Wondering if Tesla is making a graphene battery? The short answer is “probably not.” But there’s more to the story than that.
In the resource sector, the company has also generated interest due to its Model 3 sedan — a US$35,000 car that Tesla believes will help make electric vehicles (EVs) 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.
Is it a possibility? Read on to find out what could be in store from Tesla.
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 because 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 competition
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, there are other companies interested in the idea of graphene batteries that might someday power EVs. For example, major tech company Samsung (KRX:005930) is working on a graphene ball battery that could reduce charging times from 45 minutes to 12 minutes. Of course, investors are clamoring to know how soon this new development could be applied to the auto sector.
There’s also a startup from Spain called Earthdas, which has developed a graphene battery that charges motorcycles and electric bikes in only five minutes. Again, people speculate that it’s only a matter of time before it can be used for other vehicles.
Overall it would appear that Tesla is not the final answer on the graphene battery. But graphene is considered the “wonder material” of the 21st century, and if Tesla wants to keep up with the competition, it’s possible graphene batteries may be a part of the company’s future.
Do you think the graphene battery revolution is coming? Tell us in the comments.
This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2016.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.