Tesla has acquired California super-capacitor maker Maxwell Technologies, in a deal that has been reported to be in the area of $288 million in stock. What Tesla has shared, is that the deal included stock together with cash in lieu of any fractional shares of Tesla common stock.
The move is an interesting one, to say the least, as Tesla has already invested heavily in its Powerwall home energy storage system and, while super-capacitors have much higher power, in terms of rate of charge and discharge than lithium batteries, they have much lower storage capability than similarly-sized batteries.
The idea behind the acquisition may be less about the company, and more about how the company does what they do. Maxwell makes their super-capacitors using a proprietary electrode process. This process works by turning bits of Teflon into very fine filaments, which are mixed in with particles of active anode or cathode material. This results in a self-supporting film of anode or cathode electrode material.
Technical details aside, what this means for Tesla is that if this process can be worked into the company’s lithium-ion batteries, it will produce batteries with a greater energy density. More importantly, this would enable Tesla to make batteries without the traditional process of lithium being stored in cathode material and requiring electrolytes for the initial charge.
The reason this is important is because it would eliminate Solid Electrolyte Interphase, which the parasitic reaction of lithium ions being lost during initial charging due to the structure of battery construction. In short, with this technology, Tesla has the potential to reduce energy loss in its batteries.
Then again, the acquisition could be for reasons entirely independent of Maxwell’s proprietary electrode process; this is Elon Musk’s company we’re talking about, and the ink is barely even dry on the agreement, meaning that, at this point, speculation is the best that we have. Hopefully a tweet will come along in the near future explaining the methodology behind the acquisition, but maybe not, as it seems Elon has time only for more important things at the moment.
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Also the Dry process takes far less space as doesn’t have the massive drying ovens the wet process has cutting much time, cost making
Tesla has little use for expensive Supercaps since for the same weight, space, cost, Tesla’s cells beat SC in output, charging by a large
SCs weigh, cost and take up 30% more space than lithium making them not viable.
And you can see that in the fact Tesla paid little for the SC part.
I think general consensus among the speculation was it is about Maxwell’s dry process which would save a lot of time/money in manufacturing. Also, Maxwell has said they have a higher battery density and a road map to get even higher.
But, yeah, pure speculation on everyone’s part.
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