I have noticed that every few months there are new articles that mention “Tesla Motors” and “Graphene.” And yet by the end of these articles I am still confused as to what stake Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) truly has in the graphene industry…or rather what stake graphene currently has in Tesla’s success. Maybe I am not good at reading comprehension. But I also suspect that many of these articles are simply trying to grab our attention, especially those written by biased (not independent) graphene websites. All I knew is that Tesla might be using graphene (graphite?) in a battery, but I did not know a whole lot more.
In this article I describe what meaningful association (if any) that I found between Tesla Motors and graphene. Is Tesla Motors even a graphene stock? First I searched for mentions of graphene directly from Tesla Motors Inc. via press releases, technical documentation, patent filings, blog posts and financial reports. I was unable to find any official comments or literature mentioning Tesla Motors plans to utilize graphene in a supercapacitor or anywhere else. There are no plans for Tesla’s Gigafactory to produce graphene based or graphene enhanced batteries. This does not mean Tesla is not considering graphene technology, nor does it mean that there is not already ongoing research from within. What it does mean is that there are no official plans to utilize graphene at this time.
Last year there were reports about the possibility of incorporating a thin layer of graphene in a silicon-graphene composite anode. The silicon-graphene composite is thinner and therefore allows for more cell space as well as reducing overall weight. This technology was being researched by California Lithium Battery (CALiB) at the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). To date I have not found any reports of this technology being actively utilized. Many of the articles I read had led me to believe that Tesla was actually utilizing this type of battery or that they had actual plans to do so in the near future. Currently, Tesla Motors seems to be content with improving and eventually manufacturing its current lithium-ion type batteries in association with Panasonic.
To put it simply at this point in time Tesla has no meaningful financial or research connection to graphene. However there is room plenty of room for realistic optimism.
At an annual shareholder meeting, a Telsa shareholder asked CEO Elon Musk about whether the Gigafactory will be capable of being quickly retooled to utilize future breakthrough battery technologies, Musk said it should not be difficult:
“It would be fairly straightforward for us to change the anode or cathode composition … In fact, we expect to evolve the anode and cathode. It’s not merely, “What if that happens?” We expect that to happen.”
Tesla is very open to sharing ideas. They have gone as far as sharing their own proprietary technology with other companies for research purposes. This bodes well for graphene research aimed at breaking into the electric vehicle space. Continued development in the graphene industry along with proof of concepts and improved cost efficiencies could mean that eventually EV companies like Tesla Motors will utilize graphene enhanced batteries. There are multiple established graphene companies that could fill Tesla’s needs.
In the mean time I am keeping my skeptical hat on until I see official literature on the topic from Tesla Motors Inc.
Do you know something I don’t? Did you find any inaccuracies in this article? I would appreciate if you let me know by sending me a message or commenting.