Los Angeles – A newly filed patent application by Tesla Motors reveals the company’s interest in finally finding a solution to one of the electric car’s biggest problems: how to keep cars going on long trips in between charging stations. The California-based company that produces only electric vehicles submitted a patent application for an innovative metal-air battery that would kick in once its normal lithium-ion battery runs out. This technology would make it so that Tesla owners would have the option to switch to this secondary battery when running low on a charge, allowing it to continue for up to another 400 miles.
Tesla’s approach differs in comparison to other electric car manufacturers, such as Chevrolet with its Volt, which includes a four-cylinder engine that can generate backup energy for a range of 300-400 miles. Compared to cars like the Volt, some kind of reliable secondary power source is essential for Tesla because unlike hybrid owning counterparts, Tesla owners can’t opt to stop off and fill up at a gas station.
The new patent is described by Tesla as “Electric Vehicle Extended Range Hybrid Battery Pack System” and spells out how the invention “provides a power source comprised of a first battery pack (e.g., a non-metal-air battery pack) and a second battery pack (e.g., a metal-air battery pack), wherein the second battery pack is only used as required by the state-of-charge (SOC) of the first battery pack or as a result of the user selecting an extended range mode of operation.” Thus, with the new technology, the lithium–ion battery already featured in Tesla cars would continue to do the heavy lifting, with the metal air battery serving as a backup. The metal-air battery is useful for this specific purpose because it uses oxygen as one of its electrodes to generate power. While the battery easier to charge, these metal-air batteries offer only short term potential as they tend to have a much shorter lifespan than traditional batteries.
Many have noted that by eliminating a conventional cell battery and replacing it with a battery that uses air, Tesla may be the first to successfully tackle the long distance charging problem and might have found a less expensive option that can be accessed by the masses. Indeed, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long expressed his intention to make Tesla a brand that provides an electric car option for every level of the consumer market.