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Published on August 21st, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Tesla Developing 500-mile Graphene Battery?

tesla-model-s-battery

Elon Musk has bet his fortune on the future electric cars, and he knows that Tesla has to stay on the forefront of battery technology. One of the most promises advancements in battery tech is graphene-based anodes, which have been proven to more than quadruple lithium-ion battery density.

A report from China’s Xinhua news agency claims that Tesla is working on a new graphene battery that could almost double the range of the Model S to some 500 miles. This follows up on Musk’s assertion that Tesla could offer a 500-mile battery “soon”, but only if it makes financial sense.

Graphene could be what makes long-range EVs finally viable, though the technology has been in the works for some time now. As well as increasing energy density, graphene also allows for faster charging of batteries, opening the ion-highway to faster fill-ups. Whichever company can come up with a long-range, fast-charging, and (most importantly) fiscally viable electric car battery will be at a huge advantage going forward. Tesla needs to be that company if the $5 billion battery Gigafactory is going to be the game changer Musk thinks it will be.

A 500-mile Tesla Model S would all but eliminate the effects of range anxiety and could give Tesla the means to dominate the growing electric car market. That would be more driving range than even most conventional cars offer, though the price would likely be in the six-digits…at least at first. The average driver rarely exceeds 100 miles of total driving per day, and 200 miles per charge seems to be the magic number the Tesla Model III is aiming for. Then again, Musk seems confident that there hasn’t been a legitimate battery advancement yet, and that when it does comes, Tesla will know about it first.

Could a graphene-anode battery be the technology that puts Tesla at its place on top of the EV market? Or is there another technology (like aluminum-air batteries) that Tesla is trying to develop?

via Graphene Info

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Steve Grinwis

    This would basically mean they’d screw over every other car manufacturer in the world, especially if they can do so cheaply. You’d need a Tesla battery pack to make a viable car.

    Here’s a 300 lb battery that will drive your Model S 260 miles, while reducing it’s weight by 900 lbs, increasing efficiency, making it faster, and easier to build…

    Or, if you prefer, here’s your 600 lbs batter that’ll drive you 500 miles, reduce it’s weight by 600 lbs ….

    It would be revolutionary.

    • David Howes

      This is just the start of the fun graphene will bring. Space elevator, anyone…

      • Bob_Wallace

        The space elevator is a most interesting idea. Climbing robots are apparently ready for someone to build a strong enough cable.

    • Burnerjack

      All is true, but while “screwing over” every other car manufacturer may not be. It may turn out that this new battery tech could be licensed or Tesla could become the de facto OEM supplier. I would suspect BYD and CALB diving in regardless of patents, licenses or any other legal hinderence.
      Maybe the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory will become the world’s first Petafactory.

    • NotRappaport

      >>This would basically mean they’d screw over every other car manufacturer in the world<< unless Tesla open sources the technology or licenses it cheaply.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Or becomes the Microsoft of EV batteries and sells to anyone who wants to purchase.

    • Johnny Le

      Where do you get the 300 lb figure?

      • Steve Grinwis

        The current Model S battery pack is 1300 lbs, which when divided by 4 is 300 lbs in engineering math.

        It’s 4 times more dense… so… 300 lbs ish.

        • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

          In engineering math, a 4-times energy-dense battery cell will never result in 1/4 battery weight :)

          Battery casing and the BMS will probably have the same weight and those are a substantial part of the battery package.

          • Steve Grinwis

            If it’s 4 times as energy dense, you have 1/4 the number of cells, 1/4 the amount of cell casing (since the package is now 25% the size), 1/4 the amount of water cooling tubes twisting between said cells,, and 1/4 the number of per cell BMS systems, to achieve the same energy storage.

            I’d expect it to run pretty close to 1/4 the weight overall. It might not scale perfectly, but it’ll be pretty close.

            There are other components that won’t scale as well, but everything else is really external to the battery pack itself, that comes to mind.

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  • ricksanchez1

    If true, a graphene Tesla would turn the industry upside down once again. If Tesla can produce this in quantity, it could be used for conductivity in the battery AND strength in the body/chassis. Imagine where the battery pack becomes an integral structural component of the car or components of the car become battery packs. This could be very exciting news if true.

  • jonnny

    i wonder if some battery breakthrough announcement is the surprise Musk was hinting about.

  • jonnny

    i think an al-air battery extension that you could easily plug in only for your long trips would be great. tho it would depend on the cost. why carry the weight around of a giant battery except when you actually need the extended range?!

  • jonnny

    no they said its not worth it. people wont want to get someone else’s abused battery, plus the cost to build a swap machine is way too high, plus tesla batteries are not simple to disconnect because there is fluid cooling that would have to be detached. a 500 mile battery that charges 50% in 10 minutes will be good enough. and those are just the short-term goals for batteries. in theory they could have significantly more range and faster charge time.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The cost of swapping infrastructure can’t be too expensive. Tesla repair shops have to be able to remove and repair battery packs or swap in replacements.

      Someone else’s “abused” battery can be tested, reconditioned and sold with a warranty. They could repurpose for grid storage.

      Take a look at this video of multiple battery swaps being done on a stage in front of an audience. No cooling leaks. They swap out two cars while someone is filling up a gas tank. And Tesla has almost enough time left over to swap out a third car.

      A once or twice in a lifetime battery swap for a car would be a minor way to greatly boost range.

      • http://www.electric-car-insider.com electric-car-insider.com

        Battery swap at a Tesla service center takes 5 hours. Commercial swap is completely un-economic. It’s also unnecessary, Superchargers work just fine for long distance travel. Would you really pay $80 to save 25 minutes on a vacation trip? After three hours of driving, a coffee, stretch, bathroom break and likely a meal take at least 30-45 mins.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I agree that we are unlikely to see battery swapping as a way to drive long distances. But if you look at the Tesla video they swap out three different Tesla Ss while a guy is filling his tank at a gas pump.

          The service centers may not have swapping rigs. Now. If needed then they will likely get them. I can’t see the swapping rig up close in the video but it doesn’t look very complicated.

          Here’s the Tesla site longer version…
          http://www.teslamotors.com/batteryswap

          Close up version…

          I’m just pointing out that swapping to a higher capacity battery pack later on should be no big deal. And then the old pack can be reconditioned and used for grid storage or frequency regulation.

          • http://www.electric-car-insider.com electric-car-insider.com

            Don’t mean to quibble, but it was only two cars, red, and then white.

            I am quite familiar with what it takes to do battery swap, my Model S needed a new battery at 5,500 miles. (I’m a happy customer, they took care of it under warranty). I’ve also researched the automate swap issue rather extensively. I used to be a professional automotive technician, have done plenty of engine and transmission overhauls, I know what can go wrong when you R&R a major component. (a single mis-threaded bolt or bad seal halts progress until you fix it).

            The Model S has 37 bolts securing the battery in place. What could go wrong?

            Dave Duff, the designer of the Model S battery connector, admitted that he “cringed” every he saw a new Model S begin assembled, because the connectors didn’t always line up perfectly and halted the production line.

            Model S is great for long distance travel. Supercharger network is a fantastic solution.

            Battery swap has already failed once (at a cost of over a billion dollars). It was a bad idea then. It’s still a bad idea.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There must be another video out there. In the first one I saw they swapped a red and white, paused a bit and then swapped another white S.

            But, never mind. I don’t think we’re going to battery swapping as our way to do distance drives.

    • Plugin Liberty

      For the battery swapping model to work, batteries should be leased, not owned. Then each time you swap, you get any battery that’s already full, batteries aren’t “assigned” to anybody, and you don’t have to return it to the same station either.

    • David Howes

      I understand Volvo is testing induction charging with inductors in the roadways. charge as you park on them. Just don’t stand over them if you have metal fillings…

      • Bob_Wallace

        South Korea is running buses with wireless charging while underway. I think they’ve wired 18 miles of road way with sending loops that are buried 8″ under the surface.

        • Mark Benjamin David

          Inductive charging will be used for Formula E racing here next month also.

          I think inductive charging would be great, but, we really need to develop a standard, then we could, 5 years down the road?, end all these different plugs that are used now.

        • Burnerjack

          Interesting. I had envisioned “opportunity” induction charging at parking lots and at major traffic stops, automatically charging the car’s account as well as its battery.

  • EnTill

    If the promises of the graphene battery holds true, it’s game over for the gas car. I believe that for wide adoption recharge time is more important than range. 500 miles of range isn’t really necessary, a 200 mile battery that can be recharged in 5 minutes would be the killer feature. I understand that the graphene battery can recharge much faster than today’s batteries, this might solve it.

    • Fr0ntSight

      This is great news but the most important issue.. At least for me….is price. We need this available at a reasonable price..less than 50k and its over for the gas model.

      • Bob_Wallace

        More than anything else, the cost of batteries is high due to limited manufacturing volume. According to Musk the material cost for lithium-ion batteries is less than $100/kWh. With high volume manufacturing the cost should drop close to $100/kWh.

    • Johnny Le

      If it’s not too expensive, I’ll take 500 miles with 10 minutes of charging :-)

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  • MB

    Isn’t this speculation or something being talked too soon? Improvement in battery tech is what the mobile phone and mobile computing industry have been hoping for since a decade (with multiple hopeful reports of a breakthrough). There needs to be more substantial news as battery tech needs a long time before its ready for production. I think speculating on Model III would be more fruitful than battery tech.

  • UncleB

    Elon engages China and progress is made. Much to be said about the very different Chinese perspective on Science? All aluminum Electric Tesla’s that brake American automotive indoctrinations on the horizon for Putins new Pan Eurasian Petrol Empire ? Will Chinese built reactors power this new Empire in the end? Can U.S.A. stay stuck on oil and progress into the 21st century?

    • Burnerjack

      What progress has been made exactly? Do you really think that CALB, BYD or any other battery manufacturer isn’t interested? Let us not forget DOE, DOD, DARPA and the rest of the alphabet soup. As far as Aluminum use goes, Ford has some news for you…
      As far as energy use goes, it takes about 12 times the amount of energy to make aluminum from bauxite than it does to make steel from iron. Oh, the irony of it all…

      • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

        What does it matter if the initial energy-expenditure for production is higher for aluminum if an aluminum-based vehicle saves many times that energy during the lifetime of the vehicle?

        • UncleB

          Yes from bauxite, no not from scrap! Aluminum presents a savings there!

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  • Mark Benjamin David

    Everyone that replied missed my point. My point is NOT about battery swapping instead of charging/supercharging. My point is that the Tesla Model S DESIGN is ingenious in that, the battery module is easily changed out, this is what the battery swap demonstration proved. This makes it easy for Tesla to offer the same vehicle with either 60 or 85 kWh battery. It also means, that, if someone keeps their Model S for 8 years, by that time, they could get a new, longer-range or lighter weight (or both) battery and drive that car another 8 years with more range. Not that it won’t last longer than 8 years, but, that is the current warranty on the battery. It’s the easily upgradeable car.

  • Burnerjack

    One question I would like an answer to, if anyone here can answer: Just as a gallon (or volume measure of choice) has known and measurable quantity of BTUs or joules, Lithium (by weight?) must also have theoretical limit to its energy density. What is that limit? This answer would be helpful in knowing what the potential is (no pun intended…) as well as making it easier to separate what is possible from what could be hype.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Lithium-ion has a theoretically capacity of about 2,000kWh. This is more than 10 times the specific energy of a commercial Li-ion battery.”

      http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/lithium_based_batteries

      “Lithium is the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest specific energy per weight.”

      • Burnerjack

        Is that per Kg? But thank you. Now I know they are about 10% there.

        • Keith D.

          It is per Kg, but I have to think they meant 2kWh/Kg and not 2,000kWh/Kg, because the latter is just ridiculous. I can’t imagine how you’d be able to pack 2 megawatt hours of energy into a Kg of battery no matter how you built it. That just seems way outside the realm of possibility. I’m speculating, but it seems more likely that it’s a typo.

  • Math & Physics

    One point being completely overlooked is a smaller battery pack to be used for local driving, increasing performance by loosing weight, and “Rent” a larger unit for going out of town.
    As many jobs that will be lost due to fewer parts being produced, new industries/innovations will spring up.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s a solution we could use if batteries get no better than they are today.

      I’m betting that capacity will keep increasing and we’ll be able to drive ~ 200 mile range EVs as “normal cars”.

      IIRC capacity has been improving year to year at a rate of 8%. If we simply keep on at that rate we should have something close to 200 mile ranges at today’s size/weight in 10 years.

  • ARNOLD CARL TAPP

    >>> THE BATTERY IN A TESLA CAR CAN BE CHANGED FASTER THAN YOU CAN REFUEL A GAS DRIVEN CAR ~ 90 SECONDS . <<<

    • http://www.electric-car-insider.com electric-car-insider.com

      Where can this be accomplished? How long will it be before these swap stations are available enough places to be viable? It was a demo of technical possibility, not commercial viability. Swap really does not make any kind of sense and you are very unlikely to ever see it in production beyond one or two demo stations so that Tesla can keep their extra CARB credits.

      I’m not knocking Tesla. I’m just a realist.

  • Nautiflyer

    I wish Elon, his employees, and followers …. and all interested in a clean and viable energy future would look towards the following.. it’s a game changer that puts H2 10 years behind..
    please view the following:

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2014/05/mantra_energy_the_future_of_portable_fuel_cell_technology_1.html

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2014/06/mantras_promise_of_innovation.html

    http://investorshub.advfn.com/Mantra-Venture-Group-Ltd-MVTG-12434/

    It seems to be a technology that will change the way we live… if politics and money don’t corrupt the process!
    I guess I’m dreaming again……..

    • Bob_Wallace

      Nothing wrong with dreaming as long as you are able to separate dreams and reality. (We have pills for those who can’t ;o)

      It’s entirely possible that there could be some sort of breakthrough that would make H2 FCEVs competitive with EVs. Remember, it’s “fuel” costs that hurt H2 FCEVs.

      BTW, I’d be very wary of using stock sites as a primary information source. They are (supposedly) full of people who engage in “pump and dump” stock sales. They buy a cheap stock, talk up the company enough to get stock prices up, and then sell out to the people who believed what they wrote.

      Use the stock/investment site info as a jumping off point and go looking for confirmation from a more reliable source.

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  • GeorgeG

    Ah yes – the dreaded range anxiety! I once owned fine GM muscle car that couldn’t do 200 miles on a full tank … oddly, ‘range anxiety’ wasn’t mentioned in the car mag reviews. Sure it would be nice not to have to plug in every few days just like it would be nice not to have to go to a gas station so often. While, bicycles never need to be topped up, they do present some limitations. EV with onboard generation is a happy place where gas station visits are hopefully reduced at the cost of putting more stuff than ever under the hood and lugging around still more road weight. What’s easier: making a more complex system cheaper, lighter and more reliable or improving batteries? BTW, what is the distance limit of range anxiety? (or will the press continue blather this stuff ad infinitum).
    There is probably enough data on Li ion EV batteries now to establish learning curves: cost per Ah versus total Ah sold, Ah per Kg versus total Ah sold, etc, which would give an indication of where this is going. It’s probably safe to say that we know where gasoline prices are going (I still remember my disgust/pain the first time I was asked to pay 50 cents per gallon). Maybe there could even be a theoretical cross-over point called gas parity.

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