Tesla Motors Inc Announces Research Partnership With Battery Expert


Tesla is focusing on lowering the cost of its battery, and has partnered with a leading advanced battery researcher as part of its efforts, says a report from the Wall Street Journal. The EV maker signed a five-year research partnership with Jeff Dahn, a professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, famous for his work innovating lithium-ion batteries.

Dahn holds expertise with batteries

Though the financial terms of the deal were not revealed, Tesla will sponsor Dahn’s research efforts as a part of the deal, claims the WSJ. Dahn is presently working with 3M on a project, and on completion, he will join Tesla researchers.

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Dahn holds a patent for a nickel-cobalt-manganese chemistry, used for battery cathodes, which is widely used in the industry. He is also a leading researcher on why lithium-ion batteries fail. Dahn will work to allow more voltage into the batteries without impacting longevity, and reducing the cost of materials. Dahn told the WSJ that he is excited to work for Tesla in improving the energy and the longevity of their battery.

Commenting on the partnership, Venkat Viswanathan, a Carnegie Mellon University battery researcher, told the WSJ that a partnership between Tesla and Jeff is a “big deal,” and makes “perfect sense.”

Bringing battery cost down is a must for Tesla

JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technologist, said this week that the cost of the lithium-ion battery must come down in the coming years so the automaker can offer lower-priced vehicles. Straubel is more concerned on cost rather than on the range of their vehicles. In an interview to the WSJ, Straubel said, “If we had twice the range, it would be more range than people needed. We are definitely on a road map to achieve half the cost.” Apart from improving the technology, Tesla is also making efforts to lower battery costs by bringing suppliers and processing of numerous materials in house.

Tesla, which is the biggest user of lithium-ion batteries, needs to cut battery costs by half to hit their sales target of one million vehicles by 2020. In 2014, the lithium-ion battery plants globally produced only 30-gigawatt hours of battery power annually, while Tesla’s Nevada factory (the so-called Gigafactory) is expected to produce 50 gigawatt hours of battery packs a year.

At around 10 am EDT Thursday, Tesla shares were trading up 0.60% at $261.98, and year to date, the stock up almost 18%.