The Paypal Mafia is used to refer to the founders of Paypal who after selling out to e-Bay have gone on to found several marquee companies in the Silicon Valley. Last week, we featured a piece on Peter Thiel often called the don of the Paypal Mafia. This time we feature a piece on the most prolific of the lot – Elon Musk, who has since founded most popularly Tesla but also SolarCity, SpaceX, Neuralink, the Boring Company and OpenAI. This article takes a shot at second guessing which of these will go on to become Musk’s biggest legacy for mankind. Justin Rowlatt believes it will be the battery technology. In someways, the article pre-empts what is likely to be announced in the much anticipated and much delayed ‘Battery Day’. Musk is widely expected to announce a breakthrough in battery technology that could have far reaching implications on not just the automobile sector but the energy industry in general. Well, atleast the stockmarket already seems to believe that, what with Tesla briefly trading at levels that made it the world’s most valuable automobile company, bigger than Toyota which makes 30x more cars than Tesla.
The article speculates three possible breakthroughs or likely a combination of all three on the lines of durability, cost and efficiency of the battery:
First, the longevity or durability of the battery:
“The first of these was announced just last week when the Chinese battery-maker that supplies most of the major car makers, including Tesla, revealed it had produced the first “million mile battery”. Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) says its new battery is capable of powering a vehicle for more than a million miles (1.2 million, to be precise – or 1.9 million km) over a 16-year lifespan. Most car batteries offer warranties for 60,000-150,000 miles over a three to eight-year period.
This is a huge improvement in battery life, but will cost just 10% more than existing products, says CATL chair, Zeng Yuqun. Having a battery you never need to change is obviously good news for the electric car industry. But longer-lasting batteries are also essential for what’s known as “stationary” storage too. These are the batteries we can attach to wind turbines or solar panels so renewable energy is available when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Fairly soon you might even want a stationary battery in your home to store cheap off-peak electricity, or to collect the power your own solar panels generate.”
Second, the cost effectiveness:
“The next barrier that is likely to be broken is price. The landmark challenge in the electric vehicle industry is to get a battery costing under $100 (£78) per kilowatt hour.
“At that point you start to get electric vehicles that are cheaper than the equivalent internal combustion vehicles,” says Seth Weintraub, a US battery technology journalist. Once that happens the internal combustion engine will be effectively dead., he says, comparing it to how digital killed off film cameras a decade ago. “In car dealerships we’re going to go from one electric vehicle in the back lot somewhere, to one gas vehicle in the back lot somewhere.”
So when will this crucial price-point be passed? He believes it already has.
Mr Weintraub says his sources tell him these batteries are going into Teslas right now, and thinks this will be one of Mr Musk’s “battery day” revelations.”
“Cheaper batteries will address some of the other key concerns potential customers have. That is because it will make it economical to put bigger batteries into cars.
That has two major advantages.
First, it means they can go much further on a single charge, so you’ll soon be able to buy cars with ranges of 400-500 miles (640-800km) or more.
Second, big batteries charge faster for the bulk of their capacity, so you might be able to get up to 300 miles of range with just 10 minutes of charging.
That’s comparable to the time it takes to fill a car with petrol or diesel. So expect Elon Musk to announce upgrades for the Model S and X which will combine 400-500 mile range with supercar performance, says Mr Weintraub.”
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