Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is a household name at this point, especially since the March 31 unveiling of its Model 3 sedan — a $35,000 car that the company believes will help make electric vehicles available to the masses.
That’s definitely exciting news for car enthusiasts, but it’s also good news for critical metals investors. Why? Because Tesla’s electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries, which require lithium, graphite and cobalt. Demand for those metals is expected to increase as Tesla sells more of its electric vehicles.
But some investors are still wondering whether Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries may eventually include another interesting material. That material is graphene, a crystalline allotrope of carbon that has a reputation for being able to improve an extremely wide variety of products. Read on to find out whether that’s a possibility.
Graphene battery Tesla: Could it happen?
Widely regarded as the “wonder material” of the 21st century, graphene has an impressive list of characteristics — it’s a better electricity conductor than copper, impermeable to gases, 200 times stronger than steel (but six times lighter) and almost completely transparent. Further, its properties can be altered when chemical components are added to its surface.
Those qualities give graphene seemingly endless applications (though most still aren’t commercially available). But could graphene really be used to make better lithium-ion batteries? And if so, is that something Tesla is pursuing? The short answer is “probably not,” but there’s more to the story than that.
Here’s a brief overview of what you should know about Tesla and graphene:
- 500-mile graphene battery: China’s Xinhua News Agency is largely responsible for rumors that Tesla may be making a graphene battery. Why? Because back in 2014 the news outlet published an article stating that Tesla was working on a graphene battery that could nearly double the range of the Model S to 500 miles.
- Musk chimes in: Xinhua’s story was given credence because around the same time it came out Musk said that he thought it would be possible to create an electric vehicle with a range of 500 miles. “In fact we could do it quite soon, but it would increase the price,” he said. However, he didn’t specify that graphene would be used to create such a vehicle.
- Market watchers pile on: Together, the article and comment from Musk understandably created an uproar in the graphene community. Click here, here or here to get a sense of some of the commentary on the topic — notably, market watchers pointed out that while a graphene battery might be great for mileage, the cost of graphene could make it prohibitively expensive.
- Excitement subsides: With no new reports on Tesla’s graphene plans, excitement about the 500-mile battery has subsided.
Graphene battery Tesla: The upshot
And that’s where the situation stands today. While a graphene battery from Tesla is certainly a compelling idea, as yet there’s been no confirmation that the company actually has one in the works.
That said, Musk’s 2014 comment does suggest that Tesla may go that way in the future. With that in mind, investors shouldn’t necessarily give up hope — as mentioned, graphene is considered the “wonder material” of the 21st century, and if Tesla and Musk keep coming up with innovative ideas, it’s possible the two may come together at some point.
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This article was first published on April 6, 2016 on Graphene Investing News.
Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.