outside the automotive arena for one minute and talk about retail consumer batteries instead. These are batteries that power consumer electronics like body cams and headlamps.
A Pale Blue Earth USB rechargeable battery offers significantly more energy density than a comparable alkaline disposable. This creates two practical advantages. First and foremost, you can pack more energy into a lithium-ion battery without increasing its size. Second, more energy improves performance for high-power devices such as digital cameras.
It makes no sense to produce a larger battery simply for the sake of improving battery life. Tesla knows this all too well. Building bigger batteries only adds weight which, in turn, makes their cars less efficient. A less efficient car has a shorter range between charges.
A more reasonable way to approach the battery issue is to reduce weight and increase energy density simultaneously. Such is Tesla’s approach.
Investors Excited About Tesla
This brings us back around to the topic of how Tesla’s success speaks volumes about battery technology. When it comes to investors, it is not Tesla’s cars that interest them. Outside of the propulsion system, a car is a car. No, what interests investors is the company’s battery technology.
Investors know that if Tesla can fulfill its promise of a 1-million-mile car battery then they will have accomplished something much greater. Their batteries will become the mainstay for everything from automotive applications to renewable energy storage.
A 1-million-mile car battery would more than likely impact retail consumer batteries as well. The lessons learned by Tesla would be adapted to consumer cells to increase their life and performance. And who knows, a Pale Blue Earth battery currently capable of being recharged 1,000 times may offer twice that number five years from now.
Combining Multiple Technologies
Another thing that investors are cognizant of is the potential to combine Tesla’s batteries with other technologies. For example, researchers discovered a few years ago that carbon fiber can be used as an energy storing material. It turns out that carbon fiber is also a favored manufacturing material among auto makers because of its strength-to-weight ratio.
Imagine developing a carbon fiber car body that also acts as a repository for energy storage. Combine such a body with Tesla batteries and you change the EV paradigm completely. The car’s batteries can power the vehicle while solar and kinetic systems collect energy and store it in the body. That energy is transferred to the batteries as needed, extending the distance between charges even further.
Lithium-ion batteries are pretty exciting in and of themselves. But as Tesla seeks to improve the technology, more exciting things lie ahead. Their success as a car company will directly impact battery technology for generations. That is why investors are pumping millions into the company.