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A few weeks back I did some informed but utterly unconfirmed speculation about the nature of the deal that Tesla Motors had struck with Daimler. Of the two scenarios that I posited, the more likely was that Tesla would be supplying lithium ion battery packs to Daimler for use in the electric version of the Smart ForTwo. The German edition of the Financial Times today has a story on the expansion of Daimler's test fleet of battery powered Smarts from London into Berlin and other cities. In the story, it reveals that Tesla will be supplying batteries for the 150 cars that will be deployed in Berlin. Daimler is also teaming up with utility RWE to install 500 charging stations around the German capital. According to a Google translation of the story, the lithium-ion Smart will have a 90-mile range in urban driving. Daimler will eventually expand the test fleet to 1,000 cars. So far Tesla has not replied to a request for comment, but we'll provide an update as soon as we here something. Thanks to Wilhelm for the tip!

Update: Tesla's Darryl Siry declined to comment on the story at this time.

[Source: Financial Times Germany]


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  • 14 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      5 year battery life in an EV is equivalent to having to do a complete top end rebuild on an IC engine. Everything I see says battery replacement will be a few thousand bucks. The battery remains the weak link.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Note that this is a problem near-unique to Tesla, since they're one of the only ones using traditional laptop cells, not the newer, more stable li-ions. And honestly, I don't blame them; they started back when the newer li-ions weren't as mature and were available in significantly lower volume.

        I trust in Tesla's ability to keep up with advancing technology.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've said it here before, and I'll say it again, that I think Tesla may be supplying a whole drivetrain, and not just batteries.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I can't realistically see Tesla winning any contracts with a battery that only had as short as a 2-3 year life-span. Not even Smart is that dumb.

      The official word from Tesla on their website is

      " Battery Life Five years or 100,000 miles"

      http://www.teslamotors.com/performance/perf_specs.php

      This is the expected life for the battery providing FULL PERFORMANCE up to the specifications provided. It doesn't die a day later or a mile longer. It just loses full performance. If Tesla were to lower it's performance specifications for the Roadster, this number could be even higher. 7 years? 125,000 miles? Who knows?

      Part of this is due to the shelf life of the battery. Meaning that even if you rarely use the battery, it will still degrade after a number of years.

      The other part is charging cycles. With 100,000 miles of expected life over those 5 years at full performance in the Roadster, I don't think you can extrapolate 2-3 years of the 5-year/100,000 mile lifespan being lost just due to increased charging cycles. Keep in mind that the 90-mile vs 220 mile range does not mean the ratio in charging cycles will be more than 2:1. More realistically, both cars would be charged 365 times each year if they were daily drivers. Once every night. That would end up being the same number of charging cycles, with the only difference being the depth of discharge.

      Even if you assume that Tesla does not make any technological changes in the battery pack, I would expect they could keep the 5-year expected full performance life-span. I say that because I'm guessing the 5-year full performance number is based mostly upon the shelf-life of the battery, and not as much the number of charge cycles. Assuming Tesla makes no technological changes, what you will more likely see is a shorter mile range for the battery. Like a worst-case of 5-year/85,000 miles due to the change in charging?

      Again, this all assumes Tesla sits on the same battery design that they locked in a long time ago for the Roadster. But in reality, even Tesla readily admits that they didn't use the latest battery technology in the Roadster. Instead they froze development of that car's battery pack for sake of scheduling.

      So really it would be VERY premature to extrapolate the lifespan of a battery pack that is almost guaranteed to only resemble the Roadster battery pack in concept alone, not in specification. And when the battery pack will see a completely different set of performance specifications - this car will never be spec'ed out to run 3.9 sec 0-60! You are comparing a high performance car vs. a commuter car, and expecting to extrapolate wear and tear from one to the other.

      With battery advances, and changes in performance requirements on the battery, this battery pack might end up having the 10 year/150,000 mile expected life-span that the GM folks are tossing around for the Volt battery pack. There just isn't enough information yet to know.

      I just don't see your dooms-day 2-3 year lifespan estimates holding water from any angle they are looked at.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh, and I forgot to mention that this loss of capacity in a pack like the Tesla's also comes with a loss of performance, longer charge times, and greater fire risk.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Concerning the existing roadster pack, if I recall correctly, 5 years is the estimated time to ~20% loss of capacity for the average driver, and 50% for a heavy driver. For the average driver, around half of that loss comes from cycle life and most comes from aging. For a heavy driver, that's almost all cycle life.

        Taking the existing Tesla-style pack and merely shrinking to 40% of its size it is going to make cycle life easily the dominant factor for the average user. It's like turning the average user into a heavy driver on the Tesla's pack. That's simply unacceptable. You're realistically looking at 2-3 years lifespan.

        As for them changing battery techs, that's exactly what I suggested that they'll do. And it'll be interesting to see what they change to, because that'll give us clues for the Model S as well.
      • 6 Years Ago
      They better be fundamentally different from their current packs :P Tesla's packs are good for only 5 years, and only that long because the car has a 220-230 mile range, which means less work per cell. I'd expect a car with 90 mile range using the same configuration to only be good for 2-3 years.

      I assume Tesla isn't going to be stupid, so they're probably going to change how they make their packs. And in so doing, perhaps we'll get some insight into how they're going to approach the packs for the Model S.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I might go to Berlin and steal one ;) only kiddin

      This is fantastic, but why can't they just roll them out there is huge demand for me!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Awesome. Fitting a battery pack into the Smart would probably be good "practice" for trying to fit it into Model S.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Let me guess, a limited release in the USA is planned for 2020?
      No one will let the Genie out of the bottle!
      • 6 Years Ago
      In some of the comments people are concerned of how long the tesla-battery-type will last in the application of a smart (too small a battery -> many cycles). This concern probably comes from the thought, that daimler will mass-marked the smart with that type of battery and then it could not meet the high expectations of the customers and therefore discredit the whole idea of electric cars.
      However it seems very plausible to me, that daimler only needs something to show to the public (therefore only 150 cars are made) so they are not perceived as sleeping away the electric car revolution. This way they can show something to the public and make their own experiences in the next 1-3 years and have time to really implement a solid electric car from the ground in that timespan (with an extensively tested battery that is really ready for mass market - probably even teslas battery by then).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sam,

      I read the German article in ftd:
      http://www.ftd.de/unternehmen/:Alternative_Antriebe_Daimler_und_RWE_machen_E_mobil/406932.html

      There is no mention of Tesla!!!

      So, is this an "educated" guess???

      Do you have an alternative source or is this mere speculation?

      Sam, PLEASE REPLY.
      • 6 Years Ago
      5 years? I thought it was for at least 10 years? With their cooling system and cell detection method, 10 years is the least it should last.
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