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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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A Million-Mile Electric Car Battery? Musk Wasn’t Lying

When earlier this year Tesla’s Elon Musk said the company could soon have batteries lasting for over one million miles, many probably took it as yet another grand promise with less substance than realism requires. Now it seems Musk may have not been exaggerating.

Last month, Wired reported on a paper by researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada, which detailed a battery that “should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1 million miles.”

The researchers from Dalhousie University have an exclusive agreement with Tesla, and two months ago they reported that they had designed battery cells with higher energy density without using the solid-state electrolyte that many believe is a necessary condition for enhanced density. What’s more, the battery cell that the team designed demonstrated a longer life than some comparable alternatives.

This second paper builds on that, it seems. It details a “moderate-energy-density lithium-ion pouch cell chemistry” that, according to the authors, should serve as a benchmark for other researchers. Those other researchers will probably appreciate it because “cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage.”

Two decades of grid energy storage sounds almost better than the 1 million miles in an EV as demand for energy storage—the Holy Grail of renewables—garners growing attention. But back to EVs.

Range and battery durability—and cost—are the biggest obstacles to mass EV adoption. On the one hand, drivers want to know their car won’t die midway to their destination because its range is too short. On the other, they also want to know the battery will last. Related: US Shale Production Is Set For A Steep Decline

Realistically speaking, no car needs a battery that can last for a million miles, simply because few people keep their cars for that long. Most cars have exhausted their useful life at about 200,000 miles, according to the Observer’s Harmon Leon. Yet it does sound impressive, and what’s even more impressive is that, according to the researchers, the new battery cell only loses a tenth of its energy density over this extended lifetime, which makes it more efficient than existing batteries.

And here’s what’s even more impressive. The paper is open to anyone interested in reading about how this new and improved battery works. Why? Because, as one former member of the Dalhousie University team told Wired, Tesla patented an even superior battery before the paper came out. The carmaker announced it had received a patent for a battery very similar to the one described in the paper, with team leader Jeff Dahn listed as one of its inventors.

So, it seems it’s true. Tesla has made a battery capable of lasting a million miles even if other components of the car might not be able to survive that long. Now all it needs to do is make this battery cheap enough to turn it into something that is actually usable in a car. This may take a while given that most carmakers have yet to make current batteries more affordable to bring down the price of an EV enough to motivate more people to buy one.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • rudolf d'Ecofacista on October 03 2019 said:
    Do you know the difference between should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1 million miles and is able to power an electric.....?
  • Patrick McCann on October 03 2019 said:
    "Most cars have exhausted their useful life at about 200,000 miles, according to the Observer’s Harmon Leon."

    That is because most cars have complicated and failure-prone Internal Combustion Engines (ICE). If you have an EV with a few dozen moving parts instead of an ICE with a few hundred moving parts, it makes a lot of sense to build that EV with a million mile battery
  • Sanjeev B on October 05 2019 said:
    This is so exciting. If the same battery can be used in five cars one after another, then won't it automatically become cheap?

    How about separating the battery ownership from the car ownership? Then BatteryCo could rent A/B/C classes of batteries based on their range, and car owners could choose to rent need on their range requirements.
  • R Rogers on October 05 2019 said:
    But an autonomous robot taxis would hit 1 million miles.
  • R M on October 05 2019 said:
    Most people won't keep their cars a million miles because today's cars don't last a million miles.
  • Kyle Surprenant on October 06 2019 said:
    Listen I make 45k a year and my car has 240000 miles on it. I would love to know that I have the security of the car lasting me to 300 or 400,000 miles but I don't. So maybe some people don't need a car that last longer but the lower end of the pay scale drives around in everyone's old used cars so we could definitely benefit from it.
  • Bill Simpson on October 06 2019 said:
    Cars last only 200,000 miles because of mechanical wear, corrosion where salt is used on the roads, and ever increasing number of electronic components, which fail due to heat exposure, wear, and vibration. Many rubber hoses and fluid seals start to fail mainly from exposure to high engine heat.
    Today's cars are highly complex electro-mechanical rolling computer systems. Transmissions are so complex that highly trained specialists are needed to repair and rebuild them.That makes repair too costly, once the engines and transmissions begin to malfunction due to failure of some electronic parts or seals. The trend to increasing complexity is a result of higher government fuel efficiency standards. The cars need to be lighter, so cheap, failure prone plastic is used where metal used to be used. Plastic and rubber deteriorate when exposed to engine heat.
    Electric cars are simpler, with far fewer moving parts to wear and fail. The more complex a machine is, the more things there are to fail. Moving mechanical parts wear, and always eventually fail. Electronic components can last for decades, and are generally easier to change when they do fail. An electric car could last for 40 years, or more, with only tires and some suspension parts needing replacement. Many people don't drive a million miles in their lifetime, so one, well painted car could last them a lifetime with a change of seats and carpets, which could be standardized with respect to attachment points to the vehicle. It would only take an hour for a couple of people to pop out the worn seats and carpets, and pop in the new ones.
    Burning fuel is red hot, and dirty. Electric motors are clean an virtually vibration free. Only the bearings on the ends of the rotor shaft might need to be changed. But it they were made as well as they could be, they might make it to a million miles, maybe even two million.
    If they can make a battery that will last a million miles, and last 20 years, the internal combustion car is doomed. In 30 years, they will have joined the dinosaurs.

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