Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company is preparing to host a Battery Day for shareholders sometime after the first quarter, possibly in April. The announcement came during the earnings call following Tesla’s release of its Q4 2019 Update Letter.
Responding to a question from a participating investor about where Tesla stands in growing its battery capacity, Musk said that the company has already demonstrated massive improvement in growing the capacity of the cells, modules, and batteries it uses for its all-electric vehicles.
The CEO attributed part of the improvements to Tesla’s relationships with various battery partners, such as Panasonic, which is Tesla’s in-house supplier of lithium-ion batteries at Giga Nevada. Tesla also teamed up with other partners such as LG and CATL to produce battery packs for its cars produced in China. Aside from that, Musk declined to provide additional details on future plans for improving its battery technology, leaving investors to look forward to the upcoming Battery Day event later this year.
“We have a lot more to talk about this in detail in Battery Day probably April. We have a very compelling strategy. I mean, we are super deep in cell. Super deep. Cell through battery,” he said.
Tesla’s efforts to upgrade its batteries include the acquisition of California-based energy storage firm Maxwell Technologies, which was completed in May last year. Tesla’s interest in Maxwell primarily lies in the latter’s innovations in ultracapacitors and dry electrode technologies, which could potentially improve the company’s batteries.
Prior to the acquisition, Tesla also submitted a patent for an idea to use electrolyte additives to improve the performance and lengthen the lifespan of lithium-ion cells. The patent, titled “Dioxazolones and Nitrile Sulfites as Electrolyte Additives for Lithium-ion Batteries,” provided details on how Tesla can significantly increase the lifespan and performance of its batteries by adding electrolyte additives such as lithium salt. Tesla also submitted another patent for using cold plates and heat pipes to reduce heat generated by the battery, thereby increasing the longevity of its energy storage systems.
The latest developments appear to be moving Tesla toward the completion of a 1-million mile battery. In April last year, Musk said that Tesla owners will soon be able to drive their cars for up to 1 million miles over the lifespan of their vehicles. This is equivalent to 20 years if the cells are used for energy storage systems. Tesla lead researcher Jeff Dahn and a team from the Dalhousie University physics and atmospheric science department have also developed pouch cells that can last 1 million miles or 20 years in a grid storage system.
Tesla’s huge lead in the electric vehicle market is due in part to its constant efforts to improve its battery technology. In fact, its batteries have improved so much over the years that the Model S is nearing a range of 400 miles. The published range for the luxury sedan is 373 miles, but Musk said during the earnings call that the actual range is somewhere in the 380s.
“S and X actually have more range than we are currently stating on the website. We just haven’t gotten around to updating the EPA […] number, but the actual range of the Model S and X are above what the website says they are,” he said. “Somewhere in the 380s, something like that.”
He also added that the 18650 lithium-ion cells that power the Model S and X have largely improved over the years, adding that further developments could raise the range of the Model S to 400 miles.
“I think we’re pretty happy with the energy content of the cell and the improvements in the efficiency of the vehicle,” he said. “We’re rapidly approaching a 400-mile range for the Model S, for example.”
Battery Day is expected to be similar to Autonomy Day, which was held in April last year. The event, which was attended by investors and also available via livestream, was a full three-hour technical discussion of Tesla’s work on autonomous driving technology and how the company plans to achieve its goal of delivering fully self-driving cars.