On Sept. 22, 2020,
Teslahosted an event called “Battery Day” in Fremont, California. CEO
Elon Muskunveiled the EV company’s battery-related plans for the next decade or so, which include switching from cobalt to nickel, building a new manufacturing plant to make batteries in-house, and releasing a much cheaper Tesla in consequence.
But these big reveals left some disappointed. When are we going to get our million mile battery?
Battery Day revelations
Many of the announcements from Battery Day were greeted with enthusiasm, particularly the discussions surrounding improvements in energy efficiency and sustainability. Musk’s plan to move away from cobalt and toward nickel in Tesla batteries would mean using an element that eliminates zero percent wastewater, reports
Popular Mechanics, a clear boon to the environment.
Plus, cobalt mining has its own ethical questions to answer, as reported by
ScienceDaily, and Tesla’s switch to nickel could swerve away from them entirely.
Musk also emphasized using extant nickel to power new batteries, instead of starting over with each new battery. These improvements, plus cheaper, simpler processes for building in-house batteries, would eventually yield a less expensive Tesla for all of us.
The million mile question
These improvements in battery sourcing and building are interesting, but the buzz that predated Battery Day was single-minded: would Elon Musk announce a million mile battery?
The Chinese EV maker Xpeng, reports
Yahoo Finance, was on tenterhooks, waiting to see if Musk would reveal the first-ever battery that would work for a million miles. This revelation would be dramatic for all players in the ever-intensifying arms race that is the world of EV. And for companies like Xpeng, which does not make its own batteries, it would mean an attractive new purchasing option.
But Xpeng would be disappointed. Despite the anticipation, which was also reflected in a 190% stock price increase for Tesla leading up to Battery Day, Musk conceded that the million mile battery has a long road ahead, reports the
LA Times. Dreams, and stock, deflated, and we will have to wait until at least 2030, according to Musk.
Waiting for a million
Before we go mourning the time we’ll have to wait for that million mile battery, let’s understand what we’re missing.
A million mile battery is not necessarily intended to increase one individual’s ability to drive a car around the earth 40ish times, but is instead a greater move toward sustainability, reports
A million mile battery would far outlast its original car host, and could then be used in another car, or as an energy source in an entirely different setting. The logical conclusion to this recycling program: fewer batteries would need to be made overall, which would dramatically reduce the footprint of the whole business.
Current EV batteries are already quite impressive in their output and longevity. Some estimates record loss of charge capacity of only about 20% in Teslas that have gone 200,000 miles, and 20+ years of projected battery life is suggested for the new Nissan Leaf, says Wired. A million mile battery would catapult the industry to even more dizzying heights for consumer outcomes.
There will of course be unforeseen negatives, as well as surprising use cases, as we move closer to answering this million dollar question. For now, we’ll just wait for that cheaper Tesla.
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