Electric car maker Tesla is looking to introduce an affordable, long-lasting battery in its Model 3 sedan in China later this year, which will help its electric vehicles reach cost parity with gasoline-powered cars and allow EV batteries to have second and third lives on the electric power grid.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been teasing investors for months regarding significant advances in next-gen battery technology, which could be revealed at the planned Battery Day event later this month, according to Reuters.
These low-cost, high-density batteries are designed to last about a million miles, and with a global fleet of over 1 million electric cars that can connect to and share power with the grid, Tesla will eventually look more like a power company. In the future, improved versions of this battery will be introduced in Tesla vehicles in other markets, including North America.
The “million-mile” battery was developed in a joint-development project with the Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology and several battery experts.
Tesla’s new battery taps into brand-new innovations in low-cobalt and cobalt-free battery chemistries. It also utilizes certain chemical additives, materials and coatings that can lower internal stress while giving the battery the ability to store more energy for longer periods of time.
Along with this new battery, Tesla is aiming to implement a new heavily automated battery production process that will scale back labor costs and increase production within the company’s mammoth “terafactories,” which could be about 30 times the overall size of Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.
Tesla also has its eyes set on recycling expensive metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium through its Redwood Materials affiliate, as well as novel “second life” applications of electric vehicle batteries in grid storage systems.
The endgame of Tesla’s ambitious ventures in battery technology and automation is to make the price points of electric cars on par with carbon-emitting internal combustion vehicles. For Musk, that must be achieved first before electric vehicles can start enjoying more mainstream appeal.
“We’ve got to really make sure we get a very steep ramp in battery production and continue to improve the cost per kilowatt-hour of the batteries—this is very fundamental and extremely difficult,” Musk told investors in January. “We’ve got to scale battery production to crazy levels that people cannot even fathom today.”
Tesla, though, seems to have momentum on its side, as the company has reported operating profits for three quarters in a row and has nearly doubled its share price this past year.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.