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Elon Musk announces Tesla is working on new manganese battery cell

Elon Musk announced that Tesla sees potential in battery chemistry with a manganese-based cathode.

The CEO reiterated that the industry needs to focus more on the battery supply chain down to the minerals.

During a speech to Tesla Gigafactory Berlin employees following the delivery of the first Model Y made at the factory, Musk was asked about graphene-based batteries.

Like many others in the industry, Musk said he was skeptical due to the complexity of making graphene, but he did say that Tesla was working on making batteries out of more materials.

The CEO reiterated that for the foreseeable future Tesla, like the rest of the industry, will focus on nickel-based chemistries for longer-range vehicles and iron-phosphate for shorter-range vehicles.

But Musk added a brief but interesting comment about a manganese-based battery:

“I think there’s an interesting potential for manganese.”

Tesla has been exploring using more manganese in its battery cells for a while.

At Tesla Battery Day in 2020, Musk said

“It is relatively straightforward to do a cathode that’s two-third nickel and one-third manganese, which will allow us to make 50% more cell volume with the same amount of nickel.”

Today, the CEO didn’t elaborate beyond saying that Tesla was working on it, but it made it sound like it could be a solution along with nickel and iron-based chemistries.

“At very large scale, we need tens, maybe hundreds of millions of tons ultimately. So the materials used to produce these batteries at a very large scale need to be common materials or you can’t scale.”

Several research groups have published papers on promising manganese-rich cathode batteries that could offer interesting options with a higher energy density than iron-phosphate and potentially lower price than nickel-rich batteries.

Manganese is already used by Tesla in some battery chemistries, but it is not the prominent component of any of them.

For example, NMC chemistry used a lot of manganese, and Tesla has used the chemistry for its Powerwall before. Nissan also has used a manganese-rich cathode in the original battery of the Leaf.

The CEO reiterated the need to focus on battery mineral supply to accelerate the transition to electric transport and renewable energy.

Musk said that Tesla estimates that the world is going to need 300 terrawatt-hours of battery cell production in order to transition fully to a sustainable world.

Here’s Musk’s speech at the Gigafactory Berlin event (thanks to David from Tesla Welt Podcast)

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