Tesla Motors is exclusively an electric car maker, with Elon Musk expressing disdain for cars like the Chevy Volt and BMW i3, which pack gas-powered range-extenders. But Tesla may be working on a different kind of hybrid; a hybrid battery pack that could extend the range of cars like the Tesla Model S by up to 40%, allowing for 400 miles of driving between charges.
A report by Global Equities Research shows that Tesla recently filed patents 20130187591 and 20130181511, which describe a combination lithium-ion and metal-air battery pack. This hybrid battery pack would primarily use the lithium-ion side, only drawing power from the metal-air battery pack on extended journeys. Metal-air batteries, which use oxygen as an electrode, have a shorter lifetime when exposed to regular charging, but use more common elements like zinc or aluminum that drastically reduce battery costs.
Drivers would use the lithium-ion battery for daily use, and would either select the secondary battery, or have it automatically switch over on extended trips. A hybrid battery of this type could offer Tesla customers greater driving ranges, while not drastically increasing costs. There’s also mention of a mode whereby the metal-air battery would charge the lithium-ion battery, which powers the car’s systems. 95% of driving consist of short jaunts no more than 90 miles per day, but the option of going 400 or more miles on a single charge could open up the world of electric vehicles to a much wider audience.
For now though, Tesla will still rely on Panasonic for batteries, as they have a four-year, 80,000 unit contract with the Japanese tech giant. But going forward from there, who’s to say Tesla doesn’t deploy ground-breaking battery technology of its own? This could be a peek at the future, folks.