Why Tesla's million-mile battery is a bigger deal than its cars
Priya Wadhwa
10X Technology

Why Tesla's million-mile battery is a bigger deal than its cars

Tesla’s inventions just got more interesting!

The power of any device is in its battery — the longer it lasts, the more value it commands. But the nature of lithium-ion batteries used in mobiles, laptops and even electric cars, is that they lose their capacity to hold their charge and discharge efficiently over time.

That’s why Apple Macbooks usually recommend servicing or changing the battery after it has had 1000 charge cycles, for it to work effectively.

Of course, not everyone follows those recommendations. Which is why battery manufacturers make it a point that their batteries outperform benchmarks and last for longer.

Battery capacity and charging facilities are naturally crucial to the uptake of electric vehicles as well, especially for high-end brands like Tesla. It’s not surprising that they are serious about making the longest-lasting batteries.

Earlier this year, Elon Musk suggested the possibility of a battery that would allow the car to run for 1 million miles. A recent research paper published by Dalhousie University in Canada has described the chemical combinations, making this a real possibility.

Here are some numbers to put the potential of this new battery in better perspective.

  • Seven years ago, Tesla Model S was introduced with a life of 150,000 miles on a single battery pack.

  • The new battery will allow Tesla cars to drive for 1 million miles.

  • Cars on average are dropped from use once they reach 150,000 miles. The new battery, therefore, will increase the life of cars themselves, as well as be reused or upcycled.

  • A normal lithium-ion battery can handle 1,000 charge cycles (from 0 to 100%), at which point is has already lost 50% of its energy capacity.

  • The newly patented Tesla battery has a capacity of 4000 charge cycles, at which point it reported a loss of only 10% in its energy capacity, according to CNET’s citation of the paper.

Soon after the paper was published, Tesla received a patent for the technology, which was developed under a partnership between the tech giant and the University.

The team of researchers at Dalhousie University was led by Jeff Dahn, who wrote in the paper that this battery has immense potential for vehicles that are used more intensely, such as autonomous car fleets, a.k.a. robotaxis, and trucks that need to be used more frequently and travel longer distances.

The automotive industry is already undergoing a massive change, with individual ownership giving way to service providers such as Uber, Udrive, Ekar, and such. This battery, while patented by Tesla, has the power to make two large impacts:

  1. Increase the capacity and therefore the feasibility of electric vehicles, supporting longer lifecycles and more efficient use.

  2. Support the shift from petrol and diesel-based cars to greener EV alternatives.

While the paper published in The Journal of the Electrochemical Society outlines the chemical make-up of the battery, and is available for people to learn from the research, CNET infers that Tesla already has a better battery chemistry based on the research.

Tesla is reported to have plans to enter the ride-hailing market with its own mobile application. The larger energy capacity of these new batteries and interest in EVs could give an edge to the giant. Moreover, Tesla could also make the ride-hailing market more economically feasible through the use of this new battery. However, its plans to manufacture these batteries or enter the taxi market are as of yet unknown.