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GE's New Battery Research Could Drive Tesla Farther

Yeah, more tech coming in a few years....

We see a lot of these announcements, but no real new products. So, if you don't mind I will wait for a real product from Tesla.

Actually, this is potentially very bad news for TSLA shareholders. If GE actually can produce this within a few years then EVERY automaker can replicate what Tesla has done. One of TSLA's biggest competitive advantages is that they have a technological lead over everyone else with battery range and cost. This news makes me uncomfortable.

@JZ13 - I understand what your saying but disagree as lithium ion batteries are available now to anyone that wants to buy them. It isn't the lithium battery itself that is special. What is special and patented is how Tesla puts them together, monitors them, charges them, etc. that make Tesla's technology special.

JZ - in the near future (next few years), I think this will still be beneficial for TSLA. It would ramp up production, and no one else will have a ready design, whereas Tesla can just plug and play.

TSLA's future prospects for massive growth rested on the idea that their product was better than what the other guys could produce. Note I said "massive" growth. I was hoping that Tesla would keep a tech delta ahead of the other guys for the next 5 - 10 years. If this GE news ends up being true and if they are able to produce this battery in mass quantity in 4 years or so then that eliminates one of Tesla's biggest competitive advantages. The big boys can design a car within a few years using the GE battery very easily. Now they have a car on the road using the same designs as the Model S and will probably be price competitive.

I know that this speeds up Tesla's sales if the battery comes to fruition and that's great. But disruptive forces come from the company that has the best technology and if GE steals that mantle from Tesla then it greatly reduces Tesla's future growth prospects. It moves Tesla from being "best of class by a wide margin" to just merely "a peer of BMW with a great reputation as an electric car pioneer". Tesla would have the same range and cost as every other electric car out there.

And what impact would this have on the Supercharger network? This was one of the competitive advantages I was hanging my hat on. Will they be necessary with this new battery?

If GE actually pulls this off, I know Tesla will still have some competitive advantages: 1) Their brand name will still be top of class as being the electric car pioneer; 2) They will still be able to sell cars at retail vs. wholesale which makes their cars more profitable; 3) No legacy costs.

I'm not saying this is doom for Tesla. All I'm saying is this takes their astronomical growth prospects and greatly reduces them to very nice growth prospects. Maybe Tesla is working on a technology that will be better than what GE is coming up with? Maybe GE really can't pull this off? I don't know, but there is a lot of air being released from my balloon.

From the article: "The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles; we think we can exceed that," said GE's Grigorii Soloveichik, the project leader, in a statement."

HaHa!!!! Tesla already does that in its current cars and has a 500 mile battery waiting in the wings.

No worries here, Tesla is miles (of electrons) ahead and I don't see GE or anyone else catching up anytime soon.

mdemetri - Tesla has better range because they use much bigger battery packs than the other guys. If GE truly has a battery that will push range 3x as stated, then that could mean a battery pack of Tesla's size could go 750 miles and would be available for every auto manufacturer to purchase.

Competition is always good for consumers. I don't think Tesla is afraid of competition like this at all and can push them to develop more affordable next generation battery pack. Who knows, this GE battery (if it becomes fruition) may be able to use in the GenIII model. From shareholder standpoint, if Tesla can produce better value products, I believe customers will buy and the stock can stay at the high level.

Its not just their battery that made me want a Tesla. Its their model. From sales, to purchase and design, to delivery, and finally service. Tesla is miles ahead of other manufacturers and for them to change would take a decade or more. Thats if they even "see" the problem, which I don't believe they do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Tesla won't continue to grow. I believe they will grow into a much larger company and that the stock will continue to appreciate. What I'm saying is that they won't grow "astronomically" with a product that is markedly better than the competition. Now, if GE pulls this off, they have to grow more moderately with a product that may or may not be slightly better than the competition. What I'm disappointed in is lowering my expectations for Tesla's future growth from astronomical potential to merely very nice potential.

@JZ13 On the contrary any new technology that will hasten the conversion from ICE to EV is a good news to Tesla. Tesla will continue to get a good portion of the EV pie but the pie will just get much larger. It's a bad news for oil companies and ICE car companies that are slow to convert.

@carlk - project out 5 - 10 years from now when GenIII is 1 option for consumers to buy. In a world with lithium ion BEV's Tesla cars probably go furhter for less $ than any of their competitors. So consumers will automatically choose the best option to buy - Tesla. AND/OR the other guys may have to buy Tesla's drivetrain so they have a comparable product to offer consumers. In this case Tesla has market dominance.

Now, in this same scenario with a GE battery that is in all BEV's including Tesla's, Tesla no longer has a major advantage in cost and range. Yes some of us will still prefer Tesla but if the product is not markedly better than BMW, Mercy, etc. then the majority of consumers will no longer have a compulsion to choose Tesla. Yes Tesla sells a lot of cars, but they do not have market dominance.

No worries, everyone including Tesla is banking on battery technology improving. By the way the video seems to show a standard zinc-carbon cell, which isn't even a flow battery.

This actually sounds really cool if it works out. I am sure Tesla is looking for better, cheaper, smaller batteries just like everyone else. Remember Tesla is still the highest rated car according to Consumer Reports and the Safest car ever made.

@JZ13 - What's keeping Tesla from using this battery too? That's the beauty of Tesla's design, they're not wedded to a specific type of battery. If this technology is viable they can make it fit their form factor and Voila! it fits in their cars.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Elon has always said his goal is hasten the advent of EV's. He welcomes the competition.

I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned but I lost a lot of respect for the author of that article when he cited Boeing's Li-ion batteries as being "in the engines". They weren't any where near the engines!

Cheers!

@goneskiian - That's my point. Tesla will have to use the GE battery. They will no longer have a performance advantage over the competition.

Gotcha. Sorry I missed that point in my quick reading.

They won't have a range advantage but I still believe the Supercharging network will be an advantage because it will take a lot of juice to fill those high capacity batteries.

I guess Tesla will have to continue making great cars, which was their goal to begin with. Wasn't it? ;-)

@JZ13 - GE is definitely not the only game in town:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/fuel-economy/8-potential-ev-an...

http://gigaom.com/2013/01/14/13-battery-startups-to-watch-in-2013/

Large advances are certainly coming, although practicality in the automotive setting will be a massive issue. Do you think that Tesla (and its partners) are not paying attention to this?

"ARPA-E Funds 22 Revolutionary Storage Projects - New $36 million "RANGE" program seeks to develop innovative electric vehicle battery chemistries, architectures, and designs."

http://www.arpa-e.energy.gov

http://www.arpa-e.energy.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/RANGE_P...

Did you catch this: "Recharging GE's proposed batteries would "occur in electrochemical cells separated from energy storing tanks, which makes them safer," according to the research team."

Ie. they cannot be recharged in the car, and would need battery swap. Not a direct competitor to Tesla. And saying they want to hit 240 mile range is pretty laughable.

"These batteries are based on fluid electrolytes. They can therefore be recharged at the gas station in a few minutes – the discharged electrolyte is simply pumped out and replaced with recharged fluid. The pumped-off electrolyte can be recharged at the gas station, for example, using a wind turbine or solar plant."

We get our gas station back! Clean windshield again.

JZ13;
Still stuck in competition mode, huh? If 300-mile EVs became as common as carrots, Elon would breathe a huge sigh of relief, sell off TM to anyone who wanted it, and get on with making mankind a multi-planet species.

There is a reason never anounces their next model in advance.
It might reduce sales now! SO of a competitor anounces a dat better product, it just might be TO get people thinking. I'll just wait for that car then...
So maybe this is. Just TO fustrate Tesla sales?

All according to Elon's plan ..."In the near future, we will see battery improvements and at the same time, reduced cost"

The "competition" has always been able to get the jump on Tesla, when they don't do it it's because there is no actual competition. There's thousands of engineers in legacy auto companies, and they could easily hire a hundred more just for a throw-away electrical engineering project aimed at bypassing Tesla, but they are never going to do so. A better battery from GE isn't going to change this.

Tesla's "competition" will come online when the first big ICE manufacturer goes bankrupt due to sales lost to Tesla. Then there will be such a scramble as has never been seen before in the auto industry, and half of them will come begging to Tesla to license their technology. The other half you will always be able to read about in history books.

… and I don't even own stock in Tesla! :D

The GE tech means the Leaf goes from 24kwh to 72kwh (giving a range of about 225), but you have to pay to refill your electrolyte at an electrolyte station and you don't have a frunk. But Nissan get to keep their recycled Juke platform so I can see them going for it.

But, prototype in one year, production version finalised two years after that, three years of vehicle validation after that. With 8% compound cell energy density increases the MS could have a 120kwh pack - 374 miles on EPA, plus all the superchargers that have been rolled out. Someone needs to start thinking about rolling out electrolyte charging stations. I don't think it will happen outside of maybe some demo vehicles.

1. Better batteries will inexorably arrive over the next several years. It's a virtual certainty, and the Model E will use them. But they will be improvements of today's technologies.

2. The GE project is not a fundamental breakthrough. Rechargeable fuel-cell-like, liquid electrolyte designs have been around for a while. The flow battery is one variant with several groups researching it. GE's release is more about press and less about news.

3. Every year, there are many announcements about battery advances. The majority are not meaningful, and vast majority will never make it to mass production. It is very, very hard to turn new science into reliable production. When it happens, it's awesome, but real advances are very rare.

4. When a truly material battery advance is ready for prime time, there is currently exactly one company with the brains and drive to deploy it first, and do it right. That would be Tesla Motors.

Because Tesla is unusually skilled at deign optimization, it is quite improbable that they'd be late to the party as the technological shifts.

The net effect of a materially disruptive battery advance would be to advantage TM more than its peers.

@Mark K - Your posts are always so well thought out and knowledgeable. Thank you for taking the time to read these forums and share your wisdom.

I agree with Mark K on this. There is a whole array of new technologies in the works. From Li-Ion structurally modified to improve recharging speeds, fluid electrolytes, H-cell technology, up to different super-capacitors, incl. Graphene and its derivates.

Some of these will turn into viable products, all I know is that batteries will become lighter, more powerful and more easy to charge.

Tesla definitely has the potential to utilise any upcoming tech!

Imagine constructing a car using graphene, so the car is its own battery ;-) Superstrong, superlight with lots of range, and a recharge-time only limited by the strenght of you powersource!
- designed by Tesla, of course...

@Mark K

No. Disruptive advanced battery tech doesn't help Tesla.

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.

They'd likely have a head start on it, but the ability other manufacturers already have to scale up would allow them to catch up easily.

Tesla's saving grace would be the use of an advanced induction motor, which helps reduce their exposure to commodity supply constraints, but large auto manufacturers would be able to handle those constraints better and would also have an opportunity to shift.

For Tesla the best thing is battery evolution, not revolution. Elon Musk might think a little differently.


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