Tesla Taps Into 'Breakthrough' Battery Innovations

Elon Musk recently hinted that Tesla might be close to its goal battery efficiency of $100 per kWh.

The Tesla shareholder meeting earlier this week held a lot of announcements and excitement, but one announcement, in particular, has fans of Tesla's battery systems really intrigued. 

During his presentation, Elon Musk described the company's battery updates as "breakthrough" -- a word he's often careful and selective to use. At the shareholder meeting, Musk used the term to describe what Tesla is doing in both battery density and cost. 

The goal for the electric vehicle company has been to create battery packs with a cost of $100 per kWh. That price would make Tesla even more competitive with its gas-powered counterparts on the road. 

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Shareholder Joel Sapp took to Twitter to ask "has Tesla broken the seal of $100/kWh?" during the stakeholders meeting. Tesla did not mention its actual battery cost. CTO JB Straubel spoke first in response to Sapp's question: 

“It’s difficult for us to talk about specific cost numbers. It’s a difficult topic, but we are still very confident that we have the best price and performance of anything out there in the world. If there’s anything better, I don’t know about it and we have looked as hard as we possibly can. We try to talk with every single battery startup, every lab, every large manufacturer. We get quotes from them. We test cells from them. If there’s anything better, we are all ears, we want to find it, but we haven’t found it yet.”

But then Musk took the microphone and gave a bit more of a direct answer: 

“We think at the cell level probably we can do better than $100/kWh maybe later this year … depending upon [stable] commodity prices…. [W]ith further improvements to the cell chemistry, the production process, and more vertical integration on the cell side, for example, integrating the production of cathode and anode materials at the Gigafactory, and improved design of the module and pack, we think long-term we can get below $100/kWh at the pack level. Which is really the key figure of merit for a car. But long-term meaning definitely less than 2 years.”

Musk also predicted a 30 percent boost in volumetric energy density in just a couple of years. He noted the technology "needs to be scaled and made reliable."

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