How many times have we heard that Tesla could die at the hands of a battery breakthrough? Some labcoat hero, we’re oft-warned, could suddenly render Tesla and its Li-ion Gigafactory obsolete overnight. Well, now Tesla has contracted a labcoat hero of its own, to work with CTO JB Straubel, hardly a slouch himself, in the quest for increased battery output at lower cost and with longer life. In other words, to reach that elusive tipping point so crucial for Model III, and for Tesla’s future. His impact on Tesla Energy? Unknown, but fun to ponder.
Now, some may decry a renewed embrace with Li-ion instead of flirtation with one of the many alleged “next generation” technologies. But when you really look at the options, only one of them makes sense:
1. Jump on board with a newfangled technology that has great laboratory promise but no track record in an automobile. Just imagine the headlines: “Tesla betting the farm on experimental technology.” Investors would flee.
2. Wait around until a new technology proves itself, and THEN build the Gigafactory. This would suspend Tesla’s growth at best and kill the company at worst. And besides, Tesla has said the factory will have built-in flexibility to handle some rolling changes if need be.
3. Take its proven Li-ion technology and refine it to the max. If this new contractor can boost range by even five percent, and cut cost by five percent, that means a 210-mile car for $33,250 instead of the oft-referenced 200 miles for $35k. And then there’s battery longevity to consider. Another couple years without battery degradation would make a big difference in Consumer Reports’ 2027 reliability surveys. That embedded video of Dr. Dahn, FYI, focuses on why Li-ion batteries fail. Here’s his article about the same subject.
With home-grown batteries produced at a massive scale, a killer one-two punch of Musk and Straubel, and now an on-board “mad scientist” with his own team of technicians, Tesla is dressing for combat and loading its weapons in very exciting Hollywood fashion. Now we just need a montage with stirring music.