Recently, battery developers at Tesla have claimed that they have developed a battery pack that will juice a car for 1 million miles! Yes, you heard that right! 1 million miles! The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk stated in April that he wants to get into fully-autonomous driving by launching a huge number of Robo taxis. The battery research partner of Tesla has released a new paper based on battery cell technology that could sustain a car for over 1 million miles. The company is adamant that this will be useful in deploying their robot taxis in the coming years.

At the Tesla Autonomy Investor Day in Palo Alto, California, Elon Musk said, “I feel very confident predicting autonomous Robo taxis for Tesla next year…in all jurisdictions, because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere, but I am confident we will have at least regulatory approval somewhere, literally next year”.

Tesla has faced a lot of flack due to its obsession with robotics and AI technology. Recently at a Hackathon, white hackers have managed to turn a  Model 3 or Model S Tesla into a rolling surveillance system! Just like CCTV installations from camera surveillance websites, the model can be used to catch thieves, vandals and stalkers but also poses a risk to flag innocent individuals which has privacy implications. Despite this, Tesla has always managed to push the critics aside and proved investors on Autonomy Investor Day how much they are serious about robot taxi technology by publicly releasing the research paper.

About the new Tesla battery technology

Recently, Jeff Dean has released test results of the next Tesla’s new million-mile battery research. The results show extensive testing and show that the car will be able to theoretically reach 1 million miles or over 1.6 million kilometers which are impressive. As described by Dahn’s team, the test results state:

“We present a wide range of testing results on an excellent moderate-energy-density, lithium-ion pouch cell chemistry to serve as benchmarks for academics and companies developing advanced lithium-ion and other ‘beyond lithium-ion’ cell chemistries to (hopefully) exceed. These results are far superior to those that have been used by researchers modeling cell-failure mechanisms, and as such, these results are more representative of modern Li-ion cells and should be adopted by modelers.

Up to three years of testing have been completed for some of the tests. Tests include long-term charge-discharge cycling at 20, 40, and 55°C, long-term storage at 20, 40, and 55°C, and high precision coulometry at 40°C. Several different electrolytes are considered in this LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2/graphite chemistry, including those that can promote fast charging. The reasons for cell performance degradation and impedance growth are examined using several methods. We conclude that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage”.

These batteries have been modified to last 2 to 3 times longer than conventional batteries of Tesla. The team conducted several tests on different cycles and conditions and got over 4000 cycles even at an extreme temperature of 40’C. Add Tesla’s active cooling system and you will be able to reach over 6000 cycles which equate around  1 million miles! The team also managed to increase the longevity of the batteries by charging it to less than 100% state-of-charge. In the following section, you will see how the team has managed to prove how the longevity potential factor will be beneficial for the Robo taxi concept. The research paper states:

“This situation may change with the proposed introduction of “Robo taxis,” long-haul electric trucks, and vehicle-to-grid applications. In the former, vehicles will be driving all day, much like a conventional taxi and undergoing nearly 100% DOD cycling. Long haul trucks will almost certainly run in near 100% DOD situations. Cells in vehicles tethered to the grid will be racking up charge-discharge cycles, even when the vehicle is not moving.

Clearly EVs destined for vehicle-to-grid applications, Robo taxis, or long-haul trucking would favor lithium-ion chemistry that could deliver many more charge-discharge cycles in a decade than an EV that was destined for typical commuter driving where high energy density to give the longest driving range for weekend trips might be emphasized. Electric buses represent another application where duty cycles approaching 100% DOD are used on a daily basis.”

How feasible is the new Tesla battery technology according to reports?

During the  Tesla Autonomy Event, Musk admitted that for the economics of the Robo taxis to work the car needs to be durable and this is where the new Tesla battery technology comes into play. This technology will make the whole Robo taxi concept cost-effective. Although, he admitted that the battery packs do not have longevity to last 1 million miles. If the technology is deployed, the battery will be able to drive down the cost-per-mile of using electrical vehicles (like Robo taxis) by a significant margin which will make the technology more viable to adopt in the future.