Tesla May Have Invented a Million-Mile Electric Car Battery

Is Elon Musk’s tech for vehicles built to last 76 years, or the key to a driverless car-on-demand future? Yes.

Steve LeVine
The Mobilist
Published in
9 min readSep 24, 2019

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Illustration: Giacomo Bagnara

SSince Edison a century ago, the world of batteries has been riven with exaggeration and fibs. U.S. university and private labs routinely announce purportedly important new leaps, only to go quiet when the cameras are gone.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself has been roundhoused for what a lot of people, including U.S. regulators and Wall Street, suggest is an addiction to making claims he cannot fulfill, and sometimes outright violate the law. But now the carmaker has filed patents for a battery system that could last one million miles, enough for 76 years of driving for the average American motorist. Has anyone ever asked for such a car? It’s not obvious they have. But if you are in the mind of Musk, you will see past that, to a future fleet of cars that can transform into driverless, automated taxis when not being used by their owners. A fleet that he hopes will turn into a big new profit center for Tesla.

Leading battery researchers in the United States and Europe, while uncertain about the cost of the Tesla system, say a new academic paper describing the million-mile battery is rigorous and convincing. “The results are spectacular,” said Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science at University of California, Berkeley.

The paper, co-authored by Jeff Dahn, a professor at Dalhousie University in Canada, who is on contract with Tesla, suggests a substantial advance for driverless taxis, buses, and semi-trucks that can recharge in roughly 20 minutes, along with electric grid batteries boasting two-decade lifespans. These are among the greatest ambitions of the new electric age, and a new lithium-ion battery that does what Dahn describes would go far in reviving Musk’s reputation for mastery of applied cutting-edge technology.

If you are in the mind of Musk, you will see a future fleet of cars that can transform into driverless, automated taxis.

Few inventions of the last four or five decades have had the impact that lithium-ion has had on…

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Steve LeVine
The Mobilist

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.