Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised earlier this year that the company will soon create a battery that lasts 1 million miles over the course of its lifespan.
At first Musk’s claim seemed to be laced with hyperbole, but the new research suggests that his ambitious goal can be achieved and sooner than we expected. A paper – published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society earlier this month by researchers at Dalhousie University – details about the upcoming Tesla batteries. The university has an exclusive agreement with Tesla, according to Wired.
The team noted in the paper that the lithium-ion battery could last for a million miles while losing less than 10% of its energy capacity over the course of its lifetime. This million-mile battery would roughly double the life span of current Tesla batteries (that lasts only about 50,000 miles) and also significantly cut the operating costs of Tesla’s fleets of autonomous cars and long-haul electric trucks.
The researchers conducted three years of testing on the batteries in all kinds of conditions. “Tests include long-term charge-discharge cycling at 20, 40 and 55°C, long-term storage at 20, 40 and 55°C, and high precision coulometry at 40°C,” reads the paper.
The described batteries use many of the same materials found in existing lithium-ion batteries in vehicles. But these materials are optimized in a way that gives them a significant performance boost. One of the biggest differences between the new and currently available batteries is the nanostructure of the battery’s cathode. Tesla’s new million-miles battery uses larger crystals in the cathode, which makes it less likely to develop cracks that can impact performance while it’s charging.
Shortly after the paper came out, Tesla and Dahn received a patent for a single-crystal lithium-ion battery that is remarkably similar to the one described in the paper. However, with the electrolyte additive, the patented one is expected to have even better performance, and that Musk said would enter production next year.
Whatever design ends up making it into production at Tesla’s massive Gigafactory, the signs are clear: A million-mile battery will be here soon. These new batteries could become useful in things like trucks, semi-trucks, which drive significantly more miles than the average family car.