Electric Cars

Might Tesla have a million-mile battery in the works? New evidence supports claim

Elon Musk said one was coming, and a research paper seems to confirm its existence.

Tesla batteries might be in for one heck of an upgrade in the future.

Tesla

Here's the thing with electric-car batteries: one day, they simply won't discharge their energy and recharge the energy as well as they once did. To combat degradation, automakers work hard to ensure batteries last well beyond a typical vehicle's lifecycle. Oftentimes, they even have plans for what to do with the units afterward.

Tesla, often known for going big at every corner, wants to double down on its batteries' life cycles. After CEO Elon Musk said this past April that the company will create a battery that lasts 1 million miles, it appears the outspoken executive wasn't fibbing. Wired on Monday reported on the purported million-mile battery after Dalhousie University in Canada published a paper detailing chemistry that might enable such a cell.

The university, Wired notes, has an exclusive agreement with Tesla. So it's easy to connect those dots. Tesla, meanwhile, did not return a request for comment. For now, we need to rely on the evidence presented.

Jeff Dahn led the team of researchers at Dalhousie University and noted in the paper that such a battery would work well for fleets of autonomous cars and trucks used to travel long distances. While a lithium-ion battery in Tesla vehicles today works as intended, a vehicle such as, say, the Tesla Semi could benefit from a battery with such a long service life.

What's interesting is the paper provides full specifics on this battery's chemistry and how to achieve such a long life cycle. Why? We don't have a proper answer, but after Wired spoke to a member of Dahn's team, it sounds like Tesla already has an even better battery chemistry based on this research. Translation: Anyone can read the details and use the information, but Tesla already has something better. That's what we infer, not a confirmed fact, for the record.

The described battery chemistry juices up familiar ingredients and includes larger crystals to make up the battery nanostructure's cathode. The larger crystals are not nearly as likely to crack while charging, a student in Dahn's lab told Wired. When these do crack in other batteries, performance drops.

The entire chemistry apparently provides a more perfect balance of storing more energy and maintaining battery life. According to the research paper, 4,000 discharge and charge sessions showed only a 10% loss in energy capacity. As noted in the original report, a similar study from 2014 showed a lithium-ion battery lost 50% of its energy capacity after 1,000 discharge and charge cycles.

The final juicy bits of the report? Tesla and Dahn received a patent for a similar sounding battery after the research paper's publication. While this type of battery isn't the holy grail known as solid-state units, it could truly open up the possibilities for EVs in the near future.

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