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At Current Rates, Tesla Could Soon Suck Up Worldwide Supply of Li-Ion Cells 351

Posted by timothy
from the markets-tend-to-respond-to-demand dept.
cartechboy writes "Lets just say Elon Musk may need to go battery shopping, like, big-time. Here's some little-understood Tesla math that could turn the global market for cylindrical lithium-ion cells upside down by 2015. It turns out the massive Model S battery takes almost 2,000 times the number of cells a basic laptop does. Assume Tesla just doubles production from its current 21K cars/year to 40K cars/year. (Something it expects to do by 2015). At that point, Tesla would require the *entire* existing global capacity for 18650 commodity cells. That assumes no other growth, no next gen model, nada. What should Elon do? Better get on the horn to Panasonic and Samsung."
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At Current Rates, Tesla Could Soon Suck Up Worldwide Supply of Li-Ion Cells

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:07AM (#44745997) Journal
    Our newfound infatuation with extremely flat laptops that have about as many user-servicable parts as 2001's Monolith means that demand for 18650 Li-ion cells in laptops should be plummeting! Problem solved.

    Now we just need to go liberate whoever is living on top of our lithium, and we are good to go.
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:19AM (#44746111)

      I wonder which has the better profit margin, electronic devices or Tesla? Presumably that decides how this plays out. The interesting thing is that it's going to become a barrier to entry for electric car makers. The one with the highest profit margin can set the price of the batteries above the profit margin of the competition when there is a supply shortfall.

      • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:31AM (#44746245)

        The question to ask is what happens to the price of a laptop and a Tesla if the price of the batteries increases.

        A laptop uses maybe 6 cells which retail on amazon for about $10. So a doubling of prices would at most cost a laptop owner another $10 which is almost in the noise.

        A Tesla if using 2000 times the number would cost about $20k more. That is pretty significant.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:34AM (#44746267)
          JESUS CHRIST it's a li-on, GET IN THE CAR!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209)
          Or economies of scale will kick in and the batteries will get a lot cheaper.
          • by jythie (914043)
            Depends on what the bottlenecks are. Not everything scales well
          • by jimbolauski (882977) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @02:32PM (#44749701) Journal
            Ore is defined by the price of the mineral and the cost to dig and refine it. If prices don't go up there simply is not enough ore to mine. Even though Lithium cobalt oxide costs about $30 a kg it's still too expensive to recycle and too risky to mine many mineral deposit locations. At $40 a kilogram many sites could open up and expect a ROI in 10 years. The price right now simply won't allow for mining in many areas that have stringent environmental controls which is why China is one of the largest suppliers. Economies of scale won't be enough to overcome the environmental regulation that are used to control such a dirty mining process.
        • by fnj (64210)

          A laptop uses maybe 6 cells which retail on amazon for about $10. So a doubling of prices would at most cost a laptop owner another $10 which is almost in the noise.

          Yes, you can get extremely dangerous, garbage 18650's for $2.72 [amazon.com]. Note that they actually only have one third [amazon.com] of the advertised capacity, though. These things are probably rewrapped worn-out or reject cells.

          An 18650 of any quality at all costs more like $10-$25 [amazon.com] EACH. You start putting no-name crap 18650's in there and you are going to have enough

    • by dj245 (732906) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:40AM (#44746329) Homepage

      Our newfound infatuation with extremely flat laptops that have about as many user-servicable parts as 2001's Monolith means that demand for 18650 Li-ion cells in laptops should be plummeting! Problem solved. Now we just need to go liberate whoever is living on top of our lithium, and we are good to go.

      There is a difference between a "battery" or "battery pack" and a "battery cell". One "battery" generally needs to have several "battery cells" inside. The voltage of the battery "cell" is determined by chemistry and can not be changed. To make higher voltages, you need to use more cells or a different chemistry. The simplest example is a 9V (PP3) battery. Alkaline chemistry gives a per-cell output of abour 1.5v, so to get 9v you need 6 cells. Usually this comes in the form of 6 AAAA batteries inside.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:10AM (#44746589) Homepage

      The real problem is that nobody's allowed to make big batteries for use in cars because the oil companies bought up all the patents:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries#Chevron_and_Cobasys [wikipedia.org]

      This is the reason they have to use 8000 tiny little flashlight batteries in cars instead of a few dozen big ones.

      • by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:29AM (#44746773) Homepage Journal

        Perfect example of patents stifling progress instead of encouraging it.

      • by Spoke (6112) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:07AM (#44747129)

        While large format NiMH batteries are patent encumbered, large format Lithium batteries (the kind used in all EVs today except for Tesla) are not.

        I believe that Toyota is the only manufacturer who currently uses large format NiMH batteries, but only in their hybrids. The referenced wikipedia article suggests Panasonic/Cobasys worked out an agreement as long as Toyota only used those NiMH batteries in hybrids and not in a plug-in vehicle.

        Note that the large format NiMH battery patents are due to expire in 2014.

        Not sure how much of this matters - Lithium batteries are superior to NiMH batteries now in just about every way.

      • Well, that and the fact that there are thermal problems with large Li Ion batteries (think Boeing Dreamliner battery fires). Elon Musk actually discussed this in an interview on the 787 fires a while back (http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/02/26/elon-musks-solution-to-boeings-battery-problem/ [wsj.com]

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        Large cells have a number of disadvantages, cost being one, but cooling efficacy and reliability are significant as well.

        But, when Tesla is at 40,000 cars per year I imagine the economics will shift somewhat, and I am sure Tesla is looking at prismatic battery options as well.

      • by stdarg (456557)

        I disagree. This Ovonic company was a joint venture between Chevron and GM. That sounds to me like an oil company staying true to its word in trying to become an "energy" company instead of an oil company.

        They sold batteries to car manufacturers including Toyota.

        The company (maybe the technology) has problems.

        In 2012 BASF bought it, so clearly Chevron was willing to let it go and let someone else try to make a go at it.

        So why exactly are you demonizing oil companies in your post? Sounds like they played a b

        • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @02:05PM (#44749377)

          So why exactly are you demonizing oil companies in your post? Sounds like they played a big role in creating these large-format batteries.

          Because they used their battery patent to force Toyota to not only discontinue manufacturing their first pure-electric RAV4, but also pay a large fine for daring to do so. That vehicle was their CUSTOMER, and they killed it with a lawsuit. Toyota would have been paying them royalty money for over a decade, on potentially tens of thousands of vehicles worth of batteries, but they insisted on total shutdown of production instead.

          That's how much oil companies fear the possibility of a successful electric car. They're not "energy companies", all branding efforts to the contrary. They're oil companies. They act exactly the way oil companies have acted for over a century.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        I'd like to point out the conspicuous absence of the element Li in the NiMH battery chemistry. You're interestingly off-topic :)

      • by loshwomp (468955) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:30PM (#44750449)

        IAAEVE (I am an electric vehicle engineer) and I worked on Li cell, battery, and powertrain technology that was licensed to Tesla.

        The real problem is that nobody's allowed to make big batteries for use in cars because the oil companies bought up all the patents

        Please stop spreading this BS rumor--it's been floating around the "EV community" for long enough, and it's totally untrue.

        Anyone can license those patents, and no, Chevron's not going to build you any unless you want a LOT of them, but it doesn't even matter: No one wants to build NiMH cars anyway, because we have much better cells (Li-ion) now. Even hybrids, which need power (more so than energy) and were the last NiMH holdouts have moved to Lithium.

        This is the reason they have to use 8000 tiny little flashlight batteries in cars instead of a few dozen big ones.

        This is wrong in so many ways it makes my head hurt. First, you're confusing radically-different cell chemistires (NiMH vs. Li-ion). Second, the "flashlight" cells are actually 18650 Li cells, a form factor often used in notebook computers. Lastly, Telsa uses 18650 cells because they are (by a large margin) the best available in terms of energy density [Wh/kg]. If you want heavier or more expensive cells, there are plenty to choose from.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:08AM (#44746003)

    If we extrapolate this curve and assume everything else remains constant, DOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

    But it gets the clicks, and that's all that matters on the tubes.

    • by jdunn14 (455930) <jdunn@iguanBLUEaworks.net minus berry> on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:11AM (#44746053) Homepage

      Seriously: http://xkcd.com/605/ [xkcd.com]

      I bet someone in battery manufacturing is looking as adding capacity now in anticipation of such events. This could be quite an opportunity for some manufacturer with a bit of foresight. As more companies make and sell more electric cars I doubt Tesla will be the only company hunting for more, cheaper, better.

      • by JWW (79176) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:29AM (#44746229)

        Yep. In fact probably many someones.

        The way capitalism works is demand first, then supply shows up. It can't even be done the other way around.

        In fact this large demand is going to be what eventually causes prices for batteries to go down, because, like I said before, many companies are going to get into this business...

        • by paiute (550198) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:35AM (#44746281)

          The way capitalism works is demand first, then supply shows up. It can't even be done the other way around.

          Sure it can. A process can generate a lot of some material which nobody currently needs. The manufacturer will then go and look for a market which can use this material and try to develop that market.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by angel'o'sphere (80593)

          The way capitalism works is demand first, then supply shows up. It can't even be done the other way around.
          Strange that every business does it the opposite way:
          There was no demand for an iPhone ... before it existed.
          There was no demand for the Tesla ... before it actually existed.

          • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:56AM (#44746453)

            There were no smartphones before the iPhone? Really? There was no desire for portable computing?

            There was no demand for cars before Tesla?

            Demand exists before supply. If no one wanted to ever go faster than a horse the car would never have been a success.

          • by jdunn14 (455930)

            I think you're misreading or oversimplifying those situations. It's not that there was no demand, but it is more difficult to measure before the product exists. There was a market for smartphones and Apple 1) tends to put out good stuff, 2) already made iPods so they had some experience w making small portable consumer devices, 3) demonstrated that people loved the Apple branding of such things.

            As for the Tesla, people plunked down $40000 reservations before the cars existed, and continue to do so for new

        • In fact this large demand is going to be what eventually causes prices for batteries to go down

          That's not necessarily true. An increase in production decreases the price of each unit when an unlimited amount of the needed raw materials are available. Batteries involve exotic materials that may become scarce due to increased use. That scarcity leads to higher prices for inputs, and thus higher prices for the batteries.

  • by martas (1439879) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:08AM (#44746015)
    I seem to recall some old English dude saying stuff about supply and demand... But sarcasm aside, isn't it about time we had some tangible breakthroughs in battery tech?
    • It's not as easy many would think it would be. The battery market requires A LOT more interest before they can speed up research. Right now, There is research being done with nanotubes. But if demand starts rising, I'm sure funding would be much easier to hire the teams of researchers needed to push it to market.
      • by martas (1439879)
        Yet another reason to wish electric vehicles widespread adoption. It's about time we escaped the paleolithic era of energy storage.
        • by rubycodez (864176)

          why? liquid fuels have many times the energy density of batteries. we should be making that from dense vegetation grown on scrubland, an already solved problem that is carbon neutral

          • by martas (1439879)
            Do you want an internal combustion engine in your smartphone? Speaking of which, electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion, I believe. There's also the issue of rising food prices. And the fact that better battery tech is pretty important for wider adoption of variable energy sources like solar and wind. Plus burning gasoline or vegetable-derived fuels releases more than just CO2. Even if you end up burning crops for energy, you might be better off doing that in a centralized fashion and g
            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Internal combustion is not the only method to get electricity or work from liquid fuel. Methanol Fuel cells are well known.

        • by dimeglio (456244)
          Provided the electricity that goes into those cells is not made using paleolithic era means.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Considering that you can now buy 3.4Ah 18650s (NCR18650B) when just a few years ago 2.4Ah was the biggest available, I'd say we keep right on having the tangible breakthroughs. The trouble is, we keep seeing news articles about some battery tech which will double current battery capacity, and is about ten years from market. But we never see that "double" jump, next year we just get 7% more capacity and another tech in the lab that will eventually, when it hits the street, double current capacity. So we get

    • by Spudley (171066)

      I seem to recall some old English dude saying stuff about supply and demand... But sarcasm aside, isn't it about time we had some tangible breakthroughs in battery tech?

      The problem isn't the batteries -- battery tech *is* improving year on year.

      The problem is that we keep demanding more from our batteries.

      Our mobile devices are being loaded up with retina screens, wi-fi, and all the other new goodies you can think of, and simultaneously we're demanding that they're thinner and lighter with every generation. Seriously, a current iPad would choke if it had to survive on the battery tech even from the original iPad.

  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:09AM (#44746023)

    Make more?

    Crisis solved. I will even waive my customary consulting fee.

    • we'll start making LiON batteries from carbon, zinc, and magnesium dioxide, then.

      the lithium/rare earths mine in California is going to have to start exporting to China.

    • Make more?

      Crisis solved. I will even waive my customary consulting fee.

      Actually, charge more. Seriously if demand goes up significantly so will price until new factories come on line. Of course, extrapolating future demand from a small data set is not a good predictor of future demand. If Tesla became such a large purchaser of cells I would guess manufacturers would be leery of adding significant capacity that could become excess resulting in a glut or idle factories if Tesla's demand suddenly lessened significantly.

  • Super capacitors (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371)

    Maybe Mr. Musk would be better served dumping more R&D into super capacitors instead.

    • by TWX (665546)

      Maybe Mr. Musk...

      Oh My God...

      Elon Musk is a James Bond Villain! A real-life Max Zorin!

    • and the speedometer has to be marked -2000 to +10,000 years, not in mph

    • Re:Super capacitors (Score:4, Informative)

      by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:39AM (#44746325) Journal
      [sigh...]

      Super capacitors are awesome, and would dovetail very nicely with Tesla's high-capacity charging stations. But the simple fact is that they are still about an order of magnitude lower in energy density [wikipedia.org] than Li-Ion. Sure, lots of people are looking to improve that, but it is doubtful that Musk is going to (or would even be able to) dump enough R&D money into the field to bring about an automotive "battery" using supercapacitors anytime soon. If he's going to put money into the field at all, it'll probably be to integrate a relatively small amount of supercapacitance into the conventional battery pack to improve the pulse power capability.
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:14AM (#44746071)
    So if Tesla doubles production, it would consume the entire world's production of li-ion cells. So the measly 21k cars Tesla produces use half of the world's production already? Maybe I can't read and/or do math though.
    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:36AM (#44746293)

      So if Tesla doubles production, it would consume the entire world's production of li-ion cells. So the measly 21k cars Tesla produces use half of the world's production already? Maybe I can't read and/or do math though.

      It's not your math, it's the lack of data in TFAs. I can't find the number of cells per Tesla battery in any of the articles, either. Maybe I just got bored paging through. Stupid ADD. Anyway. searching around gives guesses of 7500 to 8000 cells in the top-of-the-line pack. So another 20000 cars would be 160 million more cells. If a laptop uses four to eight cells per battery, that's a lot of laptops worth of cells.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:18AM (#44746105)

    We start with some seriously breathless doom-and-gloom headlines and summary, then reading the articles we find this sort of thing:

    The carmaker's rapid production scale-up has prompted Panasonic to expand capacity, by reopening previously idled plants, while simultaneously committing to build entirely new production lines.

    So prices had been dropping, production had been cut, but now at least one cell maker has restarted idled lines. That doesn't exactly sound like a disaster in the making.

  • At least they aren't buying up all the HeLa cells. That would be creepy.
  • It would drive the price of batteries sky high, as well as other devices that use said batteries, such as cell phones.

    Supply and demand. Econ 101. Nothing to see here besides another Tesla slashvertisement.

  • by Guspaz (556486)

    Better get on the horn to Panasonic and Samsung.

    Tesla already has a manufacturing deal with Panasonic, who makes all their cells. They don't buy the thing on the open market. I'm pretty sure that if Tesla wants more batteries, Panasonic can and will ramp up production.

    • Funny thing that hey were willing to pay for them and probably top dollar at that (car manufactures rarely go for cheap) thus they will find a way to make more.

  • by wchin (6284) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:34AM (#44746275)

    The lithium ion 18650 cylindrical cell production has been dropping as laptop demand has dropped and as laptops are moving to lithium polymer flat pack batteries.

    Panasonic/Sanyo has had to close factories. Originally, Panasonic's plants that were acquired from Sanyo were supposed to be able to produce 300 million cells in their Suminoe plant in Osaka, Japan in just stage 1.

    http://www.eetasia.com/ART_8800603184_765245_NT_5f784554.HTM [eetasia.com]

    That plant alone, running at full stage 1 capacity could produce enough batteries for 40,000 85kWh Model S's. The demand from Tesla is strong enough that they are expanding production again:

    http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-08-21/news/41433228_1_lithium-ion-batteries-production-line# [indiatimes.com]

    However, it really isn't the Model S or Model X that will have the issue, or even the initial production of whatever Gen 3 car that is coming. The big issue is making enough batteries for millions of EVs, and that will take some planning for the necessary expansion.

    • by Spoke (6112) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:31AM (#44747401)

      The big issue is making enough batteries for millions of EVs, and that will take some planning for the necessary expansion.

      Luckily all the big manufacturers have been building battery plants - the problem is that automobile manufacturers haven't been building good enough cars around those proposed battery packs to fully utilize those factories.

      A few examples:

      Nissan / AESC: Finished a large battery plant earlier this year in Tennessee thanks to DOE loan. Currently only supplies batteries for the Nissan LEAF (24 kWh battery pack), which sells about 1,600 / month or 20,000 / year in the USA. Maximum capacity of the plant when fully ramped up is claimed to be around 150,000 / year or over 12,000 / month.

      LG Chem: Finished a large battery plant last year in Michigan thanks to DOE loan. Unfortunately, has been sitting idle for some time, though is finally starting to produce batteries for the Chevrolet Volt (16.5 kWh battery pack). Maximum capacity of the plant is claimed to be around 60,000 / year, currently the Volt is selling about 1,600 / month or 20,000 / year in the USA.

      A123: Finished a large battery plant in 2010 in Michigan thanks to DOE loan. Capable of 30,000 battery packs/year. Unfortunately a very large bad bad of batteries delivered to Fisker and Fisker's demise also lead to A123's demise whose assets were bought out. Still operating, and delivering batteries for the Chevrolet Spark EV (20 kWh battery pack). Unfortunately the Spark EV is a low volume vehicle so far only available in a few markets. Launched late June, only sold 130 through July (August sales numbers should be out soon).

      Anyway - my point is that there is plenty of supply out there for lithium batteries right now - there are more plants than just the ones mentioned here - both in the USA and abroad. The competition is tough (see A123's bankruptcy and others, too) so despite low interest loans manufacturers are going under. What's needed is a few more plug-ins with a bit more appear - either more utility or lower price.

      Both Nissan / GM / Tesla have shown that the public will buy electric cars if they are good products and priced right.

      Nissan says they are actually selling all the LEAFs they can make and are currently capacity constrained after a big price drop for the '13 model - they are apparently being conservative in ramping up production capability. Inventory levels support their claims. If Nissan could get at least 25% more range into the car (and perhaps a more neutral package) without increasing the price, I think they could easily sell quite a few more EVs.

      GM needed to drop the price of the Volt - they finally did so for the '14 model and they are saying as a result August will be their best sales result yet. Inventory levels support their claims. If GM could get the Volt drivetrain into a slightly roomier vehicle without sacrificing much efficiency and keeping the price down, I think they could easily sell quite a few more PHEVs.

      Tesla has finally worked through most of the backlog of their USA orders (there's only so many people who can afford $70k+ cars) and are starting to ship product to Europe. They are expecting to stay at maximum capacity for the foreseeable future (over 2,000 Model Ss / month).

  • Just use the design for the Chevy Volt. Had mine two years, beat the snot out of it - and it's as good as new, or actually, slightly better in range. GM has that all worked out re temp/charge/balancing control - and as a result, both would get cheaper due to volume. And yes, I'm about to test-drive a Tesla, since my solar system has the extra juice to handle both.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I prefer a Photo Voltaic power system to a Solar System. They are far more compact and you dont have to deal with the plants constantly spinning and upsetting the neighbors.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      so surely you made sure that volt doesn't just pack the same cheapo cells into their cellpacks?

      I just thought before this article that they would have used something a bit more custom... but if the plants had overproduction I guess that's why they went with what they went with.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It does not look like GM wants a cheaper Volt. They are going the other way with a Volt Cadillac.

      The question I have is why anyone would pay Tesla prices for a Volt in Cadillac clothes. Also I doubt there is a big crossover between the Rapper and Granny sets with the Hybrid/Electric car buyer set.

      A cheaper Volt would be nice though, I could afford one but I can't justify spending that much on a car to myself.

  • This article is a classic example of why this sort of reasoning is wrong:

    http://www.jir.com/geographic.html [jir.com]

    "PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE MUST BE IMMEDIATELY STOPPED AT ALL COSTS! This beautiful, educational, erudite, and thoroughly appreciated publication is the heretofore unrecognized instrument of doom which must be erased if we as a country or continent will survive. It is NOT TOO LATE if this warning is heeded!"

  • by watermark (913726) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:43AM (#44746351)

    The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894. Writing in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure.

  • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:45AM (#44746359)

    Summary sez that...

    >no assumptions that the situation will ever change except that Tesla will use more batteries:

    FTFS "That assumes no other growth, no next gen model, nada."

    Increased demand will make it profitable for economies of scale in manufacturing to take place, and to make Li cells cheaper, as has happened since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And we'll have more of them.

    FTFA:

    The carmaker's rapid production scale-up has prompted Panasonic to expand capacity, by reopening previously idled plants, while simultaneously committing to build entirely new production lines.

    Well, duh!

    It's not like we're going to run out of Lithium, either. It's recyclable, first and foremost, and it's plentiful.

    Clicking through to the article, it's not at all as sensationalist as the summary even though the article itself contains some BS. The summary says that we're going to suddenly run out because of the demand. No such thing is mentioned in the article itself.

    Invest in battery manufacturers. That's the real take-away from this article. And the summary writer is a douchebag.

    --
    BMO

  • To build that Ark reactor he wears....

    Or ask Howard Heughes, the real Tony Stark, for his Ark technology.

    Seriously, the #1 problem with electric vehicles is that we have crap power storage systems. If he wants to change the world, stop with flights of fancy and dump ALL his effort into just tripling battery storage capacity and life.

  • 18650 cells?

    Thats like saying "If everyone bought their house using pennies, we wouldn't have enough pennies!". 18650 cells are ideal for laptops, but for cars, one uses bigger batteries, for which there is more production volume.

    • by King_TJ (85913)

      Yes, except this is Tesla's unique strategy with electric car production. Musk said he actually did string together a whole bunch of "off the shelf" 18650 batteries, intended for use in laptops originally, in order to assemble a functional electric car power pack at a lower cost than if he designed a specific one for it.

      As time goes on, I expect he will change strategies to having a custom battery pack built for him by someone (similar to what GM has done with the Volt). But at least to get his Tesla S out

    • by PPH (736903)

      Um, like Boeing does on the 787?

      There is some logic to the Tesla design. Or Musk stumbled upon the right way to do things accidentally. 18650 cells, being smaller, have fewer thermal issues than larger cells. More surface area per unit volume makes them easier to cool.

  • Analogy to Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:54AM (#44746447) Journal
    There was a time when there was this thing called the iPod, and it had a small magnetic hard drive inside it. iPods were really big business - hundreds of millions were made. iPods practically cornered the market for 1.8" hard drives for a while. The world did not end.

    More recently, Apple started producing iPods and, later on, entire freaking phones, tablets, and computers that did away with the spinning magnetic discs in favor of flash memory. Apple sold of lot of those, too, and for a long while has consumed a large fraction of the entire world output of flash memory. Lo and behold: world output increased to match demand.

    If anything, these facile comparisons should give Elon Musk an idea: pre-purchase huge swaths of 18650s as a strategic move, just as Apple has done for flash memory and touchscreens over the years. Doing so would ensure the lowest possible price, a consistent supply chain, and make it harder for competitors to enter the market on equal terms.
  • lithium ion batteries are awful. currently available, there are much better battery types out there, like the si-anode battery, among others. the future,however, is not batteries, it is supercapacitors made out of graphene. there wont really be a huge market for electric cars until supercapacitors are available, because they hold a much larger charge and build up storage 100x faster than a battery. with graphene supercapacitors, electric cars will be able to go much further without recharging than a normal
  • by RobinH (124750) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:19AM (#44747265) Homepage
    If there's one thing business is exceedingly good at, it's ramping up production when a big customer says they want to buy lots of your product. All Tesla has to do is sign a contract guaranteeing a minimum buy.

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