Tesla has always been somewhat relentless with respect to reaching out to and attracting world-class talent, which is why the company’s contract with leading battery researcher Jeff Dahn a few years ago didn’t come as much of a surprise. Though far from a household name, Dahn is widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential and foremost experts on lithium-ion battery technology. In June of 2015, Tesla inked a 5-year exclusive contract with Dahn and his 25-person strong research group, with the partnership officially kicking off in June of 2016.
Under the Tesla umbrella, Dahn and his research team continued their work on ways to increase energy density in lithium-ion cells while also improving battery longevity. As noted on Dahn’s research website: “Our goals are to improve the energy density, increase the safety, decrease the cost and improve the cycle and calendar lifetime of the batteries.”
About six months after Dahn began working with Tesla, he noted that none of the group’s research had yet to make it into any of Tesla’s products.
“At this moment, we’ve been working with Tesla only for six months so far, and none of our research has made it into their products yet,” Dahn said in an interview with the CBC this past February, “but I’m quite confident that our work will be incorporated in their products going forward, and that’s pretty exciting for us.”
True to form, Electrek reports that Dahn and his team have since come up with a new battery chemistry that should result in batteries with significantly longer life cycles.
He went into details about why Tesla decided to work with his team and hire one of his graduate students, but he also announced that they doubled the lifetime of the batteries in Tesla’s products a year into their 5-year contract.
In the second half of [Dahn’s MIT] talk, he explained how their new testing methods led them to discover that a certain aluminum coating outperformed any other material. The cells tested showed barely any degradation under high numbers of cycles at moderate temperature and only little degradation even in difficult conditions.
Update: Tesla reached out and wanted to stress that the battery technologies above have only been tested in the lab and are not yet in any of Tesla’s shipping products.
Nonetheless, this is very encouraging for anyone excited about the ongoing EV revolution. Dahn’s full talk at MIT can be viewed below.