Why Tesla's million-mile battery is good news for 'robotaxis' and semis

Tesla researchers describe a new battery that can take over 4,000 charging cycles while only losing about 10 per cent charging capacity

In this July 23, 2019 photo, a Tesla vehicle is plugged in at a new Tesla Supercharger station next to the LINQ High Roller in Las Vegas. As more electric vehicles hit the streets, more places to charge them are popping up in Las Vegas to serve motor tourists from Nevada, California, Arizona and other states. (Wade Vandervort/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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In April, Elon Musk tweeted Tesla is building its vehicles to last one million miles and later claimed the company was working on a battery with the same shelf life.

Based on new research and a patent for Tesla, it appears he is making good on his pledge. Earlier this month, scientists working exclusively with Tesla since 2016 published a paper in The Journal of the Electrochemical Society outlining the groundbreaking science for a new lithium-ion battery that could potentially power an electric vehicle for over one million miles. The researchers from Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University describe a new battery that can take over 4,000 charging cycles while only losing about 10 per cent charging capacity - and vehicle range - as it reaches the end of its lifespan. Tesla's current top range is 500,000 miles over the course of 1,500 charges.

While 3 million miles is the Guinness world record for the highest odometer reading (on a 1966 Volvo), most passenger cars are headed for the scrap yard at around 200,000 miles.

However, the new battery could be useful in workhorse vehicles, like 'robotaxis' and long-haul trucks, whose charging needs are far greater than for a typical commuter, according to the study's authors. No coincidence, Tesla plans to roll out a ride-hailing app for the driver-less Tesla vehicles it is developing, dubbed 'robotaxis'. The company is also now selling battery-powered semi-trucks, set to go into production next year.

Shortly after the paper was published, Mr Musk's company secured a patent for a new electric vehicle battery that details the same mix of chemicals capable of achieving the new million-mile benchmark, Wired reported.

Car companies and their suppliers are fiercely marketing vehicles that have a limited environmental impact to gain a foothold in the electric car battery market, which is estimated to be worth $25 billion (Dh91.8bn) by 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group. So why did the paper appear to give Tesla's trade secrets away?

Former researchers from the Dalhousie lab that spoke to Wired say one million miles is just a start, and they expect the patented Tesla battery will actually outperform that benchmark.

It remains to be seen when Tesla, which already makes the three longest-range cars on the market, plans to manufacture its new battery.

The science has come a long way since its first car, the Model S, maxed out at 150,000 miles on a single battery seven years ago.