Tesla Motors Chief Elon Musk has always been a big-picture guy, and the company's chief technology officer appears to be following suit. JB Straubel, who was a keynote speaker at the Joint Venture Silicon Valley symposium near the automaker's Northern California home base recently, says the company is just as much an energy-storage company as a car maker. And he said the rate of battery-technology improvement shows no signs of slowing down, according to Green Tech Media.

Straubel estimated that battery performance has improved about 40 percent during the five years between the debuts of the Tesla Roadster and the Model S. Additionally, battery density has doubled during the past decade and continues to ramp up fairly steeply. He noted that further near-term improvements will come not from the size and shape of the cell, but from improved cathode and anode materials. Those energy improvements won't just help the cars. Tesla uses a two-megawatt-hour battery pack to supply as much as 10 percent of the peak energy used at the company's factory in Fremont, CA, and will double the size of that battery-powered energy capacity within the next few months, Straubel says.

Automakers like Tesla and Nissan are licking their proverbial chops at the prospect of substantially improved battery performance paired with declining battery costs as more and more lithium-ion battery packs get produced. Late last year, Navigant Research estimated that lithium-ion battery costs would fall by almost two-thirds by 2020, down to a low $180 per kilowatt hour. That should make electrified powertrains price-competitive with conventional vehicles, as electric vehicles could then command a price premium as low as $2,000 compared to their gas-powered brethren.


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  • 39 Comments
      • 6 Months Ago
      Sorry, I mis-read/heard... Power Japan Plus says their new battery techology has no Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt, or Lithium Oxide BUT they still refer to an electrolyte containing lithium-ions... my bad. The main point is when this battery technology becomes viable it's bye-bye gas stations, hello quick charge stations. I just lease a Chevy Volt for 3 years; we'll see what the worlds best and brightest come up with by 2017.
      purrpullberra
      • 6 Months Ago
      Nice article Danny! I'm still convinced Elon is shooting for $150/kWh. He always publicizes goals he (not so secretly) thinks he can beat. I think development speeds up a bit more than widely expected since the investments by Tesla/Panasonic are several magnitudes greater than what they've done so far. I predict that accelerated battery dev combined with buying raw materials from the source gets Tesla from $180/kWh to 150. Elon and Tesla are too cutting edge to let their battery development fail to continue scaling up that way.
      DarylMc
      • 6 Months Ago
      I will be interesting to see the response to Tesla's Model S here in Australia. "Tesla shakes up luxury car pricing" http://www.drive.com.au/motor-news/tesla-shakes-up-luxury-car-pricing-20140530-zrsk4.html
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Months Ago
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWSox7mLbyE Great slides in this presentation. Apparently Tesla has installed over 1,000 storage systems in homes (in partnership with Solar City)... and a 4 MW battery buffer at a supercharger. The charts in the slides are amazing, and JB, as always, explained it quite well.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 6 Months Ago
      You keep showing pictures of my car. Yes I have the premium leather with the red bolster.
      danfred311
      • 6 Months Ago
      by 2020 it's probably around 120$/kWh. 20kWh in a lean car, that's 2400$. Not too bad.
        Grendal
        • 6 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        For something like the Twizy quadricycle, you'll have a great little runabout city car for a reasonable price.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Dual carbon zero lithium. .. http://gm-volt.com/2014/05/27/breakthrough-battery-from-japanese-startup-pjp-puts-honor-and-pride-on-the-line/
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        Yes, they are using "organic carbon".. they say as if it were a breakthrough. This is vaporware... the latest in a long tradition. Throw it on the pile.
        Weapon
        • 6 Months Ago
        There is lithium in the dual carbon battery
      Grendal
      • 6 Months Ago
      Non-sequitur Tesla news: Car & Driver tested the Model S's claims of aerodynamics and, no surprise, the car matched the claim of 0.24. I wonder what it would have been with the aero wheels? They actually did get a few of those and gave them to customers.
        paulwesterberg
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Grendal
        Unfortunately they yanked the aero wheels from the car - last I saw you could still get a set of rim separately for snow tires. Maybe Elon didn't like how they looked or whatever. Personally I hope that Tesla brings back some space age aero wheels. The turbines look nice, but also horribly inefficient.
        DarylMc
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Grendal
        From an old ABG article I noticed these aero wheel covers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix8TN4jMAeo http://tuneko.com/TuneCover---Aluminium-wheel-hubcaps.php Don't know if they are what people are looking for but it seemed an interesting idea.
      goodoldgorr
      • 6 Months Ago
      I am not certain that's true. Anyway 50% of the drivers don't have a dedicated spot to recharge and hydrogen have see even more improvement and 100% of future hydrogen drivers can refuel in 3 minutes given a hydrogen infrastructure.
        Spec
        • 6 Months Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        With H2 advocates like gorr . . . they must have a bright future.
        Weapon
        • 6 Months Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        79% of households have dedicated parking spot. They will be the first adopters. I assure you, batteries will recharge in 10 minutes before you have any decent hydrogen infrastructure set up. And end of the day electric cars are better and cheaper to fuel.
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        99.995% don't have an H2 station nearby to refuel. --"100% of future hydrogen drivers ..." Well, who can argue with future drivers.
      Dave D
      • 6 Months Ago
      There's a storm coming, Mr Musk.
        Grendal
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Don't take it too personally. I've been voted way down a few times for "jokes."
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        It was a line from The Dark Knight Rises. They try to intimidate Wayne...but he kicks @$$. What's not to love? You guys do realize that Wayne/Musk wins at the end, right? LOL Geez, never mind. It's not funny if you have to explain it :)
        Dave D
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        LMMFAO I'm the biggest EV Fanboy on this site....next to Joe V. And you guys vote me down for an ironic twist on a Batman joke? :)
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dave D
          I think people did not understand the reference... and thought you were saying that Musk was somehow not ready. ...and awww, you think I am the biggest? Shucks. Not really though, I am quite skeptical of most EV claims. But Tesla and Nissan really impressed me by actually living up to their claims more or less... and since I am off duty, I just post a lot more than I used to (or will eventually).
          Dave D
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dave D
          Well, I have to say, I can't remember ever disagreeing with any post you've made so we're probably pretty close on the EV support side. I'm a lot more skeptical than I used to be, but my medium and long term outlook is stronger than ever. I think EV's are one of those technologies that will go slow...until it doesn't. We're going to hit that tipping point and then everyone will be saying things like: "I always knew they'd be the next dominant thing, it was obvious! What were people thinking to cling to ICE or Fuel Cell hopes?". And EVERYONE will remember themselves on the side of Angels. When it's clearly only us long suffering fanboys LOL
          Ziv
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Dave D
          Dave, I am in the same boat. When it comes to the electrification of cars, I am a little less than fully positive short term and very positive medium and long term. The problem is that what I thought was medium term in 2009 is getting pushed back by a couple years. I thought that by 2013 we would be seeing Volts with an MSRP of $32k and by 2014 we would have the Gen II Volt at an even lower price point. I hope that I was off by just two years and off on the Gen II by a year. I thought we would be seeing a full utility BEV under $40k by 2017 (AER of at least 200 miles) but it looks like that isn't going to happen until 2018 at the earliest. I really thought that EREV's were going to eat BEV's lunch in the shorter term before 2020, but now I am not sure of that. Affordable electric cars aren't rocket science, they are even more complicated than that.
      Grendal
      • 6 Months Ago
      So the point of this article is batteries are getting better? Why is that a surprise? Tesla is already around the $200 per kWh mark. $180 by 2020 will be old news. I am certain that Tesla will be trying for $120 to $150 per kWh for the gigafactory. I expect the packs to be 50 kWh and 70 kWh coming out of the factory. So the cost for the basic pack is $6K to $9K and the larger will be $8K to $12K. The price of the car will be $35K to $60K (or more for performance versions).
      purrpullberra
      • 6 Months Ago
      Nice article Danny! I'm still convinced Elon is shooting for $150/kWh. He always publicizes goals he (not so secretly) thinks he can beat. I think development speeds up a bit more than widely expected since the investments by Tesla/Panasonic are several magnitudes greater than what they've done so far. I predict that accelerated battery dev combined with buying raw materials from the source gets Tesla from $180/kWh to 150. Elon and Tesla are too cutting edge to let their battery development fail to continue scaling up that way.
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