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Tesla poised to reveal 'million-mile' battery as soon as this year, report says

It's not the first we've heard of a long-lasting Tesla battery with greater long-term performance and charging capability, and it could come this year.

Are we about to see a big change in Tesla battery tech?

James Martin/CNET

Tesla may have something big up its sleeve to show off as early as this year: an affordable, long-lasting battery to allow its electric cars to reach cost parity with gasoline-powered cars.

Reuters on Thursday published a report citing sources close to the company's battery program, and it largely falls in line with past evidence we've heard about this so-called "million-mile" battery -- that's a million miles of total use, not range on a single charge. The publication's sources said the battery comes from a joint-development project with Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology and various battery experts. We've heard both of these nuggets of information in the past. In fact, Dalhousie University in Canada published a research paper detailing this type of battery last September. The university happens to have an exclusive agreement with Tesla.

CATL's contribution comes in the form of battery chemistry that does without expensive cobalt, or minimal amounts of the resource. Nixing the most expensive part of a battery, while adding new materials and additives to give it the ability to store more energy for longer periods of time, could be a massive breakthrough for lithium-ion units. It's not the holy grail of solid-state batteries -- a radically different and thus far overly expensive tech -- but nevertheless, it could be big.

Along with this new battery, Reuters' sources mentioned a new battery production process that will scale back labor costs and let Tesla increase production within "terafactories" with the potential to take up 30 times the space Gigafactory 1 in Nevada does.

Where this all starts to come together is the ability to bind these batteries into the electrical grid at large. We've heard whispers about Tesla's goals to compete with utility companies, specifically in the UK, with its Autobidder program. The system promotes sharing energy and siphons off electricity from participating battery farms, solar panels or whatever it may be. The person sharing receives a payday as they may not need the energy currently, but someone else might. Tesla has also long been keen on "second life" applications for its vehicle batteries -- when they're no longer useful for a vehicle, they can still function as a storage unit.

According to the publication's sources, Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to reveal this battery breakthrough as early as this year, perhaps at the planned Battery Day event later this month. When the unit's ready for its launch, it will supposedly arrive in China first and tweaked versions are on the table for other countries, including the US. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the rumors.

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