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Disruptive Lithium Sulfur Batteries

Offering more than 2x the energy density of conventional lithium ion batteries, LiS or Lithium Sulfur batteries have been used in aerospace UAV applications since 2006. Short cycle life and safety issues plague the LiS chemistries, but R&D aimed at improving LiS will pave the way for smartphones with 4 days of battery life in just a few more years.

There are many different chemistries of Lithium Ion battery. One of the coolest ones is NCA or Nickel Cobalt Aluminum. Tesla uses this NCA variant in its 3.4ah 18650's, the ones used in the battery pack of the Tesla Model S; manufactured in Japan via a joint venture with Panasonic, this particular 18650 from Tesla has good thermal conductivity. This means its can be actively warmed up and cooled off more easily. The liquid cooled active heat management system in the Tesla Model S battery energy storage system takes advantage of the NCA's higher aluminum content, which allows the Tesla Battery to stay in an ideal temperature range. This extends both the life and the performance characteristics of the Tesla/ Panasonic 18650. Soon these batteries will be made by the billions in the new Gigafactory! Tesla will become the Saudi Arabia of 18650's!

Each Tesla Model S has more than 8000 of these NCA 18650 cells, giving the 85kWh models enough energy to go up to 300mi per charge. Thats 5 hours of driving at 60MPG on a single charge! That using a battery chemistry technology from a few years ago. If Tesla used Lithium Sulfur in the Model S, the range would improve to more than 600mi per charge. This is exactly why LiS is being used in aerospace defense grade UAV applications today!

In a battery improvements can be made to the anode, cathode, electrolyte, separator film, case design, gaskets, pressure management, heat management, safety management, all at the cell level. Further battery pack improvements can be made with innovative packaging of many cells into an actively protected pack that gives the cells a safe temperature controlled environment in which to operate. The amount of engineering that went into the Tesla Model S pack is staggering! We are talking about many millions in R&D to make it happen.

Imagine a laptop with 24hours of single charge battery life. A combination of LiS, Intel X-point, and 10nm chipsets will make that happen in just a few more years, likely by late 2018! Imagine a powerful smartphone with 4 days of battery life. Imagine an electric drone that can fly for an hour, or a HoverBoard with 50mi of range. These kinds of products with amazing battery life are just around the corner, with new chemistries in the humble 18650 format.

I believe based on reading Green Car Congress for the last few years that LiS is poised to offer a disruptively wonderful improvement to the battery life and run time of many devices it will power in the future. Technology will solve the safety and cycle life problems of today, while volume production will bring the costs down to reasonable levels for integration into everyday consumer electronic devices like the Tesla Model S!

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