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GE's New Battery Research Could Drive Tesla Farther

"A significant part of Tesla's advantage is having taken a different path in batteries resulting in the ability to leverage the cheapest, most available format."

The main Tesla advantage is that no one else is even trying and in fact everyone else is deliberately trying not to succeed.

If Nissan suddenly got their hands on a 3x capacity battery I would expect them not to triple the range of the Leaf, but instead to cut the weight/volume of their battery pack to one third of today.

None of the incumbents in the car industry can afford to build a proper EV that can compete with their ICE cars on their own terms, because doing so would immediately and very visibly obsolete 90% of their invested capital. It would be corporate suicide to do this and so they won't.

A sudden battery revolution would therefore mostly favour Tesla, and any other start-up EV makers that are free to innovate instead of trying to defend existing ICE market share.

+1 bent. The only other car company that is even trying in the EV space in Nissan. And their Leaf is just so-so OK today. I actually expect Nissan and Tesla to be more direct competitor in 3-4 years, and that isn't a bad thing. It'll help both companies be better.

@Kleist: +10

There is nothing simpler, or more efficient and elegant, than to plug in at home.

Well...yes there is - wirelessly charging at home!

As far as the original post goes, this is clearly press release trolling at it's finest. There is no way this technology is close to production and best case a year from an actual working prototype.

There are probably a dozen or more next gen battery technologies under serious funding and development many of them in some form or another trying to advance Lithium Ion capacity and storage.

Something will eventually surface to improve what we have today and as long as people can plug in at home and have a high current DC fast charge on the road then I think it fit's exceptionally well into Tesla's long term strategy.

While Tesla is far ahead in the battery, it's only one of many new disruptive technologies. The Tesla motor is far better than anyone's motor and they created it. How about safety, user-interface, styling, handling, etc, etc. So what if a Leaf gets twice the range - it's still a sub-compact car nothing like the MS.

Car companies have been creating cars for 100 years, and they are so intrenched, I don't see any competition on the horizon, especially if they can make lots of money selling the same old stuff. Even if Tesla were selling ten times the cars each year, it's a drop in the bucket and the competitors will remain clueless.

My last thought is anyone that has a new battery technology will be at Tesla's door first, since Tesla is the largest consumer of automotive batteries in the world by a huge margin.

For the current generation, Tesla did not reinvent battery cell technology, But they did far smarter and better things with it. No one prevented the other automakers from doing this. Rather, it is their own conflicted decisions that retards their results.

However the technology road may turn, the guys with the will and skill always go faster and get farther.

Right now, in the auto industry, that company is Tesla.

As Julian Cox once wrote, there is no viable non-suicidal path for the majors to get to serious EV production. It heavily drains from existing resources, and then cannibalizes existing product lines. To make it work, they would have to spring a superior viable product on the market without notice, and grab market share from the other majors.

Simultaneously, they would have to solve the charging/range problem, and multiply the supply of batteries. All in one, big surprise initiative.

So that's how "easy" it is.

Saying Tesla's battery is its only competitive advantage is like saying the Internal Combustion Engine is Porche's only claim to fame. People don't buy engines, electric motors or batteries, people buy cars. And right now, the Model S is a dream of a car to drive.

Its handling, simple interior design, a complement of luxury and sporty appointments, and forward thinking body style all come together to create excitement over the best car ever. And, by the way, Tesla Motors has also created a 5-Star+ car in terms of safety. They also created a business model that allows them to sell the car and give away power to drive it long distances.

Replace the battery. Who cares. Give me the look, the handling, the safety, and the feel of driving the Model S. I think that those things are going to be hard to beat.

@Doug is exactly right. This technology was all around with the GM EV1. The "secret" ingredient Tesla added was shooting for the right target market. Shooting for the $120k luxury sports coup (Roadster) and then the $100k luxury sedan allowed them to push for significantly higher margins and fund further development.

There's not enough margin in the $30k market for them to exist for 10 yrs and prove out the technology. Too many people in that market buy for utility and not style / luxury / uniqueness / performance. Too many people in that market are bandwagon folks. They want the sure bet. Their car payment is a large proportion of their monthly income and they can't afford to place a bet on "unproven" technology.

The battery is nothing different than laptops have had for a decade and a half. The motor is nothing different than the induction motor we've had for a century. The technology isn't the risk. It's something any decent electrical engineer could work out on paper over lunch in terms of efficiencies, known battery tech, and known motors.

The risk (and make no mistake, there was significant risk here 10 yrs ago) was that you make super-sexy car... with the best technology... that outperforms anything else in its class... dump millions into the concept, engineering, and manufacturing capability... and no one likes the car. So they had to do EVERYTHING right. Best styling. Supercharger network. Charging options. Functionality. Interface. Performance. Safety. They left the $30k market on the table, initially, and went for broke with the people that were willing to drop $100k on a car.

And there Douglas H Elon got you on the hook, you swallowed the bait.
Telsa is not about cars... it is sustainable transportation. Electricity is the most versatile source of energy, but what is missing is storage and Tesla is laser focussed on that aspect. Cars are a trillion dollar business, electricity is a tens of trillion business. My MS uses the about same amount of electricity as my house ( 6 MWh/year )... so if every house has an electric car the trillions of electic business would double. To profit you have to be involved in electricity generation and distribution (SolarCity) and - sustainable electricity is not available on demand - storage ( Tesla ). Storage is expensive today... how to get the scale up and cheaper? Earn the money with a desirable object: good looking, best performance, easiest to drive and maintain and safest car.
Traditional car companies are limited in their vision and need to compromise all the time. But once you realise that Elons vision is way beyond personal cars then it becomes clear why Tesla - we have a single shot at it - goes after these ridiculous goals and is succeeding.

Guys I have to respectfully disagree with you. Without a new GE battery, the other guys cannot match Tesla's battery range and cost. They can build an electric car every bit as safe, sexy and technologically advanced but can't match battery technology. Therefore they are selling an inferior product. However, if they can buy a GE battery that is better than Tesla's battery then they can make a car every bit as good if not better than the Tesla. Tesla will be forced to buy that same battery so they no longer have a better product. Don't fool yourselves into thinking the other guys can't take GE's battery, put it in the chasis and get a brilliant car out of it. In fact, all they have to do is retool their existing factories and they can kick out millions of them a lot quicker and easier than Tesla will be able to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming doomsday for Tesla. I still think it's a great investment, but the upside is seriously diminished if this GE battery comes to fruition.

The Model S touchscreen is genius. But the other automakers can copy that just as quickly as Samsung copied the iphone. The biggest reason the MS is the safest car is the "battery in the chasis" design. They will copy that too.

And in case you think Silicon Valley will continue to leap ahead of the old guard - GE just formed an investment team to reside in Silicon Valley and invest into startups that will lead to great new products for them. The old GE went bankrupt. They have awakened smarter. They aren't as smart as Tesla now, but they are no longer ignoring the new guys and are trying to buy their way into Tesla's league.

The one thing they can't replicate right now is the battery. That's why GE's announcement bothers me so much. Again, this is all from the perspective of a TSLA shareholder who was hoping for Tesla to maintain their battery technology delta for years to come.

What bothers you about the GE announcement? It is just a press release. Flow batteries are not new, best specific energy I have seen is up to the 100 Wh/kg range... Panasonic cells are 245 Wh/kg. Unless GE announces their battery is at or above 500 Wh/kg there is zero advantage in automotive applications.

@JT13.....you are wrong on this one. As some have said the ICE manufacturers are not serious about electric cars so far. They have made a calculated decision it's more profitable to keep selling ICE cars than electric ones.

@kliest - What bothers me is that they claim their battery will increase range for electric cars by threefold. Therefore implying their battery is far superior to Teslas lithium-ion. And they claim they will have a prototype within one year. This was reported by a very legitimate publication. GE does not make outlandish claims.

@justineet - GM has formed a special committee to study Tesla. Tesla's recent run up in share price has caught their attention. They are just now understanding that BEV is the future. Right now they cannot compete with Teslas battery. However if GE is able to produce one within a few years then GM can make a competitive product to compete with Tesla. It will only take them two or three years to produce this car.

Correction on my claim about GE forming a Silicon Valley investment concern, I meant to say GM.

It's not all about batteries. I'm sure Tesla has many patents around the drive train, recharging, coasting, interface, etc. Tesla benefits from battery chemistry advances, and they've been innovating for years on how to best bring it to market. You can't just flip a switch on battery chemistry, and bypass Tesla. That just silly. And there are many battery innovators out there. GE just has better PR. Tesla only benefits from battery advances.

When I drive my MS P85, it feel like automotive magic. I get in the car and it just goes, silently and smoothly. And faster than my neighbor's Corvette, or any Porsche. I LOVE this car. Only complaint after 7k miles is I have to windex my own windows because I never go to a gas station anymore.

JZ13 - My bet is on performance rather than promises.

Tesla's achievements would be impressive even if it were Daimler or GM that had done them. Instead, it was a scrappy little upstart, which is all the more astounding.

Performance is the best predictor of the future here. Any quantum leap in batteries will be leveraged more effectively by the most potent competitor. Tesla was the smartest at building around today's available battery cell technology. There is no reason to presume they will get dumber about how to use next gen cells.

No one can even make a practical EV except Tesla right now. Once many automakers can match this and EVs are more commonplace, Tesla will be making cars that significantly raise the bar.

There will always be a premium segment to the auto market, and Tesla is well positioned to pursue it.

I'd say the future looks very bright indeed.

If energy storage was the equalizer, why does any automaker emerge above the others. Just because they all have ICE engines doesn't mean that there is no competition. Some are better at sporty cars and make huge profit (Porsche), and some make leaps in efficiency and make profit from getting ahead in that area (Toyota).

Every automaker can have a 17" touch screen right now, but they don't. Every automaker could make their car bodies from aluminum, but few do.

Again, the total automobile experience will cause Tesla to maintain a competitive advantage. The old guard will first slap a battery under the existing cars to compete. That will offer no competition at all. At some point they will compete directly but I wouldn't be running scared because of a prototype for a battery that might be viable in a couple of years.

Prototype in a year, production in 4 years?

Sounds like good timing to make it to market to replace my MS in 10 years.

@JZ13,

Just do a Google search for "Battery Breakthrough" and you'll realize that there are tons of new battery technologies under development that have yet to make it to market. All of them promise to increase energy density by a factor of at least 3, and none have made it out of the lab. If one of these revolutionary technologies were to succeed, Tesla would be in the best position to exploit it anyway.

The article says "Recharging GE's proposed batteries would "occur in electrochemical cells separated from energy storing tanks, which makes them safer," according to the research team."

Soooo... We are saying that we need something like gas stations with underground tanks of chemicals to refresh these batteries? And we build a few hundred thousand stations nation wide? Then battery technology changes. And we need something like Diesel and Petrol at these stations. We still need electricity to refresh the electrolyte, so that doesn't save us any power. That sounds like a lot to ask business to do with a limited number of vehicles.

Can you charge the new batteries at home? nah. Will the battery be cheap, but flushing the electrolyte expensive? What happens if you're 1/3rd full and need to fill? You give up 1/3rd of your range to flush and fill. Do we need to truck in fresh electrolyte and truck out spent electrolyte back to the "refinery".

Betamax is a good example in this case. The Betamax from Sony was technologically better than VHS in video tape recording and playback, but VHS became the standard. The "superior" technology does not always win. We've seen several different film technologies for video, then two inch tape, 1 inch helical tape, Betamax, VHS, video disk, DVD, Blu-ray, and an assortment of digital video codecs in the last 100 years. And in each of these technologies, one thing was always constant. You plugged the player into a wall outlet.

Until it plugs into the wall, unless it's vastly superior, I don't think it will get enough market share to drive the creation of it's own infrastructure.

I know nothing more than the video, which shows REFILLING with BOTH water and SOME SORT OF ELECTROLYTE.

Personally I see this as a step backwards because what we are headed towards is INDIVIDUAL ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. I seriously doubt anyone else is going to let use fill up the way the superchargers do and in our own homes (when ever we want to).

Just my 2 cents.

I hope you guys are right because I want Tesla to maintain their battery performance delta. I know tons of people are claiming technological breakthroughs but they aren't GE. GE is one of the biggest companies in the world and they, for the most part, don't make false or misleading claims.

@JZ13 - if you are scared of competition you are already dead. Elon isn't afraid of competition, neither me. Competition just gets you off your butt and makes you work smarter.
I worked for the three letter company research - news releases are about things never intended to be manufactured. If you plan to make it into an actual product the last thing you do is to put it into the news - keep it for yourself not to tip off competition.

A little late to this discussion, but really??? A single article based on some PR from GE and a bunch of you acting like your panties are all bunched up. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone was working on a revolutionary battery.....

Bottom line, you are driving revolutionary technology and the revolution never stops.

Remember why Tesla was started:

Tesla’s goal is to accelerate the world’s transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. We're catalyzing change in the industry. Tesla vehicles and EVs powered by Tesla are fun to drive and environmentally responsible.


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