Skip to Content

The Tesla Model 3 May Depend on This Battery Breakthrough

EV batteries have to get a lot cheaper by 2017 if the Model 3 is to live up to its billing.
April 1, 2016

Can Tesla really deliver on its promise to offer a long-range electric vehicle that is cheap enough to attract mainstream buyers by 2017? We can’t know for sure without access to the company’s proprietary information. But one thing is clear: if Tesla is successful it will be because of significant advances to the design and manufacturing of its battery pack, which many estimates suggest represents a quarter to half of the full cost of the car.

At a launch event Thursday night in Los Angeles, Elon Musk announced that the Tesla Model 3 would have a range of 215 miles. That’s not much less than the range of the cheapest version of the older Model S sedan. But the Model S starts at nearly $70,000—twice the Model 3's $35,000 price tag.

Where might the cost savings come from? Some may come as Tesla learns to improve how efficiently it builds batteries at its "gigafactory," which is now under construction in Nevada.

In addition, Quartz’s Steve LeVine points out that Tesla and partner Panasonic have quietly been developing a new technology in which silicon is combined with the graphite used in conventional lithium-ion battery anodes. Adding silicon could increase the amount of energy the battery can store, but previous efforts to commercialize the technology have failed. Levine cites a battery market investment analyst who says that the Model 3’s anodes could contain up to 10 percent silicon, which battery experts say would be a “serious breakthrough.”

Serious enough, in fact, that it might allow Tesla to bring the cost of its batteries down from an estimated $300 per kilowatt-hour in 2014 to $200 by 2017. That would get us much closer to $150, the point at which some experts have predicted there could be a “paradigm shift” away from internal combustion cars. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until late next year, when the first Model 3's are expected to roll off the production line, to see if Tesla truly has a breakthrough on its hands.

(Read more: Quartz, “Inexpensive Electric Cars May Arrive Sooner Than You Think”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way
supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

This is the first image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

The stunning image was made possible by linking eight existing radio observatories across the globe.

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.