Tesla’s Elon Musk says new manganese battery may be key to scaling EV production

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Elon Musk said that they are looking into using manganese as a cathode material in an address to Tesla Gigafactory Berlin workers during the factory’s grand opening event on March 1. He believes that alternatives to inexpensive LFP battery materials will be required in order to scale EV batteries to the 300 terawatt-hours of yearly output required to achieve sustainable transportation.

Elon Musk has long advocated for the use of manganese as a cathode material in electric car batteries, and he recently restated his support for the material during the opening ceremony for the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin.

When asked about the potential of graphene as a battery-making material at a lecture to the German Gigafactory workforce, Elon Musk responded with the phrase “I believe there’s an intriguing potential for manganese,” rather than “I think there’s an interesting potential for graphene.”

In the past, Tesla’s CEO has said that the business is looking at manganese as a possible replacement for the iron or phosphorus that is now used in the LFP batteries that power the company’s standard range cars.

To entirely transition away from fossil fuels, Musk estimates that the world will need no less than 300 terawatt-hours (TWh) of battery cell manufacture at some point in the future. Such a large scale can only be reached by using materials that are inexpensive and abundant, such as those found in LFP battery packs and, well, manganese.

The recent astronomical jump in the price of nickel, which was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, only served to confirm Tesla’s CEO’s point, since the basic nickel-cobalt-aluminum battery components that are used in extended-range electric vehicles are anything from cheap and abundant.

For this reason, Elon Musk wants to add manganese to the iron and phosphorus that are now utilized to manufacture more inexpensive electric vehicle batteries, in order to eventually have a chance at producing the hundreds of TWh/year that will be required on the road to sustainable transportation

Tesla has already been using manganese in some of its Powerwall battery cells, but Elon Musk stated at the Giga Berlin opening ceremony yesterday that manganese can and should become a viable alternative to the common battery materials currently in use because it has the potential to be more environmentally friendly “In order to produce at an industrial scale, we will require tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of tonnes at the end of the day. As a result, in order to manufacture these batteries on a wide scale, the materials employed must be common materials; otherwise, scaling is impossible.”

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