Tesla Patents Metal-Air Battery Pack, May Be Strong Clue for Battery Day 2020

Tesla has just been granted US Patent number 10763477 for a safety method for a metal-air battery pack just weeks prior to Battery Day 2020.

Tesla Patent Granted

On September 1st 2020 Tesla was granted US Patent No 10763477 by the USPTO.

Tesla USPTO Patent 10773477

As Tesla Battery Day (9/22/2020) quickly approaches Tesla owners, tech enthusiasts, TSLA shareholders, investors, and many others are eagerly waiting to see what Elon Musk will unveil on this highly anticipated day.

On September 11th 2020 Elon Musk tweeted:

One of these “exciting things” may be directly tied to Tesla’s newly granted piece of IP that has been added to its ever-growing collection.

The patent was originally filed on January 16th 2017 and is titled “Hazard Mitigation Through Gas Flow Communication Between Battery Packs“.

Detailed in the patent is a long explanation of what is called a “Metal–air electrochemical cell“.

The inventor behind the patent is Tesla’s Vice President of Cell and Product Development Weston Arthur Hermann.

What is a Metal-Air Cell?

As stated on Wikipedia “A metal–air electrochemical cell is an electrochemical cell that uses an anode made from pure metal and an external cathode of ambient air, typically with an aqueous or aprotic electrolyte.”

While this definition is technical jargon to most people, what is important are the benefits of a metal-air cell.

Essentially the capacity and energy density of metal–air electrochemical cells is higher than that of lithium-ion batteries.

This makes them a prime candidate for use in electric vehicles as it extends the range of the vehicle while maintaining a low volumetric space requirement to store the cells onboard the vehicle.

So What's the Catch!?

As stated on Wikipedia “However, complications associated with the metal anodes, catalysts, and electrolytes have hindered development and implementation of metal–air batteries.”

It turns out that metal-air cells are prone to thermal runaway (a fancy way to say that they can overheat and explode).

And that is where Tesla’s patent comes into play!

Tesla Patent Overview

Tesla’s patent establishes a method for safely mitigating the effects in the case of a thermal runaway scenario and as stated in the patent:

“…the risks to vehicle passengers, bystanders, first responders and property are limited.”

Tesla’s patent outlines a method which solves the underlying issue that has prevented others from pursuing metal-air battery cells.

In addition to solving the thermal runaway issue, the patent also outlines a method for combining BOTH metal-air battery cells AND lithium-ion battery cells to power a vehicle.

This is shown in the block diagram below directly taken from the patent:

Tesla Patent 10763477 Figure Metal Air and Lithium Ion Combined Battery Pack

The Tesla patent outlines a method for distributing power from a combined metal-air and lithium-ion battery pack system to a drive train by use of a controller.

This hybrid style battery pack may allow Tesla to reap the benefits of both technologies and minimize risk.

Summary

The reality is that we will all need to be patient and wait until Battery Day to find out what will be revealed.

But connecting the dots, it is very possible that Tesla will announce the use of metal-air batteries in their future cars.

And even if this is NOT the announcement that will be made, it is still exciting to see Tesla patent potentially game changing technologies for future use.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think Tesla will announce metal-air cell battery packs on Battery Day? Do you think this technology will be utilized in the future?

Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

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