Elon Musk has an unusual problem. He just can’t stop people from pitching him new battery ideas.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the man who runs an electric-car company that is now branching out into the energy storage business would be inundated with pitches from eager inventors, but Musk gave an indication of just how frustrated he is during a recent Tesla earnings call.
He said he hears almost every week about a breakthrough in battery chemistry, but feels that battery inventors are “big on promises and short on delivery,” reports Quartz.
Indeed, the rise to prominence of electric cars has triggered a battery-research boom. There have been many recent experiments with different kinds of battery chemistries – as well as attempts to rethink battery design with solid-state and other technologies – but so far promising lab results haven’t translated into a replacement for current lithium-ion chemistries.
Musk reportedly chastised researchers for leaving out important details when claiming success, accusing them of downplaying the fact that batteries haven’t undergone the minimum 1,000 charge/discharge cycles a real electric-car battery must endure, or talking about fast discharge rates but ignoring energy-storage capacity.
Yet just because academia hasn’t provided a new miracle chemistry, it doesn’t mean Musk isn’t willing to make a change. While Tesla cars use a chemistry called nickel-cobalt aluminum (NCA), Musk said its Powerwall home batteries will use nickel-manganese cobalt (NMC) – a chemistry he’s reportedly derided in the past.
Tesla even hired Jeff Dahn, a leading battery researcher at Dalhousie University and one of the two main inventors of NMC. Dan’s previous patents are owned by 3M, but he’ll presumably start producing new material for Tesla when his deal with the company takes effect next year.