Is Elon Musk hot

New announcement expected from Tesla : How realistic are the speculations about Elon Musk's "Battery Day"?

The nervousness is as great as when Apple previously presented a new iPhone. Today Elon Musk has the cult status of Steve Jobs. And the fact that the Tesla boss has postponed his so-called Battery Day by exactly one week to today's Tuesday only increases the tension. In his own way, Musk has announced "a lot of exciting things" on Twitter.

The Tesla founder is supposed to announce his breaking news on a tour of the plant in Fremont. In the Giga factory in Nevada, the electric car pioneer produces batteries in cooperation with Panasonic. But how groundbreaking will the news be?

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In the run-up, speculation is running hot. Musk himself had already hinted at cars with a guaranteed battery life of one million miles (1.6 million kilometers). A binding announcement would be interesting for the market, as it would invalidate the argument that the batteries would soon deteriorate in their performance. There are already Teslas today who have covered more than 400,000 kilometers with the first battery, but many potential customers do not know that. A guarantee of a million kilometers or even miles would be an announcement.

Who will work with Tesla in the future?

Musk could also comment on the energy density of the built-in battery cells. In the summer he tweeted that 400 watt hours per kilogram (Wh / kg) were not far away. Today, the Panasonic cells installed by Tesla in Model 3 are around 260 Wh / kg. The 400 Wh / kg will "probably be available in three to four years," said Musk. He spoke of mass-produced batteries that can withstand many charging cycles - in real life, not just in the laboratory. The Tesla boss himself has dampened the expectations that there will soon be a “super battery”.

Perhaps there is news about the battery research and production facility in California, which Musk is promoting, according to Reuters news agency. And after expanding its plant in Fremont, Tesla plans to manufacture its own car batteries under the name “Roadrunner”. So far this has been done in cooperation with Panasonic. In the meantime, however, LG Chem from South Korea and CATL from China are also Tesla's suppliers.

It is no secret that CATL will supply the Tesla Gigafactory in China with lithium iron phosphate cells. These are both cheaper and more durable than the common lithium-ion cells. They manage 10,000 charging cycles; for lithium-ion cells, 2500 cycles are a very good value. In addition, lithium iron phosphate cells do not need cobalt. Their disadvantage is the energy density is around a fifth lower. Therefore, they should initially only be installed in Model 3 with the standard range.

The speculation in the fact check

But how do German experts, who are not blinded by Elon Musk's aura, assess his possible next steps?

Battery researcher Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens from the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) can immediately confirm the 10,000 charge cycles of the lithium iron phosphate cells. She has been saying for years that these robust cells have a chance where weight and installation space are not so crucial. Since the cells are inherently very safe, technology and thus weight can be saved in the parts around the cell, which again improves the overall balance of the system somewhat.

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The researcher also considers the one million miles with a rechargeable battery - regardless of the cell chemistry - to be “in principle feasible”. She says: “It depends on how I drive, how often I fast-charge. It is also about the design of the overall system, battery and thermal management. With this I can protect the cell from damaging influences. "

"You have to stretch a lot"

Michael Clauss works for the global development service provider IAV and calls himself a Technical Consultant and Battery Innovation Manager. He deals with automakers every day. Batteries with a mileage of a million kilometers or even miles could already be built today, he says. That would make sense for trucks or buses, for example. In the car, however, it will certainly take a few more years - at least across the board. Toyota already guarantees a million kilometers for the battery of the Lexus UX300e.

The 400 watt hours of energy density announced by Musk can also be achieved in three to four years, but he has to "stretch" for that. To get there, says Clauss, more silicon is needed in the anode, as well as new electrolytes and separators in the cell.

The battery expert believes that Tesla has bought the US company Maxwell as an important strategic step. This is not only known as a manufacturer of so-called supercaps, a special type of electricity storage system. Maxwell is also a specialist in dry coating. "This means you can manufacture very thick electrodes," says Clauss. In this way, a higher energy density of the cell can be achieved.

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