Tesla’s partner battery research team has announced that they may have unlocked the possibility that will make electric vehicles cheaper and a more practical choice for the general public. Particularly, for the blooming robotaxi industry.
Tesla has been known to be the front runner in the electric and autonomous vehicles industry, and are constantly innovating to make technology similar to theirs a world standard.
Elon Musk, the company’s founder and CEO, for the longest time, have been advocating that in the future, transportation will be ran by autonomous vehicles or the so-called ‘robotaxis.’ He even went to announce that Tesla owners will soon have the choice to allow their cars to become part of the company’s ride-hailing service.
Musk envisions that Tesla vehicles around the globe will operate on their own when they are not being used to pick up and ferry passengers if owners permit.
However, Musk noted that a particular bump that Tesla needs to overcome is its battery problem. Currently, it is easy to assume that Tesla is already making its battery cells since it claims to have the biggest battery factory in the world. However, the automotive giant is still sourcing its battery cells from Panasonic, which has been the company’s partner since 2014.
Additionally, Musk said at the Tesla Autonomy Event that the vehicles need to be durable in order for the concept of robotaxis to work.
“The cars currently built are all designed for a million miles of operation. The drive unit is design, tested, and validated for 1 million miles of operation.”
But Musk recognizes that Tesla’sbattery packs are not built to last 1 million miles. Currently, the battery modules of all of Tesla’s recently released vehicles can only last between 300,000 miles and 500,000 miles.
This, in itself, is a problem because having inconsistent battery capacity with the vehicle is a hiccup when the idea of employing these vehicles as an autonomous and self-driving mode of transportation. Essentially, it’s an impractical and uneconomic choice because owners will have to consider the costs of changing new battery packs.
Fortunately, Jeff Dahn, Tesla’s battery research partner, has been developing to bridge the gap between the vehicle’s mileage capacity and it battery problem.
Musk claims that Tesla has a new battery coming up next year that will now last a million miles.
Dahn and his lab have released test results for an impressive new battery cell that is going to be Tesla’s new million-mile battery.
The new battery tested is a Li-Ion battery cell with a next-generation “single crystal” NMC cathode and a new advanced electrolyte. The same team even boasts that their research and development have shown to be better compared to those made by others in the past.
“These results are far superior to those that have been used by researchers modeling cell failure mechanisms and as such, these results are more representative of modern Li-ion cells and should be adopted by modelers.”
They have also indicated that their tests should serve as benchmarks for academics and developers looking to develop their own lithium-ion battery cells. These tests include long-term charge-discharge cycling at 20, 40 and 55°C, long-term storage at 20, 40 and 55°C, and high precision coulometry at 40°C.
“We conclude that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage,” the file indicating the results said.
Dahn’s team said in the paper that this innovation will serve as an essential factor in the future of automated vehicles.
“This situation may change with the proposed introduction of “robotaxis,” long haul electric trucks and vehicle-to-grid applications. In the former, vehicles will be driving all day, much like a conventional taxi and undergoing nearly 100% DOD cycling. Long haul trucks will almost certainly run in near 100% DOD situations. Cells in vehicles tethered to the grid will be racking up charge-discharge cycles even when the vehicle is not moving.”
In a future where mobility is dominated by fleets of self-driving shared electric vehicles, the cost per mile is going to be way down and the longevity of these vehicles is going to be a big differentiating factor in the cost.
Now that Tesla is also working on their own battery packs, shifting the company to become more independent and freeing it from current restrictions, the company may as well maintain to keep its lead in the industry.