New made in Canada Tesla battery is a game changer

Clinton Desveaux, Frontier Centre for Public Policy 

John Einarson (right) with Burton Cummings at one of the more colourful events to grace The Paddlewheel.

Canadians have no idea all of the fancy Tesla battery technology has mostly been developed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Dalhousie University has partnered with the American Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacturer, and created what is commonly referred to as the Tesla Dalhousie Battery Lab.

The new 4680 Dry-Cell battery is going into Tesla vehicles sometime between February and April 2021. Here are 6 things, in descending order, you need to know for 2021 as civilization begins a serious transformation from fossil fuel road transportation to EV.

6 – Range: 996 km (which equals 619 miles), one can drive from Portland, Maine to Washington DC or Halifax, Nova Scotia to Quebec City on a single charge. Gone are the days people worried an EV wasn’t able to drive long distances. The 4680 Dry-Cell has changed the game because gasoline and diesel cars can’t go the same distance on a tank of fossil fuels…When you have driven 996 km, it’s time to stretch your legs and have a meal!

5 – Charge Times: Multiple reports have indicated the 4680 charges in 15 minutes on a Level 3 high Speed Charger. When not charging your car at home you will be able to get it done on the highway quickly for those long road trips in Canada and the United States.

4 – Cold Weather: The 4680 Dry-Cell doesn’t have a traditional electrolyte, that means no liquid acids or gels. Liquid acids and gels don’t like cold, the Dry-Cell eliminates that problem, especially when combined with the heat-pump Tesla developed that will become part of the automotive mainstream.

3 – Life of Battery: The days of questionable battery life from the first generation Nissan Leaf are over – the new Tesla 4680 is good for 3.5 million km’s (2 million miles) before it’s time to replace the battery. That means it’s a game changer in not only the car business, but also the long haul tractor trailer business.

2 – Cost: The manufacturing time and materials required for the 4680 means productions costs will drop by 56%. We are going to see real competition on the raw sticker price in the window at the local car dealer. Currently, 4,416 (Model 2170 lithium ion) cells are placed inside a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y long-range edition battery packs. In contrast, only 960 cells will be required to fill the same space with the new 4680 Dry-Cell. As an added bonus, Tesla won’t have cobalt in their batteries anymore, that means no more memes about children in the Congo!

1 – Future: You are going to see serious discussions and planning in the tractor-trailer long-haul business because of the 4680 Dry-Cell. The development and ingenuity of ever more efficient batteries developed by Tesla will create mass disruption in the market place. In terms of energy density (watt-hours per kilogram) the present standard Tesla battery has 380 Wh/kg (Watt hours per kilogram). In 5 years don’t be surprised if the 4680 Dry-Cell energy density increases by 5% a year compounded from 380 Wh/kg to somewhere in the 480 Wh/kg to 500 Wh/kg range. You need 450 Wh/kg to make commercial air passenger service viable.

Let’s hope Canada and its 10 provinces get there act together, and create a plan for a national mining policy. We can either be part of the disruption – or we can watch others benefit from it. 

It’s time we plan for today instead of yesterday.

Clinton Desveaux writes on EV and disruption issues at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He lives in Halifax.

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