Tesla's Solid-State Battery Breakthrough
Elon Musk is working hard to make better electric car batteries.

With the rise of electric vehicles, many automakers are attempting to compete with Tesla through a solid-state battery breakthrough which has the potential to increase energy density and reduce battery manufacturing costs. For example, Volkswagen has invested over 300 million dollars in solid state battery research and Toyota has been attempting to develop one for years. However, Jeff Dahn, Tesla's battery research partner is taking a different approach and has improved its battery which can last over 700 miles substantially over the past few weeks. Let's take a look at the developments in Jeff Dahn's groundbreaking battery technology and how that will impact Tesla's business in the future.

You're probably skeptical of a battery that can last for over 700 miles on a single charge and rightfully so. For years, we've been told solid state batteries are around the corner only to be satisfied with no results. Nonetheless, It is important to understand Jeff Dahn's experience in researching and developing new battery technologies.

Dahn was one of the pioneering developers of the Lithium-ion battery that is used in devices all around the world. The device you are reading this article on probably has a battery that was partly developed by Jeff Dahn. This is not something to look over at, Jeff Dahn has spearheaded the breakthroughs of the lithium-ion battery technology, and he is currently developing the next generation battery that you will soon be using.

In a patent filed one month ago, Dahn unveiled the results of his team's experiments with Anode-free lithium metal batteries, the patent showed that Dahn was able to push the battery up to a 90 cycle lifetime with 80% capacity remaining. However, we were not given any information on energy density which led many to speculate the miles of range that the battery could provide.

on August 12, 2020, Jeff Dahn unveiled a new research report that revealed all of the details of his experiments with Anode-free lithium metal cells. In this report, he detailed how he was able to achieve a 70% increase in energy density over current Lithium-ion batteries. The Model S currently has a driving range of 402 miles, so an increase of 70% would result in close to 700 miles of range. That may not seem very revolutionary and this is where the cost comes into play. Most of us don't need the 700 miles of range and by minimizing the battery size, this reduces the cost substantially.

Another opportunity this allows for is, believe it or not, Electric planes. According to Jeff Dahn's report, an electric plane requires an energy density of 400 Watt-hours per kilogram, which is 30 percent higher than current lithium-ion batteries. Dahn's new battery has an energy density of around 500 Watt-hours per kilogram, allowing electric flight, specifically for vertical take-off and landing.

This is the battery that Elon Musk has been looking for as in a podcast by Joe Rogan he claims that he already has a design for an electric plane. Now, as Jeff Dahn continues to improve his anode-free lithium metal battery, Tesla or SpaceX will eventually be able to use this battery in a supersonic vertical takeoff landing plane. While this sounds fantastic in theory, the current state of anode-free lithium metal batteries is not yet ready for production.

Previous researchers have been able to push the energy density of anode-free lithium metal batteries to extremely high levels with one researcher being able to achieve a range of 3650 miles. However, the problem with the battery is a lifetime. One month ago, Dahn released record results of a lifetime of 90 cycles which would be a lifetime of around 63,000 miles. The lifetime wasn't that great compared to Tesla's million-mile battery.

However, more recently he was able to solve significant barriers to the chemistry and push the lifetime past 200 cycles, giving an energy density of 140,000 miles. To put this into perspective, current Tesla batteries from Panasonic have lost 300,000 to 500,000 miles. So Jeff Dahn is already approaching the lifetime needed for production levels.

To have Dahn increase a battery's lifetime in such a short period of time is groundbreaking and suggests the fact that the battery may be closer to production than you think. We have no knowledge of when the battery will be ready, as at the end of the day, battery research can be unpredictable. But we know that it has the potential to happen within the next one or two years, which is not so far away. Many battery experts think ultimately this battery will be an important part of Tesla's multi-type battery ramp up. For example, the CATL battery will be used for the Chinese-made Model 3, Panasonic batteries could be used exclusively for American-made Model 3, and Tesla's in-house battery could be used for the cyber truck.