Editorial: Tesla's "coddled" and pricey energy storage system

The latest entry on the Tesla Motors corporate blog focuses on the heart of the new Roadster. The range and performance capabilities of the Roadster wouldn't be possible without a way to store a lot of energy on board and the Tesla energy have created what is arguably the most sophisticated automotive battery pack ever created. It is almost certainly the most complex and comprises roughly one third of the weight of the whole car.
Weighing in at 900 lbs with a 53kWh capacity the Energy Storage System incorporates 6,831 individual cells, a cooling system to manage the temperature, sensors to monitor everything and electronics and software to help extract the most energy from the unit as well as put as much recovered or grid fed energy back in.

There's more - including some editorializing - after the jump.

[Source: Tesla Motors]
For a small start-up car-maker Tesla has done a remarkable amount of testing on both the car and battery system. Because of the nature of lithium ion batteries, there are a lot of international regulations governing the transportation of the components as well as the complete systems. Tesla announced earlier this week that they had received regulatory approval to proceed with deliveries of the pack and the latest post on their blog goes into more detail on the nature of the testing they had to conduct to verify the safety of their system.

We'll see before too much longer if the Tesla battery pack and Roadster are really up to the task of daily use in the real world, but even with all the work that's been done so far a more pressing issue still remains to be resolved with all the technology that Tesla has created: cost. This battery pack and the car that it "fuels" don't come cheap.

The number of people that will ever own let alone drive a Tesla Roadster (at least the first generation model) will probably remain in the low thousands at most. The car will surely satisfy the green urges of the privileged few who can manage to spend $100,000 on a two-seat sports car. However in the grand scheme of things it will mean nothing unless it can be made affordable enough that we can start to displace the hundreds of millions of cars that are on the road today.

In addition to caring about the environment, I love sports cars. I would love to own a Tesla Roadster. On the salary of an engineer and part time writer with a mortgage and two kids to put through college, it's just not going to happen. Lower cost solutions are imperative, and the upcoming WhiteStar is a step in the right direction albeit a baby step. Tesla (or Phoenix or Zap) is not likely to be a high-volume manufacturer any time in the foreseeable future but those companies that are producing cars by the millions need to work to bring this kind of performance to the masses quickly. GM has a massive effort to do it with E-Flex and others are similarly engaged and hopefully they will succeed. Companies like Tesla need to succeed as well even if they remain relatively small, because the big guys need a thorn in the saddle to spur them on.

Share This Photo X