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Tesla Can Make Charging Faster If It Jumps Into Hybrid Battery Packs

Tesla Semi and pickup truck will greatly benefit from Tesla's Maxwell battery production, but the quickest profit that Tesla could derive from the new batteries would be in the Model 3, Model Y and Model F(?) pickup truck. Here is why.

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The sooner that Tesla can employ the new Maxwell dry electrode process in their battery production, the better, as long as there are no surprises in the manufacturing process and adapting them to Tesla's vehicle drivetrain and platforms.

The questions that I wonder about today is whether Tesla plans to jump right into hybrid battery packs or not.

Faster Charging for Tesla Vehicles

Hybrid battery packs would utilize both Maxwell's ultra capacitors combined with their new Lithium batteries. This design would provide a power buffer for quicker charging, and also for other fast charge/discharge uses like regeneration braking and quick acceleration. Or if they will release just the new batteries first, and add the ultra capacitors in later models to avoid R&D delays that may arise from adding two new energy systems in one design.

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The immediate benefits of ultra capacitors are obvious for the Tesla Semi use because of their heavy loads, and the additional heavy demands for acceleration and braking.

Also relating to the new battery production time frame, there are the considerations of Tesla-Panasonic's battery production facilities and adaptation to Maxwell's solvent free manufacturing process to create their dry electrode batteries.

Maxwell has been working on the dry electrode batteries since 2011, so the solvent free process is well developed and dry electrode batteries have proved to be reliable already. But their previous production batteries were a pouch design like those used in the Chevy Volt/Bolt (LG) and Leaf battery packs. Also, there are different manufacturing issues with the thicker electrodes in a cylindrical cell case (which Tesla uses now) that may require the new Tesla batteries to be in a larger case.

Tesla's new battery design would still have the advantages of higher energy density, longer life, no cobalt needed, and significantly lower production/manufacturing cost, but the larger batteries may not be a direct plug-in for existing manufacturing facilities, or the current vehicle battery trays, cooling and battery management systems (BMS).

Advantages of Maxwell Battery for Tesla

Still, the advantages of the new Maxwell battery technologies could give Tesla a huge advantage in the auto industry just by simply lowering the battery production time and costs alone. And the less expensive, but much better batteries will help across Tesla's whole product line, from their Semis to their Powerwalls.

However, the quickest profit that Tesla could derive from the new batteries would be in the Model 3, Model Y and Model F(?) pickup because faster and cheaper production costs will pay off soonest from the highest volume vehicles. The Tesla Roadster, Semi, and Power walls get good press, but they will take more time to return a profit.

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See you in my next story where I am discussing what GM's smart move will be about the Cadillace Escalade BEV.

Dean McManis is an electric car specialist and can be reached on Facebook at DeanMcManis for tips and feedback. Please, also leave your comments below for discussion.

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Jeremiah McKenna (not verified)    July 21, 2019 - 10:40AM

I don't see more profit if they have a lot of changes and modifications to their current vehicle manufacturing process, which also adds more R&D. It may be beneficial to future models, since those vehicles would need to go through their own testing and engineering process and research and testing.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 10:56AM

It is hard to say what the R&D and testing process will entail or cost, but updating their technology is key to staying competitive. Tesla had little real competition in the 1-2% niche market that was EVs for the last decade, but their successes in producing a selling EVs will be bringing in serious competition over the next 3-5 years from large automakers with vast engineering and manufacturing resources. Since Tesla is still in the process of building their Gigafactory in China, they could probably set up and test the new battery manufacturing facilities right there with little disruption in production. China sold over 1.2 million "New Energy" (PHEV/BEV) cars last year, so there is a big market there alone. The good choice in in buying Maxwell is that their ultra capacitor and dry electrode lithium battery technologies are already established, so the only work left is adapting their storage systems to Tesla's electric vehicles. Tesla demonstrated with their Model S that battery pack swaps are possible with existing cars in minutes because of their modular design, so it is quite possible that they are already testing the new battery systems in their cars right now.

Jeremiah McKenna (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 2:12PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

I was thinking more along the lines of R&D on placement in the vehicles, not so much the battery tech itself. Meaning the current "Models" already have the current battery tech engineered into them for size, shape, weight, crash testing etc. So if you wanted to change them from X point down the road, I think it would be more advantageous to completely change the "Model " altogether and go from that point in time forward. I don't think it would be cost effective to try and retrofit this into current set ups.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 7:44PM

I understand your consideration of the changes needed for the new batteries, but it is likely that the differences in the batteries may not be as extensive as you imagine. Tesla batteries are cylindrical, and the 2013+ Model S/X batteries (18650) are about the width and length of your index finger. But the Model 3 uses 46% larger batteries (2170) that are 10-15% more energy efficient. Where proportionally fewer batteries are needed to create a pack with a given kWh rating. Similarly, Maxwell's new dry electrode batteries have the proposed capability to double the energy density of the Model 3 batteries. So even though the new technology will result in a thicker electrode coating and slightly larger cylindrical batteries there should be fewer batteries, and so it is quite likely that the current Tesla vehicle battery pack sizes could stay the same overall and simply bolt into existing models. I think that Tesla's initial plan was to adapt the Model 3 batteries into the Model S/X battery packs this fall. But the acquisition of Maxwell could mean that it would be smarter to skip that step and move directly to the new Maxwell batteries instead. Even if it results in a few month's delay. Probably Tesla's biggest concern right now is getting the Model Y out ASAP, and the Model Y shares the Model 3's battery packs. But if they could implement the new batteries in those battery packs then it would give them a huge competitive advantage as long as the change did not cause big delays in production.

Jeremiah McKenna (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 9:02AM

I have been in the automotive industry for years, and I know it isn't as simple as simply putting a new part in, where one already exists. Especially one that is as complex as a battery system.
Size and shape alone have but one small aspect on the totality. There are safety concerns, structural issues etc. Engineers within the company have a lot of work to do, on top of all of the regulations as well as regulators making their inspections and testing etc.
Heck, I've seen a diode change take three months to get passed. A diode. Even small parts on conventional vehicles takes a long time to get implemented, from safety recalls to every day repairs and initial build.
We're not talking about a 9 volt battery made by Rayovac being replaced by a 9 volt made by Energizer. We are talking about a completely new battery all together. There are tons of safety and environmental tests to be performed before they even get to the crash testing and eventual disposal of the battery.
So no, I don't see Tesla being delayed a few months in this procedure to swap them out in the Model 3.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 10:53AM

I understand that the reality can be far more complex than pure speculation. Sometimes projects just come together seamlessly ahead of schedule, but much of the time there are unforeseen issues that delay progress for years. You are right in saying that for all of the aspects of change that we would anticipate with replacing a key component with a new battery technology there can be dozens of affected systems and unseen problems that could arise. The Falcon doors caused multiple delays for the Model X, and up to now Tesla has merely cooperated with Panasonic to build their batteries, who will not be eager to assist in creating a replacement for their products. Still, it is fun to think about new technologies, and the possibilities of what could be adapted, innovated, and created for tomorrow's electric vehicles.

Jeremiah McKenna (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 1:10PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Exactly. I just saw an article where an electric F150 pulled a train 1,000 feet. They now hold the record for weight pulled.
However, as an investor and a contractor I would like to see a trailer with a lower level consisting of batteries so that I can store my tools, and have them all charge, because a lot of times we don't have electricity, or only one cord and limited plugs for a majority of the time we are on site.

Maybe this new tech could also translate into better batteries for power tools and mowers etc. Or even better, motorcycles.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 7:34PM

Yes. It was a very impressive show of the torque pulling capability of electric motors. About a year ago Tesla used their Model X to set a new Guinness World Record for being the "heaviest tow by an electric production passenger vehicle." Towing a 287,000 pound Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner plane seems like a relatively small achievement compared to 1.2 million pounds+ in this Ford EV demonstration. But of course the Model X is a regular, volume production vehicle, as opposed to the new Ford F150 EV experimental prototype. And the Model X still holds that world record. Still, the combination of Ford pouring $500 million into Rivan (with their BEV pickup and SUV), and Ford's Mach-e BEV crossover due next year, it looks like Ford still has plans to stay in the EV game despite dropping all of their PHEV cars (like Chevy) this year.